Saturday, 8 September 2012

Profile: Vahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo (b. Trinidad, W.I.) has lived in the UK since 1991. After studying English Language and Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, she pursued a doctorate in Old Norse. Her first book of poetry and prose, No Traveller Returns (Salt, 2003), was completed during a Research Fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge. Undraining Sea (Egg Box, 2009) was Highly Commended for the Forward Prize (individual poem category) and shortlisted for the Guyana International Prize for Literature. Working for the Oxford English Dictionary Etymology group inspired Capildeo’s subsequent books, Dark & Unaccustomed Words (Egg Box, 2012) and Utter (forthcoming). Capildeo reviews for the Caribbean Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. She has been appointed to teach at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in mixed forms and in the layering of time, place and voice.

Poem for Performance


…for lone student mandir.
Arrived in the era of paper
with no means of making fire,
I searched – how long?
This was pre-Internet.
Just the telephone book,
its ringbark absence of marble.
So: the museum, in lieu of a temple.
In these my gods’ basement days,
stone seemed torn wildly:
Nobody was using this archway,
whispered a disappeared jungle.
Now with renewal, removal,
my gods have changed their storey:
scarlet walls and ochre,
flat-out perilous, higher
than height. The face from a tower
eyeballs my thought towards hugeness.
A ceiling boss of swordsmen
rearrayed, redraws me.
The opening circles of sight…

[Room 32, India from AD 600.]

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