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In 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that 150 enslaved Africans be thrown overboard and drowned so that the owners of the ship could collect insurance money. One document exists, a legal document, that proves that this terrible mass murder occurred. Zong! is unlike anything I’ve ever read (or experienced) before. It is certainly not for the faint-of-heart, but is immensely educational in the most rewarding, powerful sense. M. NourbeSe Philip uses this legal document, dissects it, and wields the words and phrases to create visual, visceral poetry. I would recommend this to anyone that has a passion for poetry, history, and archival documents. This is a stunning work, and pays a beautiful tribute to the pain and song of voices that were previously lost to a history that willed itself to forget.
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. Check for the online reader's companion at http: //zong.site.wesleyan.edu.
About the Author
M. NOURBESE PHILIP is a poet, writer, and lawyer whose previous collections of poetry include She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks (1989). Born in Tobago, she now resides in Toronto, Ontario. SETAEY ADAMU BOATENG is the voice of the ancestors revealing the submerged stories of all who were on board the Zong.
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