To prefix the title of your debut Forward Prize nominated poetry collection ‘Bad’ may seem, at first, to be a brave choice. But Bad Diaspora Poems is clearly a title that encourages you to think about nuance – something which feels all the more important in a week in which Suella Braverman is having her ‘rivers of blood’ moment at the Tory party conference. ‘Diaspora’ – online definition ‘the dispersion or spread of a people from their original homeland’ – is a loaded term, so it is no wonder Momtaza Mehri wants us to think about the value judgements we might attach to it, just as she questions the ability of poetry to respond to such a topic. What does it mean to write ‘diaspora poetry’?
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.
Our conversation has covered a variety of topics and his interest in life is both present and contagious. It is quite clear André is a man with a thirst for knowledge, which brings me to ask him why use poetry as your main vehicle to navigate such terrain? He answers succinctly, ‘I have an axe to grind.’ That is followed by his infectious laughter. He elaborates by referring to the Chilean poet, Nicanor Parra whom André tells me once said, ‘a poet should be a thorn in society’s side’. This resonated with him in his teens.
It is quite often said a good book can take the reader on a journey; in this collection the journey is quite literal as we are invited to flit around the globe from Abu Dhabi to Venice, from Tamil Nadu to the Catskills. Don’t be mistaken – this is not a book simply about travelling but about perspective… the type of perspective that is born out of an itinerant life….
Neuropsychologist Paul Broks combines an exploration of consciousness and mortality, framed within a personal experience of losing his wife to cancer. He warns the reader it is a ‘rambling, ramshackle house they’re about to enter’ where ‘fact sits alongside fiction’ and ‘science tangles with myth’. Acknowledging a shared human fragility, he intersperses descriptions of patients with neurological disorders who ’inhabit the twilight zones of the mind’ with a meandering series of visits to some of his own.
Here is a young poet’s first collection, tracing the fallout from his father’s terminal illness and death, and which moves through the narrator’s own depression, self-loathing, self-harm and experience of bi- and homophobia….
From the first moment we set foot onto ‘Yoshi’s Island’ in Stephen Sexton’s If All the World And Love Were Young, we are whisked along. There is no time to situate ourselves before we are riding on Yoshi’s back through the long-distant lands of Sexton’s childhood where he joins Mario in battling against the bosses Read More
In a recent interview for The Guardian Valeria Luiselli complained that we demand too little of the novel as readers or as students of the form. In upholding “relatability” and “empathy” as praiseworthy qualities, we mistake what are entry level virtues for the high bar. It goes without saying then that this is an ambitious Read More
American poet Terrance Hayes’ latest poetry collection, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is a series of sonnets that, as the back of the paperback declares, ‘traces the fault lines of race, gender and political oppression with a singular passion and wit.’ Indeed, this offering of 70 devastating sonnets both disarms and charms the reader. Read More
“If we had a vision and a feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow […] and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” (George Eliot, Middlemarch.) The US Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, in her fourth collection of poetry, explores that “other Read More