Issue 5: Vahni Capildeo on John Welch and Ágnes Lehóczky
John Hope Welch, Visiting Exile (Shearsman, 2009)
Ágnes Lehóczky’s Budapest to Babel (Egg Box, 2008)
From the outset in Visiting Exile (Shearsman, 2009), John Hope Welch subtly disorientates his reader. Is the ‘exile’ a condition, a grammatical object governed by the verb ‘visiting’, a verb lacking a doer? How powerful, how temporary is the unnamed doer? Is whoever does the ‘visiting’ an I or a You or simply a suggestion of the potentiality of making an incursion on exile itself? Is a Visiting Exile a person, like a Permanent Resident or Acting Principal? Do the reader and this exile coalesce in any way; are they each other, are they known to or knowable by each other, or is the situation Hamletic: ‘What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her?’ The reader hoping to encounter a lyric voice is already unsettled. There is no pronoun, no subject position with which to identify or from which to stand apart. Further unsettlements ensue; and this feeling is part of the Welch experience.
In some ways, Visiting Exile is a counterpart to Dreaming Arrival (Shearsman, 2008), a sustained poetic prose meditation which refuses to be an account of John Hope Welch’s many years in psychoanalysis, during which he extraordinarily concealed from the therapist that he was making notes on his own account, making his own account of his consciousness. The prose book announces itself with another punning title: dreaming a rival…inventing a rival? dreaming, a rival to living or writing? It finally disavows itself with an epilogue that is a translation of a note on self-love cancelled by an author distant from Welch’s London by over three hundred years as well as language and a tranche of sea. The concern with self-reflection and the bewilderment of pronouns parallel the ‘Nárcisz’ sequence that closes Ágnes Lehóczky’s Budapest to Babel (Egg Box, 2008); but where Welch is a poet of the ungrasped and the splintered, Lehóczky's too too solid world melts only to thicken, one river (the Thames/Danube), language (Hungarian/English), memory, seeping into or rising through another, ‘persistent like you listening to her breathing with wide open eyes but she only listens inwards to those thirty-odd year-old pines swaying inside the room’ (‘Cupla Focal’, Budapest to Babel, p. 39).
John Hope Welch is often praised for his dreamlike, appreciative qualities; as a strolling urban poet gifted with a kind of integrity of the evanescent. Less noted is the profound anger or stifled violence that motivates his seeing and saying. Welch, in Dreaming Arrival, figures the psychoanalytic couch as a shallow grave with the poet ‘lying in there yelling in a quiet sort of way; “O it’s nothing. I’m all right really.”’ (DA, p. 87). This refinement of aggression: quiet yelling: outdoes normal loud yelling. It is as if the ability to choose to sink into the posture of ultimate mortality puts one into a paradoxically superior subject position. Visiting Exile is a title of complicity. Who visits, inflicts, exile upon whom? What visitation of exile is there in the acts of reading and writing? In Lehóczky, weird humour is the impulsive force similarly not to be overlooked. The sleepy clarity of ‘babel 4’ figures the imagination as a glass of water without a glass, as a bath without a tub. This expat poem is a careful container of paradox. Its last line tidies other people’s mess. When ‘landladies’ language’ soaks the floor, ‘I dry up with a vowel’ (Budapest to Babel, p. 10).
Literary traditions coalesce in Lehóczky. Her poetic prose blocks should and will be read alongside those of Ágnes Nemes Nagy. There is much more packed in. The first verse block introduces ‘a red suitcase I found / in a fast running stream in an early spring’ (p. iii). This returns near the end of the collection as the item the speaker has travelled with ‘for years’ (despite the flaw in one of its zips), having found it ‘in a fast running stream in the wood’ (‘Nárcisz’s writing tablets’, p. 66). It is kin to the red book dropped into the sea and coming apart that bobs up more than once in the polyphonic babel of Virginia Woolf’s writing. It may be a missed encounter in Dante’s savage wood, and an escape from a different European treed darkness. Lehóczky’s poetics are a thing of reinvention, fresh and old at once. The red suitcase lies just an arasz from the ‘books in the running brooks’ of Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden.
Commenting on the self-exile of the characters in As You Like It from the ‘slaughterhouse’ court, Welch claims to have ‘gone off into the forest’, there to discover ‘the artifice of culture, morality, civilisation, an edifice constructed over these violent impulses.’ (DA, Ch. 9 p. 191). Yet the chime of ‘artifice’ and ‘edifice’ and the image of a foundation consisting of pent force make a poetry of dissonant coincidence between the riving, the riven, the unbelievable-believed. Some of Welch’s reviewers have been coy about Dreaming Arrival. Is it advisable to read the poems first and save the prose for afterwards? Does the psychoanalytic memoir even then need to be held apart in our minds, so we avoid treating the poetry as therapeutic product or the spindrift of a biographical sea? I would propose that the poetry is enriched by a ‘reading-with’ Dreaming Arrival (similar to the part-sunken, part-foregrounded engagement with another text or œuvre that Hélène Cixous develops as ‘writing with’). There are stances and images that haunt John Hope Welch’s work. Haunting is itself a recurrent trope, with the implication that being haunted is a vital aspect of being alive. What is the effect on the apprehension of Welch’s poetics when the reader takes up the ghostly habit of mind?
Before reading Visiting Exile more closely, I would like to look at some phrases and moments in Dreaming Arrival that seem worth at least allowing to resonate while the poetry is at the centre of the reader’s attention. Though there are similarities of form, theme and image between Welch’s poems (frequently containing or consisting of prose and/or part-translations) and Lehóczky’s, there is a fundamental unlikeness. A Lehóczky poem, acknowledging that a living relationship is a co-involvement in a haunting, still resists the ghostliness in which Welch’s revel: ‘Forgive me if I don’t spend any more time with you here. What I mean is don’t I spend more time with you spending time with ghosts?’ (‘Photographs, undeveloped’, p. 54, in Budapest to Babel). This review will now concentrate in turn on the two authors.
Early on in Dreaming Arrival, Welch associates the mesmeric, frustrating pleasure of reading a long poem in quatrains with ‘a persistent rocking rhythm’ that he experienced during long walks like ‘a sense of narrative persisting, just that, nothing more’. This section winds up with a series of elaborated images, a thumbprint in language / vanishing of coins into the script on them / stasis within a dusty tomb. Honesty about a second-guessed epiphany, as well as sheer impulse, is part of Welch’s characteristic mental movement (DA, Ch. 3, pp. 18-19). It is useless to try to follow Welch; he is no tour guide, despite the inward drive and the self-dramatized flaneur persona. Whoever tries to think with him will have to throw the mind’s eye in and out of focus and constantly be aware of changing proportions. Welch’s time in South Asia brings on reactions such as ‘horizontal vertigo’ (DA, Ch. 4, p. 29), as the poet tries to encompass or embed himself in the idea of the plain, its physicality so big as to be unviewable. Later, the vast of the memoir being crossed, there is his childhood preoccupation with making miniature landscapes, and the admired ‘micromodels’ his schoolfellows made. When he concludes that the ‘words’ of a poem offer themselves in place of the satisfaction of a secondary world:
A poem: as if you need this mirror to make your silence in, the reader moving in behind you who hovers there like an afterthought. It was as if out of absence you had made a kind of home. And now it emerges as if with something in its beak.(DA, Ch. 21, p. 204)
what I would underline is the oddity of the pronoun ‘it’, which does not refer to one and the same thing, and even when it does, that thing has altered along the way from manufactured object or lovable location to mildly predatory creature.
The aesthetic thus indirectly stated in the prose book comes to life in Visiting Exile, where the very layout of the poems makes the reader be in the midst of them. The spaces, stepping and clustering of lines, dots, epigraphs, and italics; the capitalized quoted notices vying midverse with the importance of poem-initial titles, make the midrib or partition of the book a main visual pointer. The words are not difficult yet their drifty aggregate induces the horizontal vertigo of plain speaking. The stravaiging eye seldom has reassurance from an onward-rocking series of regular, countable stanzas. It ghosts about, making sense because that is what happens when seeing turns into looking. A sense of exploded potential, the different/differing ‘bits of you’, lights up the mean street of ‘on ‘murder mile’’ (p. 23), where printless, arch-making, breath-taking space on the page and a recollection of the Blitz resolve on a thoughtful appreciation of the ‘amazing flesh’. And again, though this is a book of lyrics, the ‘I’ jumps out less at the eye than does the ‘it’, an ‘it’ sometimes so far detached from a clear referent as to unEnglish the line. The reader of such lyrics is like a translator faced with an urgent job in an imperfectly known language.
It’s a piece of a curtain
A bit of a tongue
NO HAND SIGNALS
Fell back its
Uneven trajectory(‘home ground’ in VE, p. 43)
Welch’s own practice as a co-translator, his decades-long commitment to the teaching of English as a second language and his leading rôle in the South Asian Literature Society are referenced in the standard biographical note that appears as part of the paratext of his œuvre. Within the books themselves there are shared secrets. Sometimes these take the form of linguistic shinethrough: a silent, hidden field in a forest is ‘unattended’, possessing an ‘odd unexpectedness’; here the French inattendu is somewhere in play, not altogether out of sight of these English trees (DA, Ch. 4, p. 41), just as the French landscape is one layer in Welch’s millefeuille poetic geography. Sometimes there is a pocket of cultural glow. There are overt pointers to South Asian tradition in the book…say, the wonderful ‘lyrical cities’ (VE, pp. 31-32), which takes us to nineteenth-century Delhi and the Mughal Emperor’s poet Ghalib drinking claret mixed with rosewater and working out his verses on a rooftop in the compromised, warring city where a British colonel speaks to him in ‘bad Urdu’. In this context, it would, I believe, be a mistake to read this extract from another lyric only as minimal elegy:
Out walking early was the best of it
Walking through London
As if the city
Breathed itself towards you
As if language a membrane were flexible
& the night leaning in
Like an intake of breath
Past the leaves that shelter my window—(‘at home’ in VE, p. 58)
It wears its philosophy lightly. There is the Hindu conceptualization of the cycles of destruction and creation of the universe in terms of an inhalation: the universe as known to us annihilated, sucked back into ‘the god’, and an exhalation: ‘the god’ letting out the play of energies that recreate what is known as the universe. Welch will have worked with writers and writings, schoolchildren and others for whom this destruction/creation breath metaphor is cosmic but also quite ordinary, indeed well-worn; not far-fetched, let alone New Age. The ash that blows throughout Welch’s work may well be as various: undoubtedly the tragic ash of Europe, but also the favoured stuff of the ascetic yet potent god Shiva and his devotees, in whose tradition supreme concentration is stronger than both love and death.
Welch’s recurrent images have a lifelike freedom to exist contradictorily, without any of the clash of contrariness; simply again and again other in being themselves. As Dreaming Arrival winds up, birds begin to quicken. There are birds embroidering with ‘absolute purity’ how one conceives of the ‘hopeful part’ of writing and embodying the lovely poise and darting-away of that which one would identify, with which one wishes to identify (DA, Ch. 21, p. 202); there is the ‘big savage-looking brass eagle’ (DA, Ch. 22, p. 208) that bears the Bible in his typical church; there is a sudden line of love poetry, it seems, though it is presented in a discussion of self-consciousness and separateness: ‘A flight of steps like birds settling, to bring you all the way here.’ (DA, Ch. 23, p. 212), and more…Peter Hughes, reviewing Welch’s Collected Poems in Intercapillary/Space, remarks: ‘His work is full of birds carrying unreadable scripts and singing unintelligible song.’ (Endnote 1) Andy Brown, also reading the Collected, goes further, calling Welch ‘Orphic’, mostly successful in his aim ‘to name, to create, to sing the Real into being, without enchaining it; without rendering it lifeless [...] negotiating that space “Where language came to collide with the world”’. (Endnote 2) This makes Welch sound more like one of his beloved aerial enigmas than like a pulled-apart ancient Greek. Luke Kennard is the reviewer who perceptively notes ‘He can take the feeling – the abstract, impossible feeling itself – and describe it more precisely and elegantly than if it were a landscape.’ (Endnote 3) There is pleasure in the act of concentrating. The populous yet void sky, with birds never reducible to messengers, effectively becomes an overarching image for the participatory consciousness that a reader of Welch is invited to share. In his blog, Welch, nocturnal London walker, mentions an early sense of the city as a container, the poem as a container, but links this to a sense of ‘exaltation’, the ability to ‘body forth’. (Endnote 4) The container does not represent a desire to impose limits, but an enabling form, a holding-together of what all too easily might fly apart, uncomprehending/incomprehensible, dispersed and unuttered; and exaltation is etymologically a lifting on high.
Apartness, unreality, an absence of history: these characterize Welch only if the critic is under-reading. For ‘words / Like a garment to grow invisible’ (‘Ode’, p. 20) and ‘the garment workers on the floor below’ an art exhibition (‘prologue: foreign bodies’, p. 9) are co-present in this book’s reality. Occasional derealization or supersensitivity, yes. ‘the balcony’ begins in ‘Londonistan’ and the straining verbal decorum of verse is co-opted into recommendations of noise: ‘It is like an illness you’ll discover / Just go out there and scream!’ (pp. 46, 47). Welch is the child of a crumbling historical interval. His situation is emblematic…an English clergyman’s Cambridge-educated son breaking down during a youthful year in South Asia goes on to choose an exceptionally multicultural city life. Welch’s work expresses not an encounter with the postcolonial but a self-conscious English-language identity at the end of Empire, and this is marked in the poems, especially by the dark London wit of references to the classical Underground: Hades, Lethe: as an aspect of the poem’s real-world places. The ‘Ambiguous inheritance’ (p. 13) belongs as much to the poetic persona as to the ‘Refugee’ of the poem title. ‘The Singer’ (p. 16) celebrates music from a ruined face and throat, while imagining its way into the interior of ‘A map furled like a flag.’ The remarkable composite poem ‘lyrical cities’, unfurling from two stanzas translated from Abdul Kasid, asks after the ‘inward fortifications’ of self-imposed loneliness and our hungering for love, for speaking with and being spoken, utterly, in a context where the former imperial connexions are a burden, a refrain, something to be borne in ‘a voice that’s partly mine’: mine, the toiling abyss, the possessive, the explosive (pp. 31-35).
A rueful self-consciousness belongs as much to an intellectual poet as to an early twenty-first century Englishness with an historical conscience. Sometimes this finds overt expression in a plain undercutting of ‘your life, a sort of / Half-hearted quest’ (‘at home’, p. 58) or the domestication of silence into ‘much too comfortable verse’ (‘lyrical cities’, p. 34). Sometimes the doubt and criticism break through vividly, in the nod of ‘feral daffodils’ (‘a poem of this poem’, p. 54) or other unreassuring features:
here’s a mirror that turns you away
the anti-narcissus machine
it drinks up the ground(‘yearn glass’, p. 66)
A number of the works, like the one just cited, are ekphrastic: Souheil Sleiman is very present: yet the technique turns out less descriptive than meditative, the poet sensing the paperiness of his medium compared to the works of visual artists, but also his access to the significance of buried weights of memory.
At its best, this work can surprise and touch with a brave beauty that could speak in any age: ‘A creature exits into leaf’ (‘a poem of this poem’, p. 54). Visiting Exile proves to be a humane endeavour. Technical excellence and consistency can go hang; these poems make no bones of embarrassing themselves in recording grim and pathetic encounters that have the just-stopped whirling quality of some circle of hell. Witness the exclamation:
And as if no longer knowing myself
I stumbled, she lifted her face and I saw
One who spoke in a flutter of lips, as if limping in english
Her hand was like a claw!(‘the balcony’, p. 50)
The language normalizes us into experiencing weirdness : ‘Here, smell my writing hand’ (‘no joining fee’, p. 40); ‘In here we can no longer smell the music’ (‘a poem of this poem’, p. 54), sometimes appearing in bits not to be pieced together, so, putting us in between, making us co-translate:
The difficult it is
Here, the original place?(‘home ground’, p. 42)
Is it ‘the difficult’, difficulty per se, that is here? Is it how difficult it is, here? This is an and/both coexistence, not an exercise in selection. Clearly Welch, for all his minimalism, has not shied away from grand preoccupations on a local or global scale. For me, it is the quiet intelligence, provoking re-reading, that will bring me to Visiting Exile again; say, the irresistible pushing the adverb from a more to a less expected position: ‘There’s a god surely who sits in the air’ (‘untold wealth’, p. 53). The god sits surely…Surely there’s a god…Did you spot that god, surely it is one, there among the pigeons? The birds swoop through the poems. No gods are secured.
Ágnes Lehóczky’s English-language début, Budapest to Babel (she has two previous publications in Hungarian), is one of the more memorable books I have read this year. This is indeed a book, not a chancy or cherry-picked collection. Part I, ‘babel cycle’, contains fourteen numbered poems. Part 2i, ‘isn’t cycle’, offers another fourteen; Part 2ii, ‘Nárcisz’, ten. Reading the contents is like perusing some Renaissance experimental form of two linked sonnets plus an envoi, as the titles make a found poem and the ‘cycle’ radiates while the list builds up, enacting the spiralling, domed, layered construction that images the poet’s Budapest to Babel (imagery that ultimately is rounded up to be returned to ‘crumbling soft powder’ in the tour de force ‘Nárcisz’s vocation to Rome’, pp. 61-62). From the first epigraph, the poems’ ‘I’ and ‘you’ shift, till even the self talking to itself is engaged with an other:
I chose the wrong country you say,
your anger scattered around the room
who is making the accusation, who being accused? Faces press against or into windowglass; drown; are companionable; stare. The vigilant consciousness registers insomnia without naming it as such; two a.m., four a.m become familiar, eventful times. These poems are often set in a kind of organic urban landscape, where rust and decaying rubbish are as eagerly turned over by the poet’s mind as sunlight and soil; though the cityscape, whether or not physically present, is sidelined in the three ‘it isn’t’ blocks, with their ‘imagined pines’, straying pig and traffic-stopping inundation of sheep (pp. 42-44). The palette is white, grey, yellow, green; colours acquire texture in sand, enamel, iron, marble.
There are moments of a more English Englishness. In ‘babel 6: garden dialogues’ (p. 13), the habitual scientific or aureate precision and density of word choice gives way to the colloquial in the adjective ‘carroty’ that describes the liquid streaming from a broken plant stem; but this gives way in turn to ‘hieroglyphs’ and the sensuous challenge of pronouncing the ‘unusually shaped fruits’ of Hungarian words. Disturbingly, diphthongs pronounced in the (presumably English) accent of the silent addressee with whom the poem is wrangling make lips into ‘elastic slugs in the act of androgynous love’: there is thus an implied relation in the natural world, between the soft-bodied mobile English lips and the Hungarian as organic material they will devour. There is more going on here than a commonplace ‘taste my language’ seduction trope.
Whatever Lehóczky’s appetitive senses and mind perceive acquires texture, both as it exists in language and as it exists stubbornly otherwise. Budapest to Babel starts with a First Supper of malformed geography, where the scale is both geological and dinnerplate-intimate. A painting (not a still life) becomes delicious to the reader: the depiction of marble is shown in terms of cream; the scene builds up through ‘butter soft stone’ and the ‘blood orange leather boots’ are juicy with just a hint of mortality (‘babel 10: brueghel’s optimism’, p. 17). Throughout the book, language swaddles, wraps, cradles; it can be both real and delusive, constrictive and comforting, but always is close. The intellectual encounter and the sensuous are inseparable. This is a total poetry in its greed to identify with what makes itself known. ‘Train smell’ (compounded of dog, human, metal, tobacco) provokes the cry ‘I want to smell like that too’ (‘babel 14: notes between Budapest and Babel’, p. 22), as does the very different odour of a thousand bleached and starched shirts at an exhibition: ‘I want to smell like them too’…and the Nárcisz-persona confounds the guards by practically pressing herself into oneness with the exhibit, into a saturated invisibility (‘Nárcisz at an exhibition in Budapest: on the 50th anniversary of ’56’, p. 60).
Still, whoever overvalues spontaneity should avoid this book, which is alive with the serious play of a recollective intelligence that confers a type of instanteous depth on whatever is being lived through. Time’s processes make themselves keenly felt, and again no detail is too small for the Lehóczky appreciation: even ‘fidgety tadpoles crisscrossed nervously still with a tail but soon without one that made as much difference as accents on an unknown alphabet’ (‘babel 8: la bibliotheca total’, p. 15). Tension and tenderness are mortal: a handhold is abandoned so the speaker can slowly draw her palm downwards on her friend’s forehead…relaxation, or shutting the eyes of a corpse? (‘babel 9’, p. 16) An excellent expression of this is in ‘Summer dialogues in Budapest’ (pp. 36-37), too long to quote here but well worth pausing over.
Too rare nowadays, the techniques proper to poetry are evident and effective in this thoroughcomposed volume, so much so that the reader risks becoming a little spoiled when everything is so good; or perhaps a little overwhelmed, needing to take things slowly. The ordinary is made strange: in a phonecall between entangled, alienated people, ‘from the receiver sea gulls are pouring out.’ The idea of elemental, salty, tearful separation flocks in as it were peripherally, without settling. Hovering polysemy abounds, as do lines that are enjoyable to utter: ‘adamant rammed in her throat her fists secreted / in mine from keen spectators’ (‘babel 7: mother’s bon voyage to an island’, p. 14); the mother’s hands are owned precious and subterranean by that ‘mine’, and the voyeurism of the spectators clear from their keenness, that is not keening. The lack of punctuation both in stanzas and in prose blocks produces witty ambiguities, adding extra irreverence, for example, when recalling ‘the church where we used to assist the priest giggling under an overhanging gown of an angelic hangman during the offertory’ (babel 14: notes between Budapest and Babel, p. 23). The weird humour already noted is philosophical and at the core of this work, whether in the exploration of how ‘isn’t isn’t a word’ (epigraph 2) or how the memory-ridden, effortful mind (‘What happened in another century in another country?’) tags itself backwards: ‘It is cold. A January. A January just before Christmas is what I mean. It is such a Christmas is what I mean.’ (‘Photographs, undeveloped’, p. 53).
The recollective intelligence cannot help making calculations. Sand in socks, ‘tumbled with ionic surfactants’, ‘the million crumbs like rambunctious morphemes in the warm vacuum of the mouth’ delights with the expected texturing of language but dizzies too when the ‘balal’ persona turns from this to contemplate heather picked up in the shoes taken ‘three hundred miles away from a land that was six hundred meters above the sea suspended six hundred meter vertical difference in the density of oxygen and temperament’ (‘babel 5: balal’s journey to and fro’, pp. 11-12). To these scientific calculations, as the book progresses, other kinds of reckoning are superadded: tailored to the bodily, the widening of the waist measured on a return trip home; the private human despair of time zones over distance in an international phone call: ‘It is everything. All our belongings are in that hour dissected in three-thousand and six hundred seconds.’ (‘November meals on wheels’, p. 51). The calculating habit culminates in ‘Nárcisz’s breakfast letter’ (pp. 64-65), which starts as an account of what Nárcisz can see on the table that floats in the window. Passivity becomes an attribute of the animate being (Nárcisz) because of the concentration of consciousness. By contrast, the perceived inanimate objects have the property of a lively constancy (the physics of the oscillation of what we see as edges has been touched on before), with plus-que-Cézanne weighty apples ‘squashing against one another with a negligible force unit of kilo Pascal.’ Even if ‘weight nullifies for those who only watch’, this intensity makes Lehóczky’s book a special and strenuous joy. The one criticism this reviewer would make is that sometimes the world as language / writing about language poetry does not quite convey the originality of the thought. This review also deserves to be criticized: fascinated by the originality of the thought, it ought to have flagged up the lighter, more lyrical moments, the half-buried story of loving and losing that emerges in dramatic vignettes, eros as well as thanatos, all so very much there. Immersive reading is required. This book alters one’s thinking while and after it is read.
Vahni Capildeo (b. Trinidad,1973) has lived in the UK since 1991. After a DPhil in Old Norse and literary translation (Christ Church, Oxford, 2001) and a Research Fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge, Capildeo has worked as a creative writing professional at the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds, and as a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary. Her books include No Traveller Returns (Salt, 2003), Person Animal Figure (Landfill, 2005) (Guardian Poetry Book of the Year), Undraining Sea (Egg Box, 2009) (Forward Prize Highly Commended individual poem), Dark & Unaccustomed Words (Egg Box, forthcoming 2010), and Utter (in progress). Her poetry and prose have been anthologized in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse (OUP, 2005), In the Telling (Cinnamon, 2009), See How I Land (Heaventree, 2009), Roddy Lumsden’s Identity Parade (Bloodaxe, 2010); Iain Sinclair’s London: City of Disappearances (Penguin, 2006) and Jeanne Mason and Lisa Allen-Agostini’s Trinidad Noir (Akashic, 2008). Capildeo is a Contributing Editor and the UK agent and representative for the Caribbean Review of Books. She is a co-editor of TOWN, a public arts initiative linking global practitioners and mass audiences via the Internet and downloadable free-access files for private enjoyment, circulation and public postering: http://cometotown.blogspot.com/ She recently was a guest participant at the Almost Island dialogues in Delhi http://almostisland.com