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Measures of Expatriation

Vahni Capildeo

Measures Of Expatriation
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Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 784101 68 8
Categories: 21st Century, Bestsellers, Black and Asian, British, Caribbean, Latin American, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: January 2016
216 x 135 x 5 mm
128 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (Kindle), eBook (EPUB), eBook (PDF)
Digital access available through Exact Editions
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  • ‘Expatriation: my having had a patria, a fatherland, to leave, did not occur to me until I was forced to invent one. [...] This luxury of inattention, invention, and final mismatch... a ‘Trinidad’ being created that did not take my Trinidad away (my Trinidad takes itself away, in reality, over time)... that is expatriation, no? An exile, a migrant, a refugee, would have been in more of a hurry, would have been more driven out or driven towards, would have been seeking and finding not.’

    In Measures of Expatriation Vahni Capildeo’s poems and prose-poems speak of the complex alienation of the expatriate, and address wider issues around identity in contemporary Western society. Born in Trinidad and resident in the UK, Capildeo rejects the easy depiction of a person as a neat, coherent whole – ‘pure is a strange word’ –embracing instead a pointilliste self, one grounded in complexity. In these texts sense and syntax are disrupted; languages rub and intersect; dream sequences, love poems, polylogues and borrowed words build into a precarious self-assemblage. ‘Cliché’, she writes, ‘is spitting into the sea’, and in this book poetry is still a place where words and names, with their power to bewitch and subjugate, may be disrupted, reclaimed. The politics of the body, and cultures of sexual objectification, gender inequality and casual racism, are the borders across which Capildeo homes, seeking the modest luxury of being ‘looked at as if one is neutral ground’. In the end it is language itself, the determination to speak, to which the poet finds she belongs: ‘Language is my home, I say; not one particular language.’ Measures of Expatriation is in the vanguard of literature arising from the aftermath of Empire, with a fearless and natural complexity. ‘Expatriation: my having had a patria, a fatherland, to leave, did not occur to me until I was forced to invent one. [...] This luxury of inattention, invention, and final mismatch... a ‘Trinidad’ being created that did not take my Trinidad away (my Trinidad takes itself away, in reality, over time)... that is expatriation, no? An exile, a migrant, a refugee, would have been in more of a hurry, would have been more driven out or driven towards, would have been seeking and finding not.’
    Vahni Capildeo is a British Trinidadian writer, daughter of Leila Capildeo, with whom she co-writes short fiction and non-fiction for outlets such as Moving Worlds and Womanspeak, and the late poet Devendranath Capildeo. Her published books are No Traveller Returns (2003), Person Animal Figure (2005), Undraining Sea (2009) (shortlisted for the ... read more
    Awards won by Vahni Capildeo Short-listed, 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize (Measures of Expatriation) Winner, 2016 Poetry Book Society Choice (Measures of Expatriation) Winner, 2016 Forward Prize for Best Collection
    (Measures of Expatriation)
    'So much of the world has been rendered familiar by the industries of interpretation (including the literary) that it takes a genius to recover its real intransigence. It is like being brought up hard against an unmoveable rock amidst all the torrents of counterfeited poetry when you catch hold of any poem by Capildeo.'
    Rod Mengham
    'Vahni Capildeo'€™s Measure of Expatriation is a work that amazes. We found a vertiginous excitement in the way in which the book grasps its subject: the sense of never quite being at home. This is poetry that transforms. When people in the future seek to know what it'€™s like to live between places, traditions, habits and cultures, they will read this. Here is the language for what expatriation feels like.'
    Malika Booker, Chair of the 2016 Forward Prize judging panel
    'The writing is done from word to word, following images, sounds, movement and sense-associations relentlessly, shifting focus every few words, heading for an unforeseen ending.'
    Peter Riley, Fortnightly Review
    'Tumbling, polyglottal collection of poems and prose-poems, Measures of Expatriation, tells stories of exile and migration by turns playful and ferocious.'
    Horatia Harrod, Financial Times
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