Portrait of Colossus is a searingly forthright debut that navigates parenting, masculinity, racism and ambiguities of identity. It articulates, with skill and sly humour, the migrant experience from the perspective of the second generation, the ones who “know [England]/ more than everywhere else/ put together”. Brimming with vulnerability and pitched between the lilt of hooyo’s admonitions and Ted Hughes’ eye for the natural world, many of the poems reconcile disparate worlds, cultures and identities, firing them with the lyricism of Dawud’s Psalms. Samatar seamlessly blends influences from Somali oral history, Ovidian tales and Homer’s Odyssey into a poetics that makes Portrait of Colossus cathartic, musical, emotionally satisfying as well as erudite.
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