Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa’s debut collection of poetry starts with a quotation from Richard Ligon in 1657, ‘For what can poor people do, that are without Letters and Numbers, which is the soul of all business that is acted by Mortals, upon the Globe of this Word.’ Kinshasa asks, how does one speak outside of what is conventionally recognised as words? Might there be alternative languages? How might one recover from ‘the void of first-hand narratives from enslaved people (particularly women)’ something that will make sense to present lives?
The title of Mary Chan’s new poetry collection, Bright Fear, is intriguing. Fear is typically described as dark—even black—moods and colours that suggest negative qualities. In what sense is fear bright then? Well, we are taken on a journey of discovery in three distinctive sections: ‘Grief Lessons’, ‘Ars Poetica’ and ‘Field Notes on a Family’….
A prolific essayist, Chris Arthur’s writing is marked invariably by an expansive curiosity, an omnivorous reading life and spooling philosophical enquiries that begin with an attentiveness to the ordinary. His finely wrought essays are what challenged me to think about essaying as an activity outside the schoolroom, beyond those dry-as-dust abstracts and arguments of professionalised, templated writing that sometimes masquerade for life in the Humanities….
Scottish Dance TheatreDundee Rep, 17-18 March Two pieces from the SDT’s new production are inspired by nature—imagining how we could be something else (a tree or a flock of birds). These create a shared space in a joyous & expansive act of poetic imagination. Pauline Torzuoli, the choreographer, has suggested seeing the piece as ‘a Read More
I picked up this title initially because I still blanche whenever my daughter shows me her new tattoos; but I also heard Helen Mort’s very interesting exchange with Lou Hopper about ‘getting inked’ on Radio 4’s One to One in February last year. Mort is, of course, an award-winning poet that is based in Sheffield and whose interests take in an astonishing range–mountain climbing, trail running, northern cites, conflict and motherhood—all handled with a sure and delicate lyricism, and a poet’s ear for the cadence and fall of the line. So The Illustrated Woman promised much.
George Lakoff writes of metaphors, understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another, that they are a form of “embodied thinking”, a discursive tool by which abstract concepts, thoughts and feelings are grasped and understood through the concrete and the everyday. Sometimes addressing traumatic events not directly, but at a slant, defamiliarizes in very insightful ways. And so it is with Derek Robertson’s thoughtful exhibition, Migrations: A Field Study of Adversity, which employs the conceit of birds migrating—their lines of flight across borders, the dangers attendant on their journeys, their vulnerabilities, and also their will to survive against the odds – to address some of the difficult issues around the plight of refugees from which we, in our comfortable homes, might routinely avert our gaze.
“Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown”, Virgina Woolf’s manifesto for a new kind of fiction, starts with a small, seemingly innocuous figure who teases her, “Come and catch me if you can”. A General Practice presents a tableau vivant of brief encounters between doctor and patient in a clinic in the forgotten back streets of an unnamed French city, “tucked away behind a row of bargain shops and fast food outfits”. In its imaginative attentiveness to place, suggestion of character, and its sensitivity to the passing of time, the world that we enter in these pages is luminous with the lives of those forgotten, ignored or made invisible.
Writing that is enquiring, taking very little for granted, and making space for readers is always a joy to behold. All the Names Given has these virtues in spades, posing some searing questions not only about the nature of ancestry, family, identity, colonial legacies, racism, how and where we fit within a larger social world, but what these mean for the living?
We have been reading Roland Barthes’ explorations of image and memory in our writing classes. Photographs record the presence of someone “that has been”, but they also express a “temporal hallucination”, like a severed limb whose presence is felt viscerally, an after effect of amputation. This return to a time past in the present moment is beautifully imagined in Honorifics. Miller is Malaysian-American now resident in Scotland, and her debut collection renders loss and separation as memorable, lingering encounters, almost hallucinatory yearnings of leaving and homecoming.
Katherine Angel (Verso Press, 2021; hbk, £10.99) ‘What does a woman want?’, Freud’s now infamous lines, could be uttered as a genuine question ― or as an exasperated retort, replete with exclamation. Between these two poles lie a multitude of complex positions that mark (or give lie) to our cultural assumptions about sexual relations. Katherine Read More