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Poetry Death


by (author) M. NourbeSe Philip

contributions by Setaey Adamu Boateng & Katherine McKittrick

introduction by Saidiya Hartman

Invisible Publishing
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Death, Canadian, African, Caribbean & Latin American
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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A haunting lifeline between archive and memory, law and poetry

In November, 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that some 150 Africans be murdered by drowning so that the ship's owners could collect insurance monies. Relying entirely on the words of the legal decision Gregson v. Gilbert—the only extant public document related to the massacre of these African slaves—Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be told. Equal parts song, moan, shout, oath, ululation, curse, and chant, Zong! excavates the legal text. Memory, history, and law collide and metamorphose into the poetics of the fragment. Through the innovative use of fugal and counterpointed repetition, Zong! becomes an anti-narrative lament that stretches the boundaries of the poetic form, haunting the spaces of forgetting and mourning the forgotten.

This fifteenth anniversary edition features a new introduction by M. NourbeSe Philip, as well as essays by Saidiya Hartman and Katherine McKittrick.

About the authors

Born in Tobago, M. NourbeSe Philip is a renowned poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, and independent scholar. She practised law for seven years before becoming a poet and writer. Among her published works are the seminal She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks; the speculative prose poem Looking for Livingston: An Odyssey of Silence; the young adult novel Harriet’s Daughter; the play Coups and Calypsos; and four collections of essays, including her most recent collection, BlanK. Her book-length poem Zong! is a conceptually innovative, genre-breaking epic, which explodes the legal archive as it relates to slavery. Zong! was named the 2021 winner of World Literature Today’s 21 Books for the 21st Century. Among her awards are the prestigious Chalmers Award (Ontario Arts Council), the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award (Outstanding mid-career artist), as well as the Pushcart Prize (USA), the Casa de las Americas Prize (Cuba), the Lawrence Foundation Prize (USA), the Arts Foundation of Toronto Writing and Publishing Award (Toronto), and Dora Award finalist (Drama). Her fellowships include Guggenheim, McDowell, and Rockefeller (Bellagio). She is an awardee of both the YWCA Woman of Distinction (Arts) and the Elizabeth Fry Rebels for a Cause awards. M. NourbeSe Philip is the 2020 recipient of PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, as well as the 2021 recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ lifetime achievement award, the Molson Prize, for her “invaluable contributions to literature.”

M. NourbeSe Philip's profile page

Setaey Adamu Boateng is the voice of the ancestors revealing the submerged stories of all who were on board the Zong.

Setaey Adamu Boateng's profile page


Katherine McKittrick lives in Toronto, Ontario, and teaches gender studies, critical race studies, and indigenous studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. She is the author of Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle, and is also researching the writings of Sylvia Wynter.


Katherine McKittrick's profile page

Saidiya Hartman was born and raised in New York City. She is a Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W. W. Norton, 201), Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America (Oxford, 1997) and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007). She has published articles on slavery, the archive, and the city, including “The Terrible Beauty of the Slum,” “Venus in Two Acts,” and “The Belly of the World.” She has been a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library, a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, a Whitney Oates Fellow at Princeton University, and a Rockefeller Fellow at Brown University.

Saidiya Hartman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"M. NourbeSe Philip writes a poetry whose innovation—her spells of silence, her stuttering syntax—is not an abstract experiment but a form of mourning for African words prohibited by 'the ceremony of White in the elsewhere of time.'"—Zinzi Clemmons, Literary Hub