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This report is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

On Attending Unpolitical Poetry Events Vahni Capildeo
The Book

The book is sized like an item made to fit flat on a labouring hand, on a palm that knows how to open and bear. The colours of the paper are pinkish red and purple. The saturation of the shades is unusual, even for a poetry collection; also familiar from objects not paper, provoking comparison: like communion wine, like Lenten vestments. The very material of Grosseteste Press’s 1970s editions of John Riley’s work creates a context for the poetic or prose text: one where the sparse words, when they do appear, are surrounded, therefore imbued, with the intensity associated with religion, or faith. John Riley and Tim Longville’s A Legend of St. Anthony is a burning book, linocut. It is hard to read the brownish words scarred into the strange rose-gold stippled pages. The amount of visual effort becomes as memorable as the few gatherable words:

GOD IS A FLAME DESIGNED TO
PACIFY THE MIND

NOTHING COULD MATTER
LESS THAN THE DRUNKEN-
NESS OF FLESH

The practical difficulty, even frustration, is overcome through some readerly faith in pursuing John Riley’s text, perhaps under the aspect of stubbornness.

‘Religion’ and ‘faith’ are words used increasingly interchangeably in the English of mediatised culture. To lose such a distinction would erode the significance in Levinas’s anecdote about the young Hannah Arendt, who told her rabbi that she had lost her faith. The rabbi’s response, ‘Who is asking you for it?’, pointed her away from self-questioning ...


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