Vahni Capildeo

Lessons from the School of Night StAnza (part 1)

I think in shapes. Quite a lot of shapes. And noises. And also I’m not sure that I think in English.
— Vahni Capildeo

Suzannah V. Evans spoke with Vahni Capildeo ahead of her Centre Stage reading at the 2017 StAnza poetry festival. They discussed growing up in a multilingual culture, thinking in things other than language, constructing prose poems, and the different kinds of audiences that a poet might encounter. Vahni also read her poems ‘Louise Bourgeois: Insomnia Drawings’ (at 9m53s) and ‘Slaughterer’ (at 13m14s).

Note: We are currently moving our files from Soundcloud to another system. Please bear with us – the ‘Lessons from the School of Night’ will be back soon!

Interview and photograph by Suzannah V. Evans

Vahni Capildeo is a Trinidadian British writer whose five books and two pamphlets include Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet, 2016), Simple Complex Shapes (Shearsman, 2015) and Utter (Peepal Tree, 2013). She holds a PhD in Old Norse and is interested in multilingualism, creative reworkings, and the boundaries between the human and the natural. Her collaborative work on performance and installation includes responses to Euripides’ Bacchae, ‘Radical Shakespeare’, and Martin Carter’s revolutionary writings from Guyana. The Harper-Wood Studentship (St John’s College, Cambridge) supported her travel for research during 2015-16. Capildeo was awarded the Forward Prize for Best Collection for Measures of Expatriation in 2016.

Suzannah V. Evans was born in London and studied at the universities of St Andrews and York. She has worked in publishing and recently as a sound technician, translator, and interpreter for StAnza poetry festival in St Andrews. Her poetry and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Eborakon, The North, New Welsh Review, Tears in the Fence, and RAUM.

Lessons from the School of Night are an irregular series of video or audio interviews and tips from poets and writers who visit St Andrews. 

The School of Night – inspired by the group which included Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh – is Topping & Company Booksellers’ Year-Round Poetry Festival in St Andrews. Curated with the help of Don Paterson and playing host to poets as varied as Paul Muldoon and Lorraine Mariner, Simon Armitage and Annie Freud, it is anchored to a regular fixture on the last Tuesday of the month. The School of Night offers the chance to explore and discuss the work of some of the best poets on the contemporary scene. For more details on these and other events, please visit the Topping & Company website.

StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, takes place in St Andrews each spring, in 2017 between the 1st and 5th of March.


Listen to the rest of the Lessons from StAnza 2017: Part 2 (Katharine Towers)Part 3 (Paul Stephenson), and Part 4 (Robert Crawford).