Living in the Delta

living_in_deltaby Landeg White

Parthian Press 2015

Living in the Delta, Landeg White’s Collected and New Poems, brings together work from nine previous collections. Welsh by birth, White is a citizen of the world, having lived and written and taught on three continents. It is a Welsh tradition of course to be a traveller, voyager and settler in all parts of the planet, and White’s poetry embodies this. It also reflects the ancient Welsh tradition of the poet-scholar; he is a noted academic editor, translator and historian – an authority on Africa and Portuguese literature.

Fortunately for us he is a poet too, talented and dedicated. The experience of reading his writing make you want to read more – it is warm, humane, intelligent and immensely readable. Commentators on his work are apt to use politically incorrect words and phrases such as ‘masterpiece’ and ‘major poet’. He is a brilliant comic writer for instance, and can move in an instant from sly wit to laugh-out-loud funny. Yet suddenly with a poem like ‘African Incident’ you are in the midst of tragedy. He is a moving celebrant of love and family and community; a passionate, meticulous observer of the natural world – it is difficult to think of a living writer who is a more complete poet.


“White addresses fundamental human issues unflinchingly.”


Big Issue

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Letters from Portugal


by Landeg White
Kondwani Publications

Letters from Portugal, Landeg White’s latest collection, illustrated by António Bandeira Araújo, makes free use of the epistolary form to range widely in subject matter and style. The letters are interspersed with shorter poems, equally broad thematically, while demonstrating his mastery of lyric forms.

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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,
asylum-seekers, Palestinians?

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

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Traveller’s Palm


by Landeg White
Kondwani Publications 2017

A second edition, “Pruned and Re-invigorated”.

Traveller’s Palm is a celebration of the journey of Landeg White’s life, of the alliances formed and the battles fought and the “spots of time” that define them.

The week I landed, I couldn’t distinguish
face from face, tree from tree. I found
girls too ripe, the flowers over-doing it,
the sunsets vulgarly ostentatious,

and the night sky, in dazzling 3D
with its billion lamps, intimidated.
How could I read such over-statement
when irony withered on the tongue?

Beissel described priapic breadfruit,
hibiscus with their flies undone. Witty,
of course, but false. The trick
was never to adumbrate the exotic,

but to be re-born, writing as though
such miracles were entirely natural,
the scheme of things. As began to happen
when faces cracked into separate smiles.

from Traveller’s Palm by Landeg White


“Seven chapters contain sixty-nine quartets of quatrains, in largely unrhymed pentameter, though the form forces ear and eye to notice half-rhymes and assonance, to give attention to a language which is being paid out measure by exact measure. This is dense, ambitious writing, a poetry of witness and strict fact

Poetry Wales

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The View From the Stockade


by Landeg White
DANGAROO Press 1991

Now out of print, this title shall soon be available as a PDF e-Book.

The View From the Stockade begins and ends with poets who are threatened with political violence for being poets. The stockades, in southern Africa or York, are places of safety where poetry like private life may flourish. But they are also places of sadness, or anguish over cruelty and injustice and of regret for vanished pastoral. This is an accomplished but embattled book with a strong sense of places and of divided peoples, in which poetry fights back with tenderness and lyricism, with celebrations of family love and the ramshackle heroism or ordinary people.

The truth is he was born at Chimwalira
not Bethlehem. For Immanuel the conception
was a good one. But it was hard in a place
without writing to show prophecies fulfilled.
She gave birth on a reed mat in a mud house,
but so did every woman. How much grander
a stable signifying property in the foreground.
So when the Magi appalled by the Nile’s
green wilderness turned back worshipping
a Jewish boy in a safe colony, they missed
their star’s conjunction with Crux Australis
and God lay forgotten in Africa.


“where someone died”. He grew up ordinarily,
neither Tarzan nor Shaka, eating millet
and wild mice. After his circumcision
there were songs about his dullness with women.
He became a blacksmith and a doctor skilled
in exorcism, and people saw he was touched.
But there was nothing startling to the elders
in his proverbs. He died old at thirty-three,
a normal life span.

(It was the Reverend Duff McDuff
screamed the Python priest was the Black Christ
as they led him to his steamer in their straightjacket.)

from The View From the Stockade by Landeg White


The View from the Stockade provides an advance on the already considerable achievement of White’s earlier collection For Captain Stedman. The wit, irony and strong sense of history are still there, but mellowed by a more compassionate perspective and domestic tenderness.”

London Magazine

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by Landeg White
Cemar 1999

South, the setting of Landeg White’s fourth book of poems, is contested territory, its ‘dangerous currents’ home to a poet who ‘will always marvel at precisely where I am living’. The West Indies, Africa and Portugal have gone into its making, but there are no stockade walls here protecting ‘us’ from ‘them’. This is a book over-shadowed by violence, but trusting in the power of speech ‘to keep us human’, in poems driven by lyricism, humour and a strong historical awareness.

And here he’s again, the Father
of Winds. Our matted pines
heave like an ocean, the almond trees

fuss prettily, ancient olives
munch and fumble, blue gums
bunch their shadow-boxing fists,

while up on the skyline, royal palms
semaphore with their ostrich feathers
to clouds scudding like clippers

on the Azores run. The Atlantic’s
in every blast, and how
the swallows pinion it, cruising

under our block’s cliff, accelerating
in the domestic air, hitting
the corner, and

FLAWEWEWEWEWE they are puffballs, ounces
of cartilage, sheer as silk to spattering
on the tessellated pavements,

feathering at the last split-
second in a teetering
pole-vault, swooping, skimming

the perfected charcoal of their shadows.
I watch them
trying on wings. I watch them

readying for the dangerous currents south.

from South by Landeg White


“The West Indies, Africa and Portugal have gone into making South, a book overshadowed by violence but trusting in the power of speech ‘to keep us human’ in poems driven by lyricism, humour and a strong historical awareness.”


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