Where the Angolans are Playing Football
by Landeg White
Parthian Press 2009
Containing selections from the poet’s previous five publications, as well as new poetry, this volume is a comprehensive introduction to a poet who writes with humor, pathos, and a gift for observation.
When Paul Celan met Heidegger
in that Black Forest hut
where the philosopher and nature met
in the manner of soiled centuries,
his question hung in the damp air:
what of Jews and the Gypsies?
Blue-eyed Hitler, vegecologist,
anti-smoker and folklorist,
concentrated all wanderers
and earthed them in his fires.
Such was the poet’s right to ask
the philosopher was silenced,
and it echoes whenever a plot’s
patrolled, viz., what
of refugees, aliens,
Celan found beautiful sport in the orchid.
I write in praise of the canine hybrid
that claims its space by hoisting
a leg, no matter who planted the lamppost.
from “Where the Angolans are Playing Football” by Landeg White
“The expatriate poet can easily become a lotus-eater, but Landeg White (though clearly partial to the fruit) prefers living to dreaming. It is not always clear where his poems are located, but in all other respects they are securely earthed, as accessible as any prose travel writing, richly evocative of place. The poet writes sympathetically of people too, although there is much grim colonial history recalled, and one or two chilling personal anecdotes. White retains his sense of humour and that love of game-playing essential to the poet. His poems are finely crafted though not restrictingly formal. He demonstrates a convincing public manner. He often uses voices, Captain Stedman or the blind fiddler in Bounty, and even, when back in Britain, his eye made alert by his travels to what is primitive in the so-called developed world, adopting tones of Dante.”
Times Literary Supplement
“It would be unfair and misleading not to say at the very outset that this is anything other than the finest collection of verse I’ve read this year. With the best examples of two decades worth of work are on show here, there is something on nearly every page indicative of the reflections of a powerful intellect, a compassionate though never priggish understanding of people’s follies and desires, and an expert control of the medium. The result of this faithful re-figuring of his experiences is a work of rare beauty and power. Angolans is a dynamic, provocative and altogether compelling read, and it deserves to be widely known as an example of how the investment of conviction and a humanist outlook can make contemporary poetry both eloquent and important.”
Suite 101 New British Poetry: 9 Dr J D Ballam
“Exile and loss are major themes. Often explicitly violent, the early poems are angry and raw. White addresses fundamental human issues unflinchingly and many of his subjects are in desperate straights. Suffering is handled with cold detachment, and, although poignant and elegiac, there is no room in the poems for maudlin lament or self-pity. Nature is indulged and celebrated. We smell the smouldering jacaranda and hear the hum of mosquitoes. White is simultaneously shocking and intoxicating. Notably the impression is not one of desolation and hopelessness, but of calm inevitability. Fluent, fiery and filled with language to soak the imagination, White provokes the reader to consider the eternal and blurred relationship between coloniser and colonized.”
“This collection shows Landeg White to be a poet of strength and vision. What is perhaps most striking throughout this volume is the sense of White’s profound engagement with place. Crucially, this engagement is not one-dimensional; it does not, for example, rely on landscape to the exclusion of politics or people. Instead, White’s sensitivity to place constructs a poetic which weaves such elements together in a way that suggests a significant immersion in a variety of locations.”
Matthew Jarvis, www.gwales.com
“Rarely do I find myself reading a book of poetry for its subject matter but that became the case with Landeg White’s Angolans. Born in Wales, White has taught in Trinidad, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Zambia, and he has published extensively on African history and writers. This focus in conjunction with White’s talent for vivid description and what another reviewer has called his ease of utterance makes this a book that should appeal to a wider audience than many other collections of poetry. Its unique strength lies in these combinations of poetic skill and well-handled unfamiliar cultural knowledge.”
New Welsh Review