The story told within the slim 68 pages of Art of Escape is elusive; I read this book twice before the seemingly random and disjointed thoughts clicked together and painted a clear picture. Occasionally we escape toward what we are escaping from.
The poetry is short but meticulous and sure of itself. The words know what they need to say, and they say it proudly. From the armadillo to the octopus to us, we live and take breath from the same land. Home is where we make it.
Often grounded, sometimes rooted as far as Venus, the poetry that makes the Art of Escape places us at the center of a kingdom where even a wasp nest has a story to tell. The words explore the small worlds that make our lives whole and, in turn, expand outwards, to make this world whole. Many of the poem titles are daring words, like Pitseolak, Crustacea, and Tineola Bisselliella, yet there is no confusion as to what the words mean. They are accepted into the poem.
The structure of the words and letters creates a unique voice. Here is a book that welcomes us to join in a deep connection to the land. Through the eyes of insects, I experience the small ravages that are huge to ants and brutalization’s displayed in the whalebone house with “vertebrae arranged in rows/around the door and window frames/patterns out of porous bone with flint/bright cut, and cobblestone.”
Raw words have a home here; cutting words that invite us in: “they’re wiping lipstick/off girls’ mouths/with tissues wrapped/round razor blades.” These words leave us shivering but we appreciate the truth in them all the same.
Mina Gorji shares pieces of her life at the end of the book that lend a deeper meaning to many of the poems. Mina is also my mother’s father’s brother’s daughter, so her family is connected to mine. From Tehran, dreaming of firing squads, reveling in fried onions, and moving to London. With family roots in Singapore, India, and London, Mina Gorji explores the abruptness of thought, the fading of memory.
The poems are to be read several times and treasured. The poems are to be wondered over. They leave you dangling at the edge of reality. Be abstracted. Escape.
Mina Gorji is a lecturer in the English Faculty, Cambridge, and a fellow of Pembroke College. Her published work includes a study of John Clare and essays on awkwardness, mess, weeds, and rudeness.
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