With stunning formal range and architectural design, Anders Villani’s second collection explores how violence engenders selfhood by calling it into radical question. What does it mean to suffer in a body that also symbolises power? How can poetry, alert to the ‘blur’ and the ‘panorama’, trace this moral dissonance at its subtlest and most intimate? How do notions of illness and recovery, victim and perpetrator, rest on fraught archetypes, and what alternate understandings emerge when these foundations waver? Villani roves between myth, confession, narrative, and dream to address such questions—not abstractly, but through the experiences of a subject whose capacity to love and be loved is at stake.
Novelistic in arc and scope, lyrically sensuous and searching, Totality invites readers on a journey of self-inquiry that dredges new channels in the contemporary poetics of trauma. As secrets reveal and conceal themselves, through the crucible of hypermasculinity, and with unstinting compassion, Villani’s poems venture an expansive and timely music.
‘Entwining personal mythologies of desire, violence, and survival, Totality is a vital and courageous new poetry collection from Anders Villani. These poems are rigorous demonstrations of candour and control, breathless confession flickering between measured offerings—“the densest code to firewall ourselves / from ourselves”. Even Villani’s superbly crafted ciphers allow deep generosity to well to the surface, letting readers into the silences that lurk within lush, dream-like sequences. Intricately woven imagery echoes and refracts across each section, building an uncompromising intensity. Laced with gritty enchantment, these poems shimmer with the promise of both devastation and possibility. ‘
‘These poems ‘hold, loving, baleful’ images up to a flame. They record each delirious lick of destruction and ask what it is that truly makes us: the memory or the dream, the ruin or the recovery? Villani refuses easy demarcations in this haunted, moving work that casts everything into the fire named renewal.’
‘In all its connected and disparate parts, Totality offers a haunting and masterly evocation of trauma’s presence in a life. I was reminded of Anne Ruggles Gere’s call to reconsider silence not as ‘speech’s opposite’ but as ‘part of speech’. In this collection, the silences feel as vocal and essential as the text. Quotidian spaces and the natural environment allude to potent gaps: ‘razor sheaths/stuck in the heating vent, like truths between teeth’ or ‘deer shadows’ that ‘streak an open field parallel to train tracks behind her.’ Villani resists offering us a totality of narrative in the form of a single poem or a conclusive story, but rather constructs a difficult constellation that has the true potential to reify traumatic experience in language. We are rightly unsettled by ‘disclosure’s silhouette’, by the ‘white noise voices’ like a seashell’s whistle; the ‘voices outside the range.’ Villani’s achievement lies in the immense skill of harnessing poetry’s potential to express both the silence and speech of trauma.’