“Skin Can Hold” by Vahni Capildeo (Review)


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Here is a review of Vahni Capildeo’s recently-published book Skin Can Hold (Carcanet, 2019) by Jade Cuttle (The Guardian) in “The best recent poetry – review roundup.” [See previous post New Book: Skin Can Hold.]

Vahni Capildeo’s formally ambitious new collection, Skin Can Hold (Carcanet, £8.99) recalls the memoiristic polylogues and prose poems of Measures of Expatriation, which won the Forward prize for best collection in 2016, and embraces the same interrogative approach towards identity. By contesting the suppression of voice through colonial violence, this Trinidadian Scottish writer reclaims the shame of silence and self-censorship: “Shame on behalf of others is tiring […] flips into fury.” However, with three playlets inspired by Muriel Spark, mime poems, Caribbean masquerade and a lyric remixing of Shakespeare’s dramatic speeches, this new collection is a tour de force of theatrical speculation. Capildeo experiments with call and response “syntax poems” based on the work of Martin Carter, Guyanese poet and political activist. “Four Ablutions” gives a series of surreal stage directions, and “Game, to finish: Hamlet Oulipo” invites audience participation. The work is extraordinarily perceptive about the limits of language – “commonly accused of failure, / thrown like rope” – and as a former OED lexicographer Capildeo idealises poetic form as “infinite tonguetwister, / untranslatable in transit”. Capildeo defends the “antipoetic and destructive” and reminds us that the purpose of the poem extends beyond pleasure. [. . .]

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/27/best-recent-poetry-review-skin-can-hold-vahni-capildeo-anthony-anaxagorou-jericho-brown

[Photo above by Adrian Pope.]

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