Prac Crit

Edition Four

August 2015 - featuring poems and responses by:

Vahni Capildeo

“I sometimes feel, when entering a space…that I’ve already been constructed as something. Then, no matter what I say, or how I feel the situation could evolve, I’m imprisoned in supposedly speaking ‘as a’ medievalist, or Trinidadian, or woman.”

Henri Cole

“Eventually, I began writing terser, airier, vertical poems, with three or four stresses per line. But not in quatrains, because I had this irrational fear, from living in Japan, where there’s tetraphobia, that four is a number that might lead to death.”

Liz Berry

“The woods can be a location for wonderful, ecstatic things, but also bad things. That is the appeal for me. The ability to touch the wildness... Woods are so laden with the myth of the fairy tale, what it is to be somewhere outside of society.”

Beatrice Garland

“...when I'm thinking or writing like an analyst, I can’t think about poetry... I’ve got to be free of all that. Because it is analytical and it’s very different from allowing stuff to come up from the unconscious and into your head as in a dream...”
Deep Note

R.A. Villanueva

“As with the Catalan, ‘enyorança,’ and the Welsh, ‘hiraeth,’ there is no exact way to render the Portuguese, ‘saudade,’ into English... ‘Saudade’ must be bruise and balm, nerve and home.”

With the return of summer, we celebrate the full arc of Prac Crit’s first year. This birthday edition, our fourth, coincides with the news that two of our poems have been selected for the next Best British Poetry. We take this as a sign that Prac Crit is not simply commissioning some of the most engaged and inventive criticism around, but giving a home to extraordinary original poems too.

This is an edition much concerned with the nature of ‘home’. Of the British Trinidadian poet Vahni Capildeo, Eve Lacey says ‘she knows how to dream’. Their interview focuses on a new poem, ‘Cities in Step’, whose dreamwork is dedicated to a sisterhood of peripatetic women finally tired of rootlessness. Female fellowship is also the starting point for Sandeep Parmar’s essay on Capildeo’s ‘La Poetessa’: Parmar’s vivid historical meditation brings out the spectre of race lurking in the poem’s idyllic Cambridge garden.

Hailed by Harold Bloom as ‘a master poet, with few peers’, Henri Cole is among America’s most celebrated contemporary poets. Bloom happens to be the dedicatee of ‘Sphere’, a lyric whose diverse hauntings are expertly brought to light in Seán Hewitt’s essay. ‘With Cole,’ Hewitt writes, ‘the confession is a seed that can and must be buried before it can bear fruit.’ In an important new interview, Cole speaks candidly to Julian Gewirtz about the centrality of form, friendship and five-line stanzas to his latest collection, Nothing to Declare (2015).

Our feature on Liz Berry brings together twin poems, one light, one dark, inspired by the Coventry landscapes of the painter George Shaw. ‘I haunted that place, and now it haunts me’, Shaw once said of his pictures, but the sentiment is equally true of Berry’s poetry. Ed Doegar’s essay turns an ear attuned to historical echoes onto the prelaparian eroticism of ‘The Silver Birch’. Berry talks to Lily Blacksell about ‘Pig Wood’, whose sinister mood supplies a darker ‘flipside’ to the earlier poem; it is one of her first to appear since Black Country.

In his lively essay, Jon Stone leads us through Beatrice Garland’s ‘The Academy of New Words’ – a strange parable about the nature of language, told by a ‘raconteurish and somewhat conspiratorial’ narrator. Garland’s The Invention of Fireworks was shortlisted for last year’s Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Edwina Attlee asks Garland about a new poem with its roots in collective trauma, inviting her to ponder the productive tension between the poet’s mindset and the one demanded by her work as a psychoanalyst.

This edition’s Deep Note is by R.A. Villanueva, a Brooklyn-based poet currently living in London. His piece circles around the untranslatability of the Portuguese/Spanish term saudade, which denotes a profound, nostalgic, emotional longing with no direct equivalent in English. Some trace the term back to Portugal’s Colonial past – the families left behind by sailors departing for unknown lands. Might ‘Saudade’ also point to another kind of displacement, Villanueva’s life in the US far from his parents’ Philippines?

Sarah Howe