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Review: The Illegal Age, by Ellen Hinsey

Ian Pople, The Manchester Review, November 2018

Ellen Hinsey's The Illegal Age is a study in rhetoric. It is a study in how language is warped by power and how language colludes with and supports power. As such it is, perhaps, a poetic rendering of some of the analyses of Foucault or the recently deceased linguist, Michael Halliday. That warping of language is built into the structuring of the book both in the overall set up of the book and also in the layout of the 'poem's on the page.


I'm writing this review as the world awaits the results of the American mid-term elections. A 'populist' right-wing president has just been elected in Brazil. Hungary and Poland both have right wing governments and Marine Le Pen has inflicted defeats on Macron in France. The AfD is making strides in Germany. The Illegal Age has epigraphs from Hannah Arendt and Osip Mandelstam. Hinsey herself has translated and edited poems by Tomas Venclova, the Lituanian dissident and poet. This collection is a timely and powerful book.