Alice Kavounas - Ornament of Asia


Alice Kavounas - Ornament of Asia

Paperback, 80pp, 8.5x5.5ins

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In Ornament of Asia, Alice Kavounas engages us with daring personal stories, as well as quotidian moments, expressed in vivid, precise language. Following on from The Invited (Sinclair-Stevenson), with its "brilliant lyrical style" (Alan Brownjohn), Alice Kavounas has deepened and widened her range. She writes from an unusual perspective — a New Yorker whose father escaped from his idyllic birthplace in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire to build a new life in America. Ornament of Asia refers to Smyrna, her father's city, the richest and most cosmopolitan in the Ottoman Empire. In 1922, it would burn to the ground. Beginning with her poem 'Road to Ithaca', we're taken on an intimate, international journey which crosses continents, evokes physical as well as psychological landscapes, and confronts the defining issues of our time — forced migration, the immigrant experience, the elusive idea of 'home'. These richly textured poems are punctuated by twelve episodes of compelling narrative, 'The Red Sofa', which dissect with a sharp wit the emotional truth of what it means to be a child anywhere, but especially of 'foreign' parents in '50s America. Her new collection closes with 'A Writer's Beach, in which the poet encounters '…these birds, oceanic/birds on the wing—each lending me a pen'.


"These poems of displacement and loss, of estrangement and, finally, of reconciliation, go deep. Alice Kavounas uses a language which is unadorned, sometimes almost stark, to present her affecting narratives in a manner both clear-eyed and unsparing. History and geography become irrevocably personal and emotionally-charged. You feel that the story this collection records is one the poet could neither avoid nor leave untold."—David Harsent

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