Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 2nd 2016 Contents B2
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would almost give me the excuse to
go and work on it, when I didn't
have an external reward, like a prize
or a job or a regular magazine outlet.
It was a way of being able to shut
my door and say, well, I'm doing
this for this.
"The external conditions for writ-
ing each book count a lot more than
people realise, not only the internal
impulse or imagination, but the
actual externals of where can you
sit and for how long."
One of Capildeo's main inspira-
tions for writing poetry was her late
father, Devendranath Jawaharlal
Capildeo, who was a self-published
poet in T&T when she was growing
"His books were on sale and his
poems are in anthologies like Art for
Stars, so the whole idea of writing
poetry being an activity comes from
seeing him do it."
She said it angers her when jour-
nalists erase his memory in favour
of VS Naipaul, who was her father's
first cousin. "It's not like Trinidad
has produced only one writer, and
in some ways the writers who make
up the texture of the collective lan-
guage are often the ones who are
not famous abroad, or not even
famous here, but the work is done."
Capildeo went to Oxford Univer-
sity at age 18, where she studied for
her BA in English. There, she earned
an Overseas Research Student Award
to complete an MSt in English
medieval studies and a Rhodes
Scholarship to continue to a DPhil
in Old Norse.
She decided not to go into aca-
demia. "People used to mock me for
not doing post-colonial studies. I
realised that the time other people
spent doing the work, I would spend
trying to assert my right to be doing
it. I didn't have the energy to do that
and also be a poet."
And, contrary to what the UK
Guardian erroneously reported when
it announced her Forward win,
Capildeo has never been a professor
at Glasgow University.
She remained in the UK mainly
due to a 12-year on-and-off rela-
tionship with an Englishman.
"It was always dysfunctional, but
I kept trying to make it work. People
who think that I fled for fame or
fortune or whatever don't seem to
realise how much I was just living
year by year---and then you look
around and realise it's been 12 years."
Of course these experiences con-
tributed to her work, she said. "I
think it was in some ways a strange
kind of luck to have such a bad rela-
tionship, to have such irregular
employment and been treated badly
by the Health Service, because it
meant I had all kinds of experiences
and all kinds of languages passing
Measures of Expatriation is ded-
icated to Jeremy Noel Todd, who
published her first pamphlet and has
been a friend of Capildeo since 1998,
but the first and last poems are ded-
icated to the author KM Grant, who
saved Capildeo's life after a bout of
norovirus and later became a great
She said while the prize money
may seem like a lot, her rent and
utilities alone before food are £1,000
a month at her current residence,
so she will almost definitely have to
Capildeo is currently working on
two books as well as some perform-
ance texts, as she has recently
become interested in theatre and
In some ways the writers
who make up the texture of
the collective language are
often the ones who are not
famous abroad, or not even
famous here, but the work is
---Vahni Capildeo, 2016 Forward prizewinner
Capildeo has published five books and two pamphlets and said the win will hopefully result in an increase
in sales for her previous books, which will help the independent publishers who took a chance on her---Salt
Publishing, Peepal Tree Press, and Shearsman Books.
"Like all independent publishers they put a lot of work, money and time into the publications. Also," she
cheekily added, "as a small brown woman, I have been treated as junior or juvenile and I want people to know
how many books I've done, like a weight class for books."
WORKS BY VAHNI CAPILDEO
No Traveller Returns. Salt Publishing,
Person Animal Figure. (Pamphlet.) Landfill
Undraining Sea. Egg Box Publishing, 2009
Dark and Unaccustomed Words. Egg Box
Utter. Peepal Tree Press, 2013.
Simple Complex Shapes. (Pamphlet.)
Shearsman Books, 2015.
Measures of Expatriation. Carcanet Press,
From Page B1
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