Southern Barbarians

John Mateer

Southern Barbarians
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Southern Barbarians

John Mateer

The Portuguese traders who brought Europe to Japan in the sixteenth century were known as ‘southern barbarians’. In his new collection John Mateer offers a contemporary re-charting of the Portuguese Empire. This empire is a fugitive one, notable for its saudade, its awareness of loss, its yearning for a world that appears only intermittently in this one, as an echo, a trace, a memory. At its heart is the figure of the poet, as migrant, tourist, desterrado. His identity is inhabited by other identities, just as the place he is in reminds him of other places. Haunted by doubles and reflections, accompanied by ‘spirit guides’ who pass between this world and the other, he is both ghostly and connected wherever he goes, and connected precisely because of his ghostliness.

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