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Measures of Expatriation

Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo

Measures Of Expatriation
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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, Bestsellers, Caribbean, LGBTQ+, Scottish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (128 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2016)
9781784101688
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(Pub. Jan 2016)
9781784101695
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Winner of the 2016 Poetry Book Society Choice
    Winner of the 2016 Forward Prize for Best Collection

    Short-listed for the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize

    ‘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.’
    Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo FRSL is a Trinidadian Scottish writer of poetry and non-fiction. Currently Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of York, their site-specific word and visual art includes responses to Cornwall’s former capital, Launceston, as the Causley Trust Poet in Residence (2022) and to the Ubatuba granite of ... read more
    Awards won by Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo Short-listed, 2022 The Jhalak Prize (Like a Tree, Walking) Winner, 2021 The Poetry Book Society Winter Choice
    (Like a Tree, Walking)
    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)
     '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.'
    Stand Magazine
    '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
     '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
    Praise for Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo 'The bees, the bells, "vermiliion wormbodies," the invisible world and the constantly visible ocean, inside us, far from us, close to the poet's lines of descent; the timebox and its refrains, the motif of flight: everything comes together in this sparkling book of responses, of interlocutions, a poet situating a body of work amid other bodies and other poets, a poet making litanies, multiple linguistic registers, happen, making them fly, not from us but all around us. This exciting book could be Capildeo's finest yet: come for the querewolves. Stay for the panoply. For the capacity. For the face of the moon. For the plenty.'

    Stephanie Burt

    'Capildeo's ecologies of attention riddle landscape with prayer, essay, letter, song, a calendar of the elements, through an intricate variety of forms that blend and recompose these genres. The personal is earthly in these poems, placing tender calls beyond pronouns to a more-than-human community—addressing the politics of relationships through art that does not "mend with gold" but spells for us the "infinitely more/ precious, and perhaps survivable" commons of our vulnerability. Demonstrating in delightfully queer language games how we, including the tiger worms in the compost bin, are transformed through one another, Polkadot Wounds is not a book to be read only once but a breviary for safekeeping and recitation in difficult weather.'

    Jonathan Skinner

    'Anthony Vahni Capildeo is the best poet - the most creatively various, intellectually dextrous, uncomplacent and uncomplaisant - I know of in the UK. From book to book, and in a spirit of experimentation defiant of the demand to "find one's voice" (ugh) and stick to it, they have engaged histories, and literatures, from across the globe.'

    Vidyan Ravinthiran

    'Anthony Vahni Capildeo is among the most original and vital poets writing today. Capildeo's poetic language is its own creature, a bestiary, fierce and tender, generous and resilient. It's an ecology in which stone may run like honey, island history can pour down stairwells, and a mobile phone vibrates as archaically as a struck flint. In Polkadot Wounds, imagination makes space for some of the deepest and most questioning work of faith. The poems demonstrate again and again how attention can be an act of radical hospitality; reading them is to be reminded that this is not just an activity of writing, but a way of being-in-the-world.'

    Tiffany Atkinson

    'A wonderful new collection from Capildeo, exploring through their own lens not just the innate fragmentary prism of nature but a wider context of realising and placing the self within.'

    Shehzar Doja, Gutter Magazine

    'Like A Tree, Walking is a warm and deeply wise collection, finding intimacy and strength in the most surprising places, and, like tree roots sharing nutrients and warnings underground, sustaining them in the toughest situations. Displaying an imaginative syntactical approach and a masterful application of form, Capildeo upholds their place as an essential poet of our time; a richly singular voice, tuning our focus to the life-sustaining riches of our world.'

    Isabelle Baafi, The Poetry Review

    'I would follow Vahni Capildeo's poetry to the ends of the Earth, I just think that they're amazing...I love this book very much.' 

    Jen Campbell 

    'Vahni Capildeo is an astonishingly prolific and inventive poet, and Like a Tree, Walking, showcases the full range of their imagination...Capildeo's touch is light, their meaning never forced, yet even their longer poems maintain a quick pace and a clear sense of rhythm...Much of the collection is imbued with this spirit of natural connection and wonder, and Capildeo's ability to read nature, and to identify its presence in the midst of human society, makes their latest collection a thought-provoking read.'

    Maggie Wang, Poetry School

    'The poems here are just as striking as their collection's cover: Like a Tree, Walking is both playful and challenging...Capildeo's linguistic wit is very much to the fore from the start...[a] highly imaginative and literary collection.'

    Sarah Law, Stride Magazine

     'Vahni Capildeo has always been a remarkable and singular poet, and Like a Tree, Walking is yet another triumph of their warm wit, direct vision, and almost spiritual connection to the page....The collection is welcoming, disarming, and - as its blurb commands - 'defined by how it writes about love.' The poetry within is to be celebrated, read, and reread by poets and not-poets alike.'

    Beth Cochrane, The Skinny
    'Capildeo's poetry explores the ambiguity and capaciousness of language, and is deeply interested in the provisionality of meaning.'

    Francesca Bratton, The Compass

    'It has a sense of purpose, and its playfulness is infectious... There is a sharpness 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
     'On your feet, then, the syntax poems sing, dismantling the traditional audience-speaker receivership of poetry.'
    CaribbeanBeat
      'An adventurous and verbally challenging texture, moving across conceptual distances at great speed, avoiding the conventional mechanisms of depiction or statement, but rhythmically alive in a way that draws the reader after [them] down unknown paths.'
    Peter Riley, The Fortnighly Review
    'This new collection is a tour de force of theatrical speculation'

    Jade Cuttle, Guardian Poetry Review Roundup

     '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
            'Vahni Capildeo's latest, Venus as a Bear, is virtuosic and difficult, inviting and resistant, and gives the sense that there is nothing - form or subject - out of Capildeo's reach.'
    John Challis, Poetry Salzburg Review
     'Industrious and prolific, Vahni Capildeo is a writer of apparently effortless variety in form and content...[They] belongs to no tribe or school or movement This may make [them] a "poet's poet", one for the cognoscenti; and yet, as Venus as a Bear demonstrates, [they] deserves the widest audience possible'
    Graeme Richardson, The TLS
     
    'In Venus as a Bear, Vahni Capildeo succeeds at revealing and stretching the potential of contemporary poetry with a dynamic selection of poems that demonstrate time and again their widely varied interests, knowledge, and all-round poetic skills.'
    Helena Fornells, The Scores Poetry Journal
      'I can't stop re-reading it.'
    Kate Wakeling, The Morning Star
       'Capildeo's subjects - sculptures, moss, sugar, roses, birds and pet cats - create counternarratives to the grammar of empire and the sentences of the state. Words themselves denature and re form like museum objects acquiring or losing their human associations.'
    Sandeep Parmar, The Guardian
      '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
       'These poems offer a glimpse of radical innocence, earning that innocence because they don't take their eye off the experience on which it depends.'
    Jack Belloli, Review 31
       'With a glassmith's unerring skill, Capiledo stays at the fixed point between the conceptual barrier and the breaking point. It is a sensitivity that shapes [their] poetic technique in turn.'
    Jade Cuttle, Brixton Review of Books
       'At their essence, these are poems that explore how we relate to both each other and the 'other'. Venus as a Bear is well worth the time and effort to walk around the poems and then to step outside them, following where they lead.'
    Kim Moore, Poetry London Issue 91
    'The volume resists any easy form of categorisation, but overall, the word that came to mind is 'proximity', and how a dynamic measure of nearness shapes out relationships with objects, animals, language, and place.'
    Emily Kate Timms, Stand Volume 16 (3)
      'The book is studded with startling images and linguistic strings which embroil and surprise the reader.'
    Martyn Crucefix, Magma 71 Online Review
      'Vahni Capildeo has a gift for examining the lives of others, whether they are distanced by species, era of divinity. [Their] tender tone makes it all the more jarring when compassion is cut with sudden brutality.'

    Maria Crawford, The Financial Times

    '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. [They are], 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
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