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This report is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

Letter from the Condition of the Contemporary Poet as a Traveller in Space and Time Vahni Capildeo
FESTIVAL!: ‘Where do you write from?’
Author: ‘Who doesn’t write from anguish? From a wound?’

Built into the side of a hill in such a way that the floors are numbered opposite to the gradient, the lowest figure indicating the highest level, this hotel harboured a bookshop in the days when the new nation-state was sure and unsure. There was, of course, no publishing industry in the sense its motherland and colonizer would understand ‘publishing’. There were private initiatives and printers. In that decade, it was not yet possible to stock the shelves with local eco-aware kids’ books, village ghost stories, cultural histories focused on architecture, music or sports, fantastical or documentary novels with majority non-white characters whose native language was Shakespeare and codeswitching, and cookbooks in enzymatic hues of avocado and papaya. Instead there was what the bookseller could get. This bookseller supplied the tourists with newspapers, Mills & Boon novels, and the American magazine Writer’s Digest. In those days, when the nation-state was new, non-tourists enjoyed preferential rates at, or indeed the freedom of, their own resorts. This is why the local poet shopped there, and his daughter read everything he bought. Writer’s Digest was where to go for the ‘writer’s market’ pages. Its American tones were also the first to tell her about Emily Dickinson, who had been mispunctuated, and who said, ‘When I feel physically that the top of my head is taken off, that is poetry.’ The child knew nobody else named Emily. Neighbourhood names were Marina, Moira, ...


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