Carcanet, August 2022
Paperback, 92 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, traversing mythic cartographies and imperial formations. Exploring forms of absolute and intimate power, Imperium is an imaginative meditation on how the past lives on in the present by way of, and beyond, a global 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
'Jay Gao's Imperium takes us on a tourist tour of the world to explore the temptations that beset the lyrical imagination on holiday in the imperial zones of globalization [...] This is an elaborately resourceful book, driven by a wittily self-conscious and politically savvy comic brio, satirical about its staging of its very counter-imperial animus, a powerful and febrile text.'
Adam Piette in Blackbox Manifold