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Volume 19, Number 1 (1994)

To "Heal the Word Wounded": Agency and the Materiality of Language and Form in M. Nourbese Philip's She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks

  • Brenda Carr
May 22, 2008


In She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks, M. Nourbese Philip confronts us with the question of how to account for the entanglement of the historical subject's flesh-and-blood body with the material effects of an alien mastering language that is "etymologically hostile [to] and expressive of the non-being of the African" (Philip). Philip's poetry activates a displacement of colonial and neo-colonial power relations as they are realized in language; embodied memory functions as an elegaic witness to a collective loss rooted in socio-historic realities. Philip's complex and disjunctive text uses language as a material manifestation of her hybrid location between axes of identity, geographical space, linguistic and cultural traditions, and histories; her poetic praxis activates theoretical questions circulating around the interlinked concepts of body, memory, history, and materiality.