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The Grimoire of Grimalkin was conceived during passionate affairs with French fin-de-siècle literature and Russian poets from the 1920s of the obscure kind. At the same time, the poet was conducting amorous relations with Old English fairy tales, and the English language itself, its past, present and future. Roots were plundered, whilst flirting with Plato’s notions of the thing itself versus the image conjured up by the word. There is a strong strain of the Eastern courtly love tradition, too – the wretched, tortured lover, but it is never quite clear who the object of love is. Wrapped in necromancy, invocations and references to the Devil, The Grimoire of Grimalkin is a baroque excursion into language taking Bakhtin’s ideas of polyglossia, Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome model and other postmodern philosophies and running amok with them. The work is rife with literary, film, and television references, and a particular debt is owed to The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
There is a feeling of an articulate medieval sensibility at work here. Fraught with nightmares, superstitions and mythology. In the 16th century “grimoires” were spell books written by occultists. In Akhtar’s Grimoire there is a channelling of sorts, of talking in tongues, of black magic, through the use of language of all guises. Obsolete or “dead” words mingle with contemporary British slang, “Indo-European roots” appear harmonizing with malapropisms and puns. The Devil makes several appearances in reponse to wild invocation, perhaps to enamour lovers.
Any notions of “meaning” are consistently challenged in Akhtar’s primordial forge, where language melts into a bubbling cauldron of delicious trickery, sex and death, magick and mayhem and, above all, love. This is a work of contemporary Gothic, with a punk core and an anarchic sense of humour.
‘Besides an inveterate love of language which makes you write "her malachite décolletage," whatever else you need to be a good poet is here. It could be sounds. Come right in; don't step gently then.’ —Bernadette Mayer
‘Sascha Akhtar repels ghosts with this text and liberates the word from the burden of meaning. These poems are spells and sonorous soundings that have the power to frighten, seduce or enchant. Akhtar aspires to magic. This is a timeless and vital collection from a poet willing to transcend the liminal.’ —Anthony Joseph
‘Sasha Akhtar’s Grimoire of Grimalkin, a contemporary masterpiece, is appropriately titled, for it is indeed a textbook of magic and there is certainly something feline but devilish about the voice we hear. This modern-day Liber de occulta philosophia reads like a wassail of honey meade distilled through concepts, as is when we read that “Egalité sounds like a burp” (p. 9). The magic this grimoire offers to der Zauberlehrling is that of words themselves, spells for spelling the world anew, for divining the words that lie beneath the surface, for summoning communication where it is not: “She loves him / this dead man / girlfriend tells / stories in French / subtitled in Vietnamese” (p.13). This work by a master smith is written in language – not in a language, but in language. The scurrying of energies that carry the reader along communicate to the reader in their very inter-communication with each other. The spell lasts from beginning to end. Read it.’ —Phillip John Usher, Lecturer in French and Comparative Literature at Barnard College (Columbia University).
‘Dans son Grimoire, Sasha Akhtar nous montre des intestins et de l’intelligence : elle n’ignore pas que, pour que la philosophie occulte soit digne de ce nom, il ne faut pas trop dire. Ce livre, voulu par la matière dont il se nourrit, est un mugissement sans nom. Le lecteur aura peur parfois d’être dupe, il aura peur parfois d’être devenu sorcier à son tour, il aura peur parfois d’avoir refait le monde à son image, puis s’arrachera les yeux. La poésie contemporaine attendait ce livre.’ —Christian Zorka, auteur de Sièges (Montréal: Le Quartanier, 2006). , www.christianzorka.com