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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, British, Second Collections, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (56 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2022)
At the volcano's edge, in exilic space, at the bottom of the Arctic Sea, or in the acid clouds of Venus, Mina Gorji's Scale traces life at its limits. The poems range across scales of distance, temperature and time, from vast to minute, glacial to volcanic, Pleistocene to present day, constellation to millipede. Adapting to the cold of a new continent opens a chromatic investigation of feeling. Shifting between scales, from insect to ancient star, Scale explores the forms, conditions and frequencies of survival.
Scale builds on the considerable achievement of Gorji's first book, Art of Escape (2019). When it was selected for the Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Tristram Fane Saunders noted 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.'
Gorji's poems feed into current ecological concerns, but in no conventional or clichéd way. Marina Warner described her poems as '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.'
Praise for Mina Gorji '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.'
'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'.'
'Her poems resemble the curious animals they seek to represent - enigmatic, sometimes armour-plated, inviting yet also protective of their inner mysteries.'
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