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Letters to America

Fred D'Aguiar

Cover of Letters to America by Fred D'Aguiar
10% off Paperback
Categories: 21st Century, American, BAME, British, Caribbean
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (88 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2020)
9781800170087
£10.99 £9.89
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(Pub. Nov 2020)
9781800170094
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eBook (Kindle)
(Pub. Nov 2020)
9781800170100
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • The Poetry Book Society Winter 2020 Choice
    A White Review Book of the Year 2020

    In Letters to America the Guyanese-British poet, novelist and playwright Fred D'Aguiar has some difficult things to say. The twenty-two poems are full of lived tales and memories - of Britain, the Caribbean and the United States - and of specific and shared memory. He supplies some of the difficult detail he has omitted from earlier poems. The modern mid-city Los Angeles sun-rise we experience is a cacophony, violent and memorable music rendered in prose. The poems weave in and out of familiar forms, including terza rima, casting and breaking spells. There is peril at every turn, and opportunity.

    D'Aguiar is now Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, a wry perspective from which to survey a nation enduring a dismal present, and also the years that shaped him. It is the variety of lives, his own among them, that provide the changing illumination of his writing, and he has developed a mimetic language that takes its bearings from Derek Walcott and from Kamau Brathwaite whose 'Barbados shines/Back at Africa'. Like his chosen forebears, he risks longer forms as well as lyrics, most notably in the fragmented 'Burning Paradise', in 'Call & Response', an impassioned exchange with Martin Luther King, and in the extended title poem.

    This is Fred D'Aguiar's fourth Carcanet collection, and his most ambitious.


    Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960 to Guyanese parents. He grew up in Guyana, returning to England in his teens. He trained as a psychiatric nurse before reading African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury. He was Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Cambridge University and has ... read more
      'In parts of Letters to America, Fred D'Aguiar comes to seem like Walcott's true twenty-first-century heir ... Fred D'Aguiar has written 'a canticle of water', a book for the individual bowed, imperilled, under the wave of history - monarchical and imperial - and crying out for collective action to stop it from consuming further shores. Letters to America is emphatically worth reading.'

    Camille Ralphs, Ambit
    'There are some exceptional poems, including the title poem Letters to America (An Abecedary) [...] The poetry is vibrant and musical'

    Adrian B. Earle, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal

    Praise for Fred D'Aguiar 'A visceral account of personal illness and social ills'

    Kirkus Reviews

    'Throughout, the author's resilience inspires. This makes the fragility of life devastatingly palpable.'

    Pulishers Weekly

    'An array of sublime poems that unfold unsettling accounts of 'black' identity and the horrors of slavery...written with refreshing candour.'
    Mohammad Fahran, Wasafiri
    'Translations from Memory everywhere suggests the vital necessity of continually revisiting and revising our cultural past... It asserts the presence of those who have been written out of it and shows how the complex legacies of slavery and colonialism remain under-explored and undigested.'
    Sarala Estruch, The Times Literary Supplement
    'D'Aguiar manages to weave together memoir, history and critical race theory in ways that deepen our understanding of his poetics...Translations from Memory [...] will no doubt cement his standing as one of the most important Guyanese writers of the twentieth century.'
    Leo Boix, Poetry London
     'D'Aguiar is not generally concerned with textual translation in this collection: he applies the word in a broader sense... abbreviations seem part of the serious trans-cultural game, inviting recognition, but also making the outsider notice the limits and exclusions their own education has entailed. Whether the planet's human creatures might coexist without radically mistranslating each other is one of the vigorously posed questions.'
    'Reformation' was The Guardian's Poem of the Week, September 24th 2018

     'D'Aguiar interrogates and reassesses whatever he sees in a poetry that is flexible and fast paced, every action, every relationship thrown into fierce relief by a sense of threat and insecurity...'
    Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian
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