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This article is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

The Art of Tongues, The Craft of Prophecy Kei Miller

If I do it well, you might hear this essay. It is true - the poems, the novels, the essays we allow in are usually the ones that our ears, with their particular and biased sensitivities, were able to hear. Sometimes, those ears need training, as mine did recently listening to an audio-recording of Moby-Dick. The long sentences that had bored me to sleep on previous occasions, suddenly came to life. I could hear now the rhythm, the humour that welled up between the words. For the first time, and with help, my ear allowed Melville in. And to the English woman who once complained about Erna Brodber's Myal - that wonderful Jamaican novel, the complicated gibberish that it was for her - I am able to forgive her now, her ear untuned to that frequency on which Myal's music plays. Writing is an orchestration of sounds which the reader will hopefully hear (but sometimes doesn't). The writer is consciously playing it, however, drawing upon a universe of language: words, texts, sermons, snippets of conversations that linger, echoing and influencing the new text he is presently creating.

When asked about influence however, the writer only acknowledges this or that book or this or that poem, as if forgetting that almost every word began as a sound and even as he hauls them into service, gathering them from one page and strapping them to his own, he is trying to give the ...


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