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She tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks is a poem from the same-named poetry book by M. NourbeSe Philip, which was released in 1986. This poetry collection is the most well-known of her works, which received the Casa de las Americas prize for literature while still in manuscript form. The poems in this collection examine the difficulty with language for African Diaspora women. This collection’s title is taken from Book-I, “The transformation of Syrinx into Reeds,” in John Dryden’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. This book retells the narrative of Persephone from a Caribbean perspective.
About the poet
M. NourbeSe Philip, a Tobago native with a background in both law and writing, is a multi-talented author. She has written poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including Zong!, a book-length poem on enslavement and the judicial system, Thorns, Salmon Courage, She Tries Her Tongue, and Her Silence Softly Breaks. Readers are urged by Philip’s work to interact with the text on the level of syllable, fragment, sound, and space. In addition, she has two novels which are, Looking for Livingstone and Harriet’s Daughter.
All Things are altere’d nothing is destroyed Ovid, The Metamorphoses (tr. Dryden)
These lines are taken from Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses” as translated by John Dryden. These sentences convey the notion that everything in the world changes, yet nothing truly perishes or vanishes from existence. It suggests that the natural order of things is characterized by an ongoing cycle of transformation and regeneration.
The lines from Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses” are included in the poem “She tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks” to increase its complexity, intertextuality, philosophical contemplation, and poetic resonance. The poet connects the topics and concepts covered in the epic poem with Ovid’s work by making a reference to it, pulling on the text’s deeper significance and wider context. These lines express a philosophical viewpoint on the essence of existence, arguing that while everything is capable of change and transition, nothing is ever truly lost or destroyed. The poetic resonance adds complexity and resonance to the whole poetry experience, prompting readers to consider the fleeting aspect of existence and the enduring essence inside it. The quotations imply that even if the change is unavoidable, one’s fundamental qualities endure transformation and progress.
the me and mine of parents the we and us of brother and sister the tribe of belongings small and separate, when gone…
The lines draw attention to how the loss of a person’s presence or death causes the collapse of personal identities and familial relationships. The lines convey a sense of loss while highlighting the fleeting nature of interpersonal connections and the temporary nature of material goods.
These lines examine the identity and property of individuals. They stand for the connection and shared identity between siblings, as well as the sense of unity and harmony within the family. When introducing the concept of loss and impermanence, the phrase “when gone…” implies that relationships and attachments to people, as well as their material goods, fade away or lose meaning when they are no longer present. These lines highlight the ephemeral nature of human connection and the transitory nature of material belongings, serving as a gentle reminder to preserve and value the relationships and connections we have while they are still available.
on these exact places of exacted grief i placed mint-fresh grief coins scaled the eyes with certain and final; in such an equation of loss tears became a quality of minus.
In these lines, the speaker identifies a specific place connected to intense sadness. As a metaphor for her deep sadness and emotional investment, she places “mint-fresh grief coins” on these places. The speaker highlights their grief’s intensity, implying that it has left a permanent impression on her eyes. The relationship between loss and the declining value of her tears emphasizes the immensely intense character of their grief.
The speaker refers to certain places that are significant to them in terms of their sadness and sorrow, perhaps connected to personal loss or unpleasant memories. She invests her feelings in these places, symbolizing fresh grief coins that express a recent, unprocessed, and intensely felt loss. She expresses certainty and permanence with phrases that are certain and definitive, showing that she has carefully examined her pain. Tears, which are generally used to imply sadness, have reached a point in the speaker’s mourning when she takes on a negative or decreased aspect, implying that the speaker’s pain is too great to be expressed through tears. These lines make use of metaphor and imagery to depict the depth and weight of the speaker’s sadness and how it has affected her emotional landscape. The speaker’s intense emotional experience and the long-lasting effects of her mourning are reflected in the equation of loss and the deteriorating quality of tears, which suggests that traditional manifestations of sadness are insufficient. These lines make use of metaphor and imagery to depict the depth and weight of the speaker’s sadness and how it has affected her emotional landscape. The speaker’s intense emotional experience and the long-lasting effects of her mourning are reflected in the equation of loss and the deteriorating quality of tears, which suggests that traditional manifestations of sadness are insufficient.
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 come upon a future biblical with anticipation.
In these lines, the speaker reflects on her journey and the anticipation has for an uncertain future. She compares herself to a slingshot stone, released from a catapult with a history and a feeling of purpose. The speaker’s trip through time and her excitement for what lies ahead is symbolized by the power and momentum with which the stone is carried. She anticipates something monumental and significant to happen because she views the future with a feeling of biblical importance.
The speaker suggests that she has a sense of direction and purpose when she compares her life’s trajectory and destiny to those of a catapult stone. With history and time, she is freed from the catapult-pronged double, highlighting the force and forward motion of their voyage. Past events and the passage of time have an impact on the speaker’s trajectory. She is being pushed forward by outside forces with great speed and ferocity. She is moving towards an environment that is both active and unknowable, representing a conflict between expectation and uncertainty.
She compares the future to a biblical event to show her excitement and longing for it, demonstrating her expectation that it will be of great significance and influence. These lines emphasize the importance and promise of their course by evoking a sense of progress and expectation for the future. There are opportunities ahead if we adopt the speaker’s attitude of embracing the unknown.