This review is taken from Stand 216, 15(4) December 2017 - February 2018.

Vahni Capildeo, Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet, 2016)

This stunning collection by Vahni Capildeo has been rightly celebrated for its complex exploration of migration, exile, colonialism and repatriation. The book deservedly won the Forward Prize and Poetry Book Society Choice in 2016, and was also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Capildeo is a British Trinidadian poet whose work will be familiar to many readers of Stand: she has published various poems in Stand over the years, including the five featured poems in 2009 which reflect the range and fluidity of her work (Stand 9.2).  

Measures of Expatriation deftly weaves between slaughterhouses in Birmingham, the red bricks in Trinidad and factory night-shifts in Croydon. The collection does not confine itself to Britain and the Caribbean, however, and spans a vast terrain, taking us from ‘Iceland to Arabia’, from cattle in India to Chinese dragons, from ‘the child with bronze fluff for hair’ in Florence to Egyptian godhood, and through the connections between Hinduism, Islam, Aarawak, Carib, Norse and Saxon. This is not a book to rush, and it requires re-reading again and again.  

Capildeo luxuriates in language, and her range of form is impressive. Short intense poems, such as ‘Syllable of Dolour’ and ‘Chloe on the Jubilee’ sit alongside long prose poems like ‘Too Solid Flesh’, ‘The Book of Dreams/ Livre de Cauchemars, ‘Five Measures of Expatriation’ and ‘All Your Houses’: all in several parts and densely packed. The longer poems are particularly beguiling: they invite us in with ...
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