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Two Tongues

Claudine Toutoungi

Cover of Two Tongues by Claudine Toutoungi
RRP: GBP 8.79
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eBook (Kindle)
ISBN: 978 1 800170 02 5
Categories: 21st Century, British, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: October 2020
72 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback, eBook (EPUB), eBook (PDF)
  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • 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.
    Claudine Toutoungi grew up in Warwickshire and studied English and French at Trinity College, Oxford University. After a Master’s at Goldsmiths, she trained as an actor at LAMDA and worked as a BBC Radio Drama producer and English teacher. As a dramatist, her plays Bit Part and Slipping have been produced ... read more
    'Two Tongues is a collection of singularly energetic grace, whose rueful, restless poems are as fascinated by what others want us to be, as by what we want to be ourselves.'
    W. N. Herbert
    'Delightful and dramatic... Unfailingly entertaining, these weary, witty poems force us to look at the flimsiness of this set we strut.'
    Clare Pollard
    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.'
    Mary Jean Chan, The Poetry Review
      '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.'
    Mark Waldron
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