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PORTRAIT OF COLOSSUS BY SAMATAR ELMI

Posted on May 20 2021

Here's a sneak preview of our Pamphlet Selectors Nick Makoha and Mary Jean Chan's review of Portrait of Colossus in the PBS Summer Bulletin. 

"A wealth of poetic influences ranging from Somali oral history to Biblical tales to Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History informs Samatar Elmi’s accomplished debut pamphlet. In Portrait of Colossus, Elmi delves into the complexities of multilingualism, diaspora, religion, family, race and racism in contemporary Britain with piercing insight coupled with an unmistakable penchant for musicality.

Translation across languages and locales is at the heart of this book. While the speaker in ‘Portrait of Colossus as an Immigrant’ observes that “at such great heights all language is a blur, / people indistinguishable as fields of corn, sand”, the latter poems insist on the need for a bilingual poetics, as in the final poem ‘Your Mother is in a Different Language’, where the speaker laments: "Except that hooyo, hooyo, maxaad samaysay? / isn’t a prayer – it’s a question you can’t answer / in a language she understands."

Join now to read the full commentary in our Summer Bulletin poetry magazine.

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