Wow. What a collection! I know I go on about the virtues of poetry collections having some sort of unity, but oh, this book reminds me why it’s so important.
For those of you who have forgotten your mythology, Europa was the daughter of Agenor, the King of Tyre. Zeus saw her and decided he wanted her, so disguised himself as a white bull and carried her off (into the sea, and eventually to the island of Crete). She bore him three sons – most famously Minos, who was later King of Crete, husband of Pasiphaë, and the cuckolded stepfather of the Minotaur. (Moral: don’t play with white bulls. Real bulls do not frolic with young girls.)
I’ll review the book properly later, but essentially it’s about violence against women (specifically rape, and surviving it), and how that plays out into society as a whole. The central sequence is poems about Europa, but there’s also a poems about ‘post traumatic’ experience, honour killings, and a handful of poems that are versions (rather than literal translations) of Uruguayan/French poet Jules Supervielle. (Which is interesting in its own right – she is often referred to as a surrealist poet (I’d say a cross between Selima Hill and Pauline Stainer, with a dash of Jo Shapcott), whereas he made a point of distancing himself from the surrealist movement. But I digress. Again.)
There’s a real core of anger running through these poems, but somehow Alvi keeps it under control throughout. A fierceness that never tips into being shrill or aggressive. Really really good writing!