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Categories: 21st Century, British, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (72 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2020)
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(Pub. Oct 2020)
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Winner of the Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections 2021
Slip-ups, skirmishes and the sidelong glance characterise Claudine Toutoungi's Two Tongues, a surreal and startling second collection that takes on the dislocations and double takes of modern life and weaves from them poems of wit, grit and delicious abandon. In a landscape populated by levitating snailfish, sotto voce therapists, melancholic kittiwakes and collapsing stage sets, boundaries blur, languages merge, vision is partial and identity nothing but fluid. Misdirected medical reminders, discarded letters, crossed wires and linguistic mash-ups proliferate as the urban and natural worlds collide in an exuberant exploration of confusion - spatial, verbal and psychological. A gallery is overrun with mushrooms, a scientist takes home a fox-cub to nurse, a wild swimmer grapples with sharks and all the while these questing, querulous poems shape-shift from searing to soulful to droll to defiant, as they confess, cajole, sometimes ponder, occasionally pout and perpetually wrestle with our fractured world.
Awards won by Claudine Toutoungi Winner, 2021 The Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections (Two Tongues)
'Mishearings, misspellings, mistranslations, and other kinds of linguistic slippages abound in this collection.... Toutoungi is a poet who takes the pun seriously as a poetic mode: in her hands wordplay is able to bring us beyond the sense-logic of denotation and reveal something about the ineluctable materiality of words, both spoken and written. And the effect of this is strangely liberating: an expansion of linguistic possibility that reminds us that what we may take for common-sense (that most pernicious mechanism of control) may be made to be otherwise.'
Padraig Regan, The Friday Critique
'The wealth of invention, of suggestion, in her latest collection is overwhelming, leaving the reader aghast at her lexical brilliance, her feeling for, and utter embrace, of language's transformative powers, through the dissemination of knowledge and its mystical relationship with perception...Two Tongues is both ambitious and heroically self-exposed.'
Steve Whittaker, Yorkshire Times
'Two Tongues is a collection of singularly energetic grace, whose rueful, restless poems are a
W. N. Herbert
'Delightful and dramatic... U
Praise for Claudine Toutoungi 'Toutoungi is one to watch. She knows how to get under our skin.'
Dilys Wood, Artemis Poetry
'Claudine Toutoungi's Smoothie is a jet of multilingual exuberance... This exuberance infects the format of the poems, which are often organized to look carelessly draped across the page, as if the phrases decided to linebreak of their own spontaneous accord... this is, in many ways, what you want from a début collection: a willingness to experiment with tones and voices, and the promise of deeper excavations in the future.'
Claire Trévien, Poetry London
'Toutoungi trained as an actor before she began her writing career... the "tender but funny, / poignant, but droll" words she planned to deliver in her deathbed scene are instead being delivered now, in her poetry...Claudine Toutoungi drags centre stage the shadows loitering in the wings'
Robert Selby, TLS
'Behind all the variety, humour and apparent whimsicality, most of the poems celebrate resilience. It gradually dawns how unusual this is: the poems don't confess, regret or lament - they declare an intention to resist'
Laurie Smith, Magma
'This is one of Toutoungi's typically playful-but-serious poems: we may grin, but we can still taste the bitter and ridiculous invincibility of certain kinds of power.'
Claudine's poem 'The Opposite of Confidential' from Smoothie was Guardian Poem of the Week, 26th March 2018
'Reading Toutoungi's collection feels, in more ways than one, like indulging in a long, cool drink, only to be occasionally surprised by its intriguing yet refreshing aftertaste.'
'It is rare that a first collection of poems bounces into the mind like a gifted child, difficult, effervescent, wildly inventive and not to be silenced. When it happens, woe betide the over cautious critic who fails to register both excitement and eager anticipation of more to come. Simon Armitage's first book (Zoom) burst in on me like that, as did Selima Hill's (Saying Hello at the Station). Now, I am delighted to say, I have been ambushed by excellence again.'
Peter Pegnall, Ploughshares
'One way of judging a book is by whether it stays with you after you've read it. This is a book that does. Perhaps that's because it's peculiarly vivid. Perhaps it's because it has genuine wit, or because of its lightness of touch, or its sophistication or inventiveness, or the rigour of the logic that holds the poems together. But actually I think it's because it also has a kind of unafraid honesty, a quality completely unrelated to the skill of writing, but so crucial to the best poetry.'
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