We're delighted that our Spring Choice is Self-Portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant, published by Carcanet Press. Here's a sneak preview from Jason Allen-Paisant's exclusive write-up in our Spring Bulletin. Join the Poetry Book Society today to read the full article:
"Given the dearth of archival representations of African lives in Renaissance Venice, I wanted to move physically towards Othello by visiting that city; I did so twice. In Venice, I observed the lives of African immigrants and stood for hours looking at paintings in the Gallerie dell’Accademia. What struck me in paintings by Veronese, Titian, and others, were their portrayals of African characters; these felt like a different history of representation of the Black body, a complex, if ambiguous one. The experiences in Venice brought a particular energy to the book and a way of understanding what was really driving me, i.e., the visual imagination around the Black male body.
I was interested in narratives that upend stereotypes – as I realised, this sometimes meant inventing them. The urge of invention and self-invention explains my fascination with the paintings of Kehinde Wiley. One of them Willem van Heythuysen is the cover image of my book. The model in this painting is a shape-shifter, just like my Othello. He (my Othello) is a liminal figure. His playful slipperiness in language and in social space is an expression of his fluidity."
Jason Allen-Paisant is a poet and academic from Jamaica. He holds a DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages from the University of Oxford and works as a senior lecturer in Critical Theory and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. He’s the author of two poetry collections Thinking with Trees (Carcanet Press, 2021), winner of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for poetry, and Self-Portrait as Othello (Carcanet Press, 2023). His monograph Engagements with Aimé Césaire will be published by Oxford University Press in 2023, and his non-fiction book Scanning the Bush will be out with Hutchinson Heinemann in 2024.
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