Carcanet online book launch: Polkadot Wounds by Anthony Vahni Capildeo

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Black and white portrait of Anthony Vahni Capildeo in a white shirt with dark hair
Carcanet Press

31 July 2024 Tickets from £2.00 — Book now

We’re excited by the launch of Polkadot Wounds, the fifth Carcanet collection from Forward Prize-winning poet Anthony Vahni Capildeo. This online reading will be hosted by James Womack, whose fourth collection with Carcanet, Why Are You Shouting?, is also out this month (find out more here).

Polkadot Wounds takes its title from a phrase in the opening poem, commissioned by the Charles Causley Trust, where Capildeo was writer in residence in 2022 at the poet’s former home in Launceston, once the capital of Cornwall. Here, the stones of the town’s ruined Norman castle as well as by the wounds depicted in the honey-coloured wood statue of the local martyr, St Cuthbert Mayne, offered inspiration.

Travelling and working on commissions have prompted Capildeo to produce glimpsing reflections of events and encounters. As well as relics and ruins, this is a book that explores ecopoetics, queerness, faith and finding continuity both despite and through travel and lockdown, and – across three sections – it deals with tricky topics with lightness and hope.

The first section thinks through and with landscapes, using the earlier spelling ‘landskips’ to recall traditions of English-language travel and nature writing, and the playful idea of skipping and childlike spontaneity. The second section uses Dante’s Divine Comedy to frame grief and untimely deaths, both during the pandemic and in queer and far-flung, overseas communities, with the occasional breakthrough of joy. The third section gets a grip on transformations of the self, one minute wondering if there are dogs in heaven, the next questioning bodiliness.

Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt says: ‘Anthony Vahni Capildeo’s fifth Carcanet collection is a wonderful re-beginning. The poems open out on new themes, the politics have become more compellingly green in focus, the pronoun of the speaker has developed so that they approach us from a different angle but with all the wit, the wide world and the serious expectations that have made them one of the stars of contemporary world poetry.’

Literary critic and poet Stephanie Burt says: ‘[E]verything comes together in this sparkling book of responses, of interlocutions, a poet situating a body of work amid other bodies and other poets. […] This exciting book could be Capildeo’s finest yet: come for the querewolves. Stay for the panoply.’

Tiffany Atikinson, academic and award-winning poet, says: ‘Anthony Vahni Capildeo is among the most original and vital poets writing today. Capildeo’s poetic language is its own creature, a bestiary, fierce and tender, generous and resilient. It’s an ecology in which stone may run like honey, island history can pour down stairwells, and a mobile phone vibrates as archaically as a struck flint. In Polkadot Wounds, imagination makes space for some of the deepest and most questioning work of faith. The poems demonstrate again and again how attention can be an act of radical hospitality; reading them is to be reminded that this is not just an activity of writing, but a way of being-in-the-world.’

Anthony Vahni Capildeo FRSL is a Trinidadian Scottish writer of poetry and non-fiction, and Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of York. Their numerous books and pamphlets, from No Traveller Returns (Salt, 2003) and Person Animal Figure (Landfill, 2005) to Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021), a Poetry Book Society Choice, and A Happiness (Intergraphia, 2022), are distinguished by deliberate engagement with independent and small presses. Their work has been recognized with the Cholmondeley Award (Society of Authors) and the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection. Recent commissions include research-based Windrush poems for Poet in the City, for the Royal Society of Literature and for the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, where their work is on display on the building’s façade.

As always with Carcanet Press events, extracts of the text will be shown during the reading so that you can read along, and audience members will have the opportunity to ask their own questions. Registration for this online event is £2, redeemable against the cost of the book – attendees will receive a discount code and details of how to get hold of the new book during and after the event.

31 July 2024 Tickets from £2.00 Book now

Where to go near Carcanet online book launch: Polkadot Wounds by Anthony Vahni Capildeo

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Relaxed restaurant in Leeds serving impressively high-quality steaks at an affordable price point.


Odioba is a new audiophile bar in Stockport, from the team behind the much-missed NAM. Coffee shop by day, bar by night.

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