Stride has just published my review of Wretched Strangers, an anthology of writing about ‘borders, movement, homes’, edited by Agnes Lehoczky and JT Welsch. Describing books as ‘timely’ is common practice among reviewers and publishers – and usually vacuous. It’s not a word I would normally use of poetry. But against the backdrop of the ongoing Brexit saga, this volume is actually in a sense ‘timely’. It isn’t going to change the eventual outcome of ‘Brexit’ – whatever that finally turns out to be – but it is a thoughtful contribution to the national ‘conversation’ about migration and what constitutes ‘identity’.
There are some big name contributors here, alongside less well-known writers. I mention Lisa Samuels thought-provocking prose piece in my review. Other highlights include poems by Alice Notely, Ulli Frier, Jeff Hilson, Rachel Blu du Plessis, and Wilson Bueno (trans. Erin Moure).
One of Notely’s two poems is a witty account of a dinner for ‘international poets’ hosted by the then French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, himself a poet, in 2005. Hardly anyone there knows who Notely is, and the identity of many of the other guests remains a mystery to her.
In the second poem she describes the humiliating and tedious process of renewing her French residency permit in 2002, when she ‘had to go to Boulevard Sebastopol at 6AM stand in line/for 5 hours outside the prefecture with masses of/people Asian Africa Middle-Eastern the world is every-//where mixed up now I shared a blanket for warmth/with a woman from La Reunion.’ The process in 2012, she acknowledges, was a lot easier.
The volume also contains moving prose pieces by Kapka Kassabova (about the Turkish/Europe border) and Ethel Maqeda (a chilling account of political violence in Zimbabwe).