Dark and Unaccustomed Words

Slow I know, but I have just caught up with the fact that a Trinidadian poet, Vahni Capildeo, won last year’s Forward Prize for Poetry for best collection.

This, from a Guardian article, is what the chair of judges said:

Capildeo’s collection [is] “a book you will forever be opening”.

“She is trying to articulate something quite hard to pin down and isn’t afraid to boldly take risks in language and layout,” Booker said. “It is a book that no one else could have written; it is her DNA, her stamp. Every time you open that book, you’ll find something peculiar, something exhilarating, something new, something exquisitely crafted.”

“[Measures of Expatriation] is almost like a swan – calm on top of the water, and underneath it is pedalling furiously, to create a new vocabulary in terms of the layout and language used, the lexicon it uses.”

One of the commenters underneath the article linked to this lovely short of Vahni reading three of her poems.

Dark and Unaccustomed Words from Riposte Pictures on Vimeo.

Dark and Unaccustomed Words

From  ‘Joy’ by Sasha Dugdale

Just wanted to share this. I found it in a Forward Prize anthology – it won one of their categories last year. The poem is written from the perspective of William Blake’s wife, Catherine. Only an extract was printed, and this is an excerpt too. The whole has only been published in the PN Review so far (subscription only, quite expensive). I can’t wait for the book.

From ‘Joy’by Sasha Dugdale

The walls are wordless. There is a clock ticking.

I have woken up from a dream of abundant colour and joy

I see his face and he is a shepherd and a piper and a god

I see him bent by the gate, setting the fire, and he is a fallen demon

I see him listening to the wind and sorrowing

I see wrath and misery, fire and desolation

A thousand fires in ancient London

And then the grass comes silent silent with the hardest colour of all

The mirth colour the corn colour the summer night colour

A thousand thousand summer nights pass

And children weave their daisy chains and place

them on the heads of fallen idols

He wept he wept more tears than there were days

And never changed the door lest, he said, we drive

an angel from it

And every morning he dipped his brush in wrath

and mildness

And out of him tumbled the biggest things of all

All of them righter than the rightest calculation

And truer than any compass

Yet where they were right and true none could say

And how they were right and true none could guess

But I knew I knew

He was an eye, and the eye wept and frowned and smiled

The eye watched

The eye watered

The world was a mote in that eye

The mote was a world in that eye

And his brush was a blade and his tears made a


From  ‘Joy’ by Sasha Dugdale