Gao, Jay, IMPERIUM, fcp.jpg

Poetry Collection

Carcanet, August 2022

Paperback, 44 pages


By reimagining episodes from Homer's Odyssey, Jay Gao's highly anticipated debut collection, Imperium, introduces an innovative talent whose work cuts across poetic traditions and inheritances. 


‘I remind myself I am the translation machine’, Gao writes in ‘Hero Worship’ which, typical of this collection, traverses the mythic, the hallucinatory, and the contemporary. Caught between antiquity and modernity, Gao’s poems explore forms of absolute and intimate power that the racialised queer subject must reckon with. From Angkor Wat to Aeaea, through hostels and Hades, these poems layer lyric intensity and formal experiments as they chart cartographies defined by tourism, imperial formations and globalisation. Imperium is an imaginative meditation on how the past lives on in the present by way of, and beyond, a poetics of diaspora.



'These poems reject the heroism of the legible "I". If a central figure emerges it might be that of the Anti-Translator, not there to disclose personal information but to reveal the bareness of our "corpse-lives". Jay Gao's Imperium marks a new chapter in British poetry, bringing to bear a new complexity, richness of thought and influence.'

Will Harris, author of RENDANG

'Nuanced, challenging, sometimes hilarious, often anguished, this impressive reimagining of The Odyssey makes for an unforgettable road trip; Gao’s Odysseus is a nervy and compelling traveller, a sort of non-hero, itinerant and always somewhat lost. The translator has always slipped off; we are never in possession of the shibboleth that would admit us home. Waylaid with Gao in hotel bars and tour buses, we are estranged, sensitized as we go to the dislocations and non-belonging of children of the world’s diasporas, and also to the structures of appropriation and exploitation embedded in travel. We are all conditioned and implicated; but perhaps this acute and attentive Odysseus is exactly who we need to help us listen to the buried histories of Imperialism, to “wait a little differently, mourn     a / little more”.'

Fiona Benson, author of Vertigo & Ghost