Vahni Capildeo


Vahni Capildeo (b. 1973, Port of Spain, Trinidad) writes that, throughout her childhood, ‘my mother recited poetry by heart (in French, various Caribbean dialects, and English), for the love of it, as did my father (in Hindi and English).’ Capildeo’s own poetry is characterised by a kind of omnivorous, long-armed reach. Many-tongued and multi-cultural, her shortlisted collection Measures of Expatriation sweeps through long prose poems and short imagistic bursts, through surrealism and gritty realism, acutely seeking the right form for each individual thought.

Capildeo has lived in the UK since 1991, studying Old Norse at Christ Church, Oxford and working as an etymologist on the Oxford English Dictionary. She is able to summon double – or triple – perspectives on the questions of colonialism, migration and expatriation, which she explores just as ruthlessly as she explores questions of the stability and fitness of language. Her work is infused with ‘the sense of coexistent distance-in-presence, presence-in-distance’ which she characterises as typical of electronic communication today, while showing ‘how travellers carry elsewhen as well as elsewhere in their heart.’