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Vahni Capildeo is a Trinidadian Scottish writer inspired by other voices, ranging from live Caribbean connexions and an Indian diaspora background to the landscapes where Capildeo travels and lives. Their poetry (seven books and four pamphlets) includes Measures of Expatriation, awarded the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2016. Following a DPhil in Old Norse literature, Capildeo has worked in academia; in culture for development, with Commonwealth Writers; and as an Oxford English Dictionary lexicographer. Capildeo held the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellowship and Harper-Wood Studentship at Cambridge, and more recently a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellowship at the University of Leeds.
'It has a sense of purpose, and its playfulness is infectious... There is a sharpnes to the observations and a bold specificity to their articulation, often presented with an eye for humour. Capildeo's delight in this experiment is evident'
Chrissy Williams, Poetry London
'Masterfully moves between so many forms that the brilliance for any voyager en-route is immediately palpable.'
SPAM Zine Books of the Year 2019
'Capildeo's intelligence, learning, wit, anger, skill and insight appear to be, on the evidence so far, limitless... This is poetry which is interested in looking for the truth with the only tool we have to do so, language... This is real - stop, slow down, read, think - poetry.'
Wood Bee Poet
'Industrious and prolific, Vahni Capildeo is a writer of apparently effortless variety in form and content...She belongs to no tribe or school or movement This may make her a "poet's poet", one for the cognoscenti; and yet, as Venus as a Bear demonstrates, she deserves the widest audience possible'
Graeme Richardson, The TLS
'Capildeo creates poems like spyglasses, like fully-equipped decks of observation, so that we might be present and entranced, hooked in the startling, surefooted immediacy of the worlds these poems invoke...It is through work such as this that we find ourselves revivified to a thousand electric possibilities'
Shivanee Ramlochan, Carribbean Beat
'The book is bursting with ideas, every line bringing something new to puzzle, excite, amuse and delight'
Chris Edgoose, Wood Bee Poet
'The words' play with each other, their transfer of symbol, their passing-across of meaning and connotation creates a surreal and abstract imagery that could inspire multiple understandings.'
Chris Edgoose, Wood Bee Poet
'More than any collection I've read, this is one whose language is a tool for transformation, a means by which things are revealed...We are shown things clearly and newly because Capildeo's language works to bring them out of themselves.'
Chris Edgoose, Wood Bee Poet
'...Among other things it is a bestiary from the poets travels: "a fade of rabbits", a bulls swaying haunches like "a big black valentine", The Magnificent Pigs of Thetford". Roll over, Ted Hughes.'
Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times
'It generates constant energy... The flurry of excitement, the sheer bounce of words on the line and off the page, captures at first the essence of affable, tail-wagging pet-dogginess and, later on, the dog's liberating, unleashed flight from domestic obedience.'Carol Rumens, The Guardian, on 'They (may forget (their names (if let out)))' from Venus as a Bear - poem of the week 21st May 2018
'A bald enumeration of Capildeo's influences, subjects, travel destinations and poetic forms might give an impression of dizzying multifariousness.... But the essential remains the same throughout. Capildeo, it is only fair to acknowledge, is a demanding writer, someone who stretches the conventions of the lyric poem in unprecedented ways; but Venus as a Bear demands nothing from its readers that it does not also repay generously. She is, among much else, a direct and sensual poet, warmly intimate and very funny.'
David Wheatley, The Guardian
'Capildeo remains a sui generis talent... Much like its predecessor, Venus as a Bear is 100-plus pages of constant self-reinvention'
The Telegraph, Poetry Book of the Month May 2018
'She has a kind of Ezra Pound-like status among the younger poets. An influential exponent of prose-poetry.'
The Sunday Times, Twelve poets to read now
'This is a book to last, and one that I will keep reading. It is a collection in which new threads appear in every reading: a tapestry that refuses to be frozen.'
'This is a highly original collection in form and content, with blunted messages and sharp polished undertones. One to read slowly and savour.'
Poetry Salzberg Review on 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 Measures 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
Awards won by Vahni Capildeo Long-listed, 2020 The BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature (Skin Can Hold) Short-listed, 2018 The Forward Prize for Best Collection (Venus as a Bear) Winner, 2018 Poetry Book Society Summer Choice (Venus as a Bear) 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)
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