Britain and its delusions by Stephanie Sy-Quia, Guest Curator

Preti Taneja’s Aftermath (And Other Stories, 2022) is the best, most brilliant, staggering book I read last year. I first became aware of it because I interviewed Taneja for Port magazine, and you can read our conversation here. I include a short excerpt of my introduction to the piece below:

Aftermath is not a work of a fiction, but a book of fictions: of those we hold about ourselves and each other, the society we live in, who to trust and how safe we are. The book relinquishes linearity, instead favouring an elliptical movement through the inquests, ‘with asides, insertions, questions and other patterns repeating’ to ask how Khan came to be; through griefs racial, intergenerational and personal; through the works of African American abolitionists and feminists, to insist again and again on the disastrous […] gaps […] in Britain today.”

It is a book resolutely about Britain, and its particular delusions. And now begins the sentence, ‘I am pleased to say…’: Taneja will be featuring in this year’s programme. I consider myself extremely lucky and honoured that she will be joining us. Although neither of her books, to date, are strictly speaking poetry, Aftermath takes considerable cue from Adrienne Rich’s ‘Diving into the Wreck’. Not only that, but it shoots a piercing sidelong look at the Western, Eurocentric taxonomical impulse which insists on labelling everything neatly, on decreeing something to be poetry over something else. This is a concern very dear to my own heart, as Amnion is a strange beast of a book that does not really want to be pinned, wriggling, to any wall. Aftermath teaches us how to be both, or everything, all at once.

In other news, I am teaching sonnets to my Year 9s, and I am terrified of ultimately harming my own [writing] career in the long run, by putting them off for life. If anyone has any ideas about how to make the teaching of poetry fun, and unlike dissection, please do let me know!

Previous Post
Fandom and Medieval Mysticism by Stephanie Sy-Quia, Guest Curator
Next Post
Blue Wreck by Stephanie Sy-Quia