Congratulations to Vahni Capildeo for winning the 2016 Forward Prize for best poetry! This marks the third year in a row a Caribbean poet has won a Forward Prize. Her work Measures of Expatriation is an existential look at what it means to be home and to feel whole. It has been described by Judge Malika Booker as “a book you will forever be opening.”
Capildeo “is trying to articulate something quite hard to pin down and isn’t afraid to boldly take risks in language and layout.” Here is an excerpt from her award winning set:
Death comes out of the summer sky
Bright, hot. Instant.
Women, men, children, the old. The enemy do not care; silver flashes in the blue sky, the roar of jet fire and death has come.
Barrel bombs destroy towns and cities, rockets burn white hats; bringing aid aid to the sick and starving.
People flee death and starvation.
They dream to cross the sea, to find safety in old, green lands,
whose leaders watch their war, shake their head and do nothing,
whose voters vote no and scrawl angry graffiti saying “no”, “no more” “enough”, “GO HOME”
Back home, death is a hawk in the summer sky, invisible, fast, hunting, swooping.
Killing and destroying, with hot silver.
Refugees huddle in the cold on the shores of Greece, in Balkan fields, desperate not to go home.
Her humanitarian prose speaks to the chaos surrounding the refugee life in Europe. In an effort to escape their war torn home, they seek to find a home elsewhere. But no matter where they go they are seen as the enemy, the other. Stuck between war and bigotry, home is no longer a concept that belongs to them.
Living as a refugee must be one of the most difficult things imaginable. Capildeo has successfully conveyed the point of view of a refugee in a way any reader can understand and sympathize with. Hopefully there is more to come from this outstanding poet.
Featured image courtesy of http://bbc.in/2cDaaBD