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Measures of Expatriation
RRP: GBP 7.99
ISBN: 978 1 784101 69 5
Categories: 21st Century, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: January 2016
128 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (PDF), eBook (Kindle), Paperback
Digital access available through Exact Editions
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.’
Awards won by Vahni Capildeo 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.'
'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 Vahni Capildeo '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
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 her 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. Her 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. 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
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