She Tries Her Tongue – Her Silence Softly Breaks

Winner of the Casa de las Americas prize.

In 1988, Marlene Nourbese Philip won the prestigious Casa de las Americas prize for the manuscript version of this book. She is the first anglophone woman, and the second Canadian, to win the prize. Brilliant, lyrical and passionate, She Tries Her Tongue is an extended jazz riff on the themes of language, racism, colonialism and exile.

Poems from this collection have been the subject of many academic papers and have been widely anthologised and reviewed.

Originally published in 1988 in Cuba by Casa de las Americas. Published in1993 in North America by Ragweed Press (now Stoddart Press) and in the UK  by The Women’s Press   Currently published by the author’s own publishing house, Poui Publications.

Four of these poems, together with fourteen earlier poems, have been published in the anthology Grammar of Dissent.



Introductory Essay or Afterword
The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy*


And Over Every Land and Sea*
Cyclamen Girl  Audio (8:30 min)
African Majesty: From Grassland and Forest…
(The Barbara and Murray Frum Collection)
Meditations on the Declensions of Beauty
…by the Girl with the Flying Cheek-bonesAudio (2:00 min)
Discourse on the Logic of language* Audio  (8:00 min)
Universal Grammar
The Question of Language is the Answer to Power*
Testimony Stoops to Mother Tongue
She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks*



…When silence is
Abdication of word tongue and lip
Ashes of once in what was
Song word speech
Might I…like Philomena…sing
…pure utterance

– excerpt from She Tries Her Tongue…

… and english is
my mother tongue
my father tongue
is lan lan lang
a foreign anguish
is english-…

— excerpt from Discourse on the Logic of Language…