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This report is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

Tongueless Whispering
TW: Sexual Violence
Vahni Capildeo
This essay, whether or not printed in PN Review, arrives late: late in the inbox of the editors; long after many of the events to which it refers. It is the shadow of another essay, the one I wished to write. I wished to write a detailed analysis of the poet Martin Carter’s ‘Listening to the Land’, a lyric famous in the Caribbean since its appearance in The Hill of Fire Glows Red (1951) but lesser known elsewhere. Carter begins with a reminiscence, using the first instant of address to create a past shared with the addressee, and unknown to the reader.

That night when I left you on the bridge

The reader therefore is suspended: waiting to coalesce with the addressee, if the poem proceeds to recreate the past; accepting a floating and partial state, partaking of ‘I’, ‘you’, and neither, if the poem decides to get over the past and concentrate on creating the present.

Two other pronouns, however, have been invading my mind: the ‘me’ of the #MeToo, which accumulates reports and stories of sexual violence; and a highly sociable ‘he’. Yes, I have been raped, on more than one occasion (by persons known to me, successful credible straightforward-looking white professionals, whom I may meet or with whom I or my colleagues are likely to work; so far as I know, they are unacquainted with one other; they were in my life at different times), and molested by others. This type of incursion (I shall not say ‘experience’) began as early as I can ...

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