Magazine article New Internationalist

She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks

Magazine article New Internationalist

She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks

Article excerpt

THIS SLIM VOLUME CONCEALS an enterprise of epic proportions. Caribbean-born poet M Nourbese Philip has undertaken the difficult post-colonial dialogue with English, the conquering language, 'a foreign anguish'. The challenge is colossal--to weave between the poles of 'standard' language and dialect, exposing the history of inevitable oppression when a new world is grafted upon an unwilling people by means of an alien tongue. Then there are the hierarchies of gender and capital which are ingrained in language. Philip asks, 'in my mother's mouth shall I use the father's tongue?'

Readers familiar with post-modern writers writing about writing may be aware of some of the pitfalls--a tendency towards portentousness and unnecessary complexity which can alienate rather than entrance the reader. Some such problems are evident in this collection too; at times the verse labours a point or ends up sounding grandiose. …

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