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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

Cover of Incubation: a space for monsters
Jazmine LinklaterBhanu Kapil, Incubation: a space for monsters (Prototype) £12
A Vortex of Violence

It feels almost redundant to attempt a logical review of a text so committed to nonlinearity. Incubation is a necessarily fragmented and chaotic experience. Look the book up online and you repeatedly see three categorisations: ‘Poetry. Cross Genre. Asian American Studies’. OK. I have seen Kapil, rightly, reviewed alongside Claudia Rankine, and other contemporary genre-defiant poets spring to mind: Monica Youn and Layli Long Soldier, for example. Incubation is rangy and deviant. It’s about otheredness, roaming around the outsides of anything static. Most Goodreads reviews are awe-struck, poetic responses to the embodied experience of reading the text. My favourite, a two-star review, reads: ‘it helps to read it as poetry rather than as a novel. Because it’s not a novel. Just a bunch of words in prose form.’ Yes. Readers found it ‘beautiful’, ‘confusing’, ‘mesmerising’. Yes.

The distinct tone and character of the work emerges from the constant conflation of its parts: anecdotes/memories/diary entries delivered by a narrator/lyric speaker who is sometimes the protagonist, Laloo, who is also you, the reader, and Kapil the writer, the girl, monster, cyborg, immigrant, mother, other. Yes, this book is composed of lists, both sequential and jumbled. It’s always about both. ‘I wanted to write opposites’, she repeats. It is always she, except when it’s He (patriarchal): father, baker, butcher, driver of the car she gets into while hitchhiking in ‘the land of known mutilators’. The text repeatedly invokes dyads while sticking two fingers up at the logic of binary opposition. Indeed my British edition of Incubation is ...

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