“She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks] tries to catch the deadly dictionary in the act of definition. Philip snatches the language of (Greek) myth, (colonial) law, (English) grammar... [continued in Reviews below]”—Carina del Velle Schorske, Boston Review
The groundbreaking seminal collection by the author of Zong!
Brilliant, lyrical, and passionate, this collection from the acclaimed poet M. NourbeSe Philip is an extended jazz riff running along the themes of language, racism, colonialism, and exile. In this groundbreaking collection, Philip defiantly challenges and resoundingly overthrows the silencing of black women through appropriation of language, offering no less than superb poetry resonant with beauty and strength. She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks was originally published in 1989 and won the Casa de Las Americas Prize. This new Wesleyan edition includes a foreword by Evie Shockley. An online reader’s companion will be available at http://nourbesephilip.site.wesleyan.edu.
Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reviews / Endorsements
“[She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks] tries to catch the deadly dictionary in the act of definition. Philip snatches the language of (Greek) myth, (colonial) law, (English) grammar book, and (Christian) catechism with all its ‘eucharistic contradictions’ to perform the many ways the African experience in the New World has been formed and deformed by language systems hostile to its flourishing.”—Carina del Velle Schorske, Boston Review
“Twenty years before Philip wrote Zong!, she wrote She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. Every golden age is a renaissance—while at the same time remembering, with pleasure, the way the route of this masterwork has so far bypassed both Europe and the United States. She Tries Her Tongue—the first manuscript of a poet born in Tobago [now living] in Canada—came into the world as the winner of Cuba’s prestigious Casa de Las Américas prize.”—Zinzi Clemmons, Literary Hub
“Brilliant, lyrical, and passionate, this collection from the author of Zong!—originally published in 1989 and the winner of the Casa de Las Americas Prize…an extended jazz riff running along the themes of Language, racism, colonialism, and exile.”—Publishers Weekly
“NourbeSe Philip insists on the impossibility of forgetting what has been lost even as we move into uncertain futures—an insistence that gestures toward the totality of a diasporic culture, and this a return of the dispersed to a new home. In the interim She Tried Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks is a fully realized, moving paean to that possibility.”—Tyrone Williams, Chicago Review
“At every turn, she interrogates colonial language culture. Through repeating phrases with minor alterations, Philip brings us in on the ambivalent performance of language cultures across bodies”—Joseph Houlihan, Entropy
“Over the edge of writing that lays claim to the adjectives conceptual and experimental, M. NourbeSe Philip lights the way back into the very ground, the very terror of the concept and the experiment. Tried and errant, reordering with every expense of air every expanse of earth and sea, breaking silence in silence’s elemental break, like Hölderlin, Philip’s tragic transport—as a curate of the impure word, the degeneration and regeneration of grammar, their rupture and their fullness—bears the black history of romance. No sojourn in contemporary poetry is more necessary or more beautiful than hers.”—Fred Moten, author of The Feel Trio
“Since the original publication of She Tries Her Tongue, the critical community has been catching up with NourbeSe Philip’s seismic poetic voice and her radical philological project—continued in Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence and Zong! This collection should be required reading for all students of Caribbean art and literature.”—Emily Greenwood, author of Afro-Greeks: Dialogues between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century
“She Tries Her Tongue richly touches upon the difficult intertwining of race, gender, sexuality, history, and language. No other work brings these concerns so centrally to readers.”—Samantha Pinto, author of Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic
From the Book:
She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks
All Things are alter’d, nothing is destroyed
Ovid, The Metamorphoses (tr. Dryden).
the me and mine of parents
the we and us of brother and sister
the tribe of belongings small and separate,
when gone. . .
on these exact places of exacted grief
i placed mint-fresh grief coins
sealed the eyes with certain and final;
in such an equation of loss tears became
a quantity of minus.
with the fate of a slingshot stone
loosed from the catapult pronged double with history
and time on a trajectory of hurl and fling
to a state active with without and unknown
i came upon a future biblical with anticipation
M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright who was born in Tobago, in the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago, and now lives in Toronto. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Zong!, a novel, and three collections of essays. EVIE SHOCKLEY is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, and author of the new black, winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry
Click here for author's website.