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Art of Escape

Mina Gorji

Cover of Art of Escape by Mina Gorji
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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, British, First Collections, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (72 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2020)
9781784108823
£9.99 £8.99
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(Pub. Jan 2020)
9781784108830
£7.99 £7.19
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • A Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month (January 2020)

    Among Mina Gorji's poems in New Poetries V (2011) was one about Houdini entitled 'The Art of Escape' which returns here as the title poem. This colourful and vivid first collection continues the course of Mina Gorji's meticulous explorations of 'the strange and sometimes darker side of nature' and the different forms and meanings of escape: dandelions crossing the ocean, the journey of a gall wasp from Aleppo to England, the transformation of an armadillo into music. These poems shift by degrees until new patterns and sounds emerge, transforming the familiar into unexpected configurations. Art of Escape is a wonderful casting off into the complex waters of adult life, in which change has become the constant.
    Mina Gorji was born in Iran and lives in Cambridge, where she is Associate Professor at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and a fellow of Pembroke college. Her debut, Art of Escape (Carcanet, 2020), a Telegraph ‘Book of the Month’, has been described as a collection of "exquisite miniatures ... read more
        'What a beautiful and persuasive first collection.'

    Tom Lowenstein, The Fortnightly Review
    'These poems are tiny incisions in the world, at once intimate and othered, physical and spiritual, with art attempting to escape life and life attempting to escape art...Instead of seeking to find a home, Gorji's poems burst out of one, highlighting the incapacity to trace anything back to a single space. As it engages with the destruction of nature and our changing relationships with the world this artful collection offers up its own new lyrical possibilities.'

    Belinda Stiles, Stand Magazine

    'That tension between expressing things and escaping them animates Gorji's verse, in which visions of cosmic flight jostle with the minutiae of childhood memories, and in which Eliot's neat distinction gets wonderfully muddled ... Such poetry balances external and internal states of being with the precarious elegance of a tightrope walker ... Art of Escape is adept at finding 'the tiniest crack' into or out of which an escape might be enacted, or through which light might gleam ... It is the gift and distinction of Art of Escape to draw the circle of its own affections and duties closer - as the record of such hovering, it marks the emergence of an exciting new voice into English verse.'

    Joseph Turner, Oxonian Review

    'Page upon page of luminous writing that both grounds and uplifts, where surprising linguistic simplicity paves the way for moments of astonishing imagery... Nothing is polluted with too much internal chatter, and while the poet's lens is there, the quality and clarity of the language allows the poems to lift, so we can explore what lies beneath'

    Helen Calcutt, Poetry London

    'Quick, delightfully sly work'

    Stephanie Sy-Quia, The Poetry Review

    'Art of Escape is understated and has a beautiful clarity of form. Many of the poems here feel like small miracles in themselves, and draw our attention to the small miracles of their subjects. Art of Escape is a wonderful debut from a poet whose craft is delicate and complex, and who feels instinctively the manifold connectedness of life.' 

    The Irish Times 

    'Gorji's poems are concise but evocative, holding within them a painful beauty, a love of that which is uprooted, ignored and unappreciated.'

    PBS Spring 2020 Bulletin

    'Art of Escape maps with deliberate fierceness the huge variety of places that can be made a home [...] Gorji constructs intricate, considered poems which encourage us to democratise our attention and empathy.'

    Joanna Lee, The Guardian 

     'A long closing prose-poem about her family is the only break from this tight-knit, short-lined style. But the tighter the squeeze, the more impressive the escape - as proven in the title poem, an elegy for Houdini ("even the outside/ couldn't hold him long")'

    Tristram Fane Saunders, January Telegraph Book of the Month 2020

    'Here are poems of unsparing clarity, inward, unflinching, each one an acute canticle of remembrance. Together, they form a choral work magnifying the small and the seemingly insignificant, whether that is the lives of insects and plants, or in another key, the emigrant's journey from Iran to England, all are brought into intense focus. These mighty little songs, not at ease with the ongoing injustices of our imperial culture, refuse despair. They refuse by inventing forms of escape. The collection affirms the imagination is the place of moral grace. Art of Escape marks the beginning of a splendid new voice in British poetry.'
    Ishion Hutchinson
    'Mina Gorji's poems take small, careful steps over a treacherous terrain, securing their meanings with steady intent. 'When danger looms / it imitates the reeds' she says of the bittern. Deceptively straightforward statement mingles with natural lore and observation to create complex, delicate structures. Her creatures are too autonomous to be parables and yet they share a threatened exilic space with human culture. Protective coloration, ink, quill, spine and 'armament of shell': the poems themselves assume the curious shapes necessary for their survival.'
    Jamie Mckendrick
    'With these luminous, tender, yet tough poems and prose pieces Mina Gorji is building a place of safety - for herself, her family, her readers, and all those who are wandering and uprooted; her poetic methods take their cue from the many marvellous creatures she evokes and the multiple protective measures they adopt - nests, camouflage, mimicry, display. Above all, language can help create shelter. As she writes in the poem called 'Kamasutra (the subsidiary arts)', skills with words are 'arts of love'.'
    Marina Warner
    'Her poems resemble the curious animals they seek to represent - enigmatic, sometimes armour-plated, inviting yet also protective of their inner mysteries.'
    Jahan Ramazani
    Praise for Mina Gorji 'Scale posits our personal, infinitesimal smallness against the almost ineffable vastness of deep time and the universe and in doing so, Gorji is able to find the numinous in the everyday by expanding or restoring our capacity to wonder.'
    Richie McCaffery, Poetry London
    'She brings a delicate and subtle sensibility to bear on what can be thought or perceived... The poems are imagistic; Zen-like in their brevity; they set metaphysical questions that do not need to be answered.'
    Kay Syrad, ARTEMISpoetry
    'There must be defects. But I can’t find any.... allusions to literature, teaching and academic status are completely absent and the writing self, continually present, is there not just as a very active member of the human race, but as a participant in the entire natural world and its changeful, dynamic history.'

    Tom Lowenstein, Fornightly Review
    'It is a deft and delicate thing, but Gorji manages to create small and intimate poems on the page that, through their preciseness and minuteness, still provide openings for a reader to range out in their imaginings. The language is close, tender, familiar and simple. And yet within the framework, Gorji allows a depth to enter.'

    SK Grout, The Alchemy Spoon
    'Gorji's work is so pared back and lyrically egoless it is almost ekphrastic... Scale accrues its power not by linguistic flashiness but by careful accumulation, and is, for the reader as for the poet, an extended exercise in perception.'

    Tiffany Atkinson, The Poetry Review
    'Working on a "scale" similar to that of William Carlos Williams, but with the ear for song of a Dickinson, Gorji has produced a gorgeous book of miniatures... Like Dickinson, Gorji is interested in juxtaposing the very small - a snail, a millipede, a spiderweb, a dead tadpole "lying very still, / comma turned full stop" against the very large, "Out there, / above the furthest limit of our sky." It's a book one reads quickly and returns to immediately.'

    David Starkey, California Review of Books

    'It is a testament to Gorji's many talents that she is able to create such depth of feeling with so few words.'

    Dr. Paul Taylor-McCartney, Everybody's Reviewing

     'Mina Gorji is a poet who knows exactly what to say, and how to say it. Continuing her fascination with brief, imagistic and rich works, Scale is a book of deep sonic attention... With an immense skill in crystalline language, Gorji can paint a landscape, a soundscape and an emotional core with breathtaking brevity. She draws our attention close to the page... Sometimes unsettling, registering sounds almost out of earshot, Gorji's poems are crafted through the technology of listening. Their scales moves from the personal to the global, from the real to the dream-like, in unnerving and beautiful ways.'

    Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times

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