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4.27  ·  Rating details ·  458 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Colliding with and confronting The Tempest and postcolonial identity, the poems in Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal explore Jamaican childhood and history, race relations in America, womanhood, otherness, and exile. She evokes a home no longer accessible and a body at times uninhabitable, often mirrored by a hybrid Eve/Caliban figure. Blooming with intense lyricism and fertile i ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published September 1st 2016 by University of Nebraska Press
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Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  458 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018indch, poetry, race, women
Dense, lush, hypnotic. The beauty of these poems is mesmerizing, lulling you into their rage and examination of what race means in America, who the poet is as a woman, as well as her relationship with her birth home in Jamaica. I was completely caught up and in these poems.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this because it is one of the nominees for the Dylan Thomas Prize, a list that continues to provide me with poets I've never heard of. Safiya Sinclair is a Jamaican-American, turning her focus to place and identity and the body, while also layering on some imagery and characters from Shakespeare. (I'm not sure I picked up on everything on that layer.) There is also a connection to the etymology of the word "cannibal," with its ties to the Caribe people (after a few connections.) This idea ...more
sofía  gonzález
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I will grow heavy and silent
and sick. I will strip you right down
to the bone. I will take your name.
I will take your home

and wake dark with a song
on which you finally choke;
my black hair furring thick
in the gawk of your throat.

+wangechi mutu, water woman

Tell the hounds who undress
me with their eyes—I have nothing
to hide. I will spread myself

wide. Here, a flesh of muscle. Here,
some blood in the hunt. Now the center
of the world: my incandescent cunt.

Nobody warned you, cold as bone,

how this hair
Kristin Boldon
Full of rage, beautiful language, sex, history, and ferocious self examination.
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Tell the hounds who undress
me with their eyes — I have nothing
to hide."
— Safiya Sinclair, Center of the World

such a stunning and powerful debut! definitely need to re-read this beauty over and over and can't wait to read more in the future
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much I recommended it for Philadelphia Printworks Reading Series: ...more
Bill Brydon
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: umlibrary, caribbean, hera
Little Red Plum Crisis in the night. My heart a little red plum in my mouth. Glowing its small fire in the dark. How you, hand on my breast, open my little animal cage to watch me burn, eyes marvelling at the birds that rush out. My voice rising red balloons in the air. My hands find a bright cardinal bleeding through your shirt, my name spreading softly on your tongue. Swift cherry vine galloping, stitching warm skin to skin. I reach for you, reach into the feathers of the dark, wanting to stay ...more
B. Asma
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author grew up in a Rastafarian family, which possessed few books but a dictionary. So she read that, a feat this poetry collection underscores with its beautiful language.

It parallels in various ways Shakespeare's The Tempest, particularly with that play's Caliban character, and dives into the Americana of Thomas Jefferson at The University of Virginia. Other poems remember biographical experiences. With the multicultural perspective of a Jamaican-American, she speaks up to make readers aw
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
" We have no words
for how we dream to die young. Dream to wake up one morning
and learn there will be an early spring.

But how many ways can we reinvent violence?
I hold this winter in my mouth like a pearl. "

-America the Beautiful, Safiya Sinclair

Richly detailed and beautiful poems about colonialism, heritage, and being a black woman in a white patriarchal society.
World Literature Today
"Cannibal pulsates with the lushness of Jamaica, its flora, fauna, rhythms, sea. “Red” weaves through it, sign of rage and menstrual blood, color of birds, hibiscus, and sargassum. The prefix “un,” meanwhile, pervades the text, modifying verbs and gerunds to describe either colonial suffering or the radical destruction of the processes producing it." - Michele Levy

This book was reviewed in the March/April 2017 issue of World Literature Today magazine. Read the full review by visiting our website
ash newton
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
a powerful poetic debut. some of the poems here evoke the untamed forces of nature in describing matters personal and political, while others point to the west's brutal history of misogyny and anti-blackness. her voice is distinct and rooted in the intimate knowledge of lived experience.
James F
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Canibal is a collection of poems by a Jamaican-American poet. Many of the novels I have read lately feature Jamaican women who go to America and become poets or playwrights talking about their experiences and I imagined the author as similar to these characters. The collection is inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, although I didn't find that obvious, despite the epigraphs from the play. The book is divided into sections; the first section is about her childhood in Jamaica, the second is abou ...more
Becki Iverson
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a really interesting book of poetry, focusing on the experience of a WOC with Caribbean heritage. It's themed through excerpts from The Tempest, which provides an interesting monster-lens that links each poem together. The overall effect for me was one of sadness, ennui and disappointment. There is also some strength and anger here infusing each poem. I learned some interesting things, such as the origin of the word Carribean being related to the word cannibal, and it definitely had a d ...more
Erik Caswell
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Safiya Sinclair uses beautiful language, word pairings you'd never encounter anywhere else, and this sense of like, definitely constrained psychology but still free & flowing like the tides in her dealings with the subject matter. Framing the book with this exploration of the etymology of the word cannibal - caribe - Caribbean - was devastating. Blew my mind. The dehumanization of the native people of the Caribbean islands is literally built in to the word given by conquistadors that we still us ...more
Jee Koh
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
When I told NJ that I was writing a series of poems in the voice of a Jamaican transplant to America, she recommended Ishion Hutchinson's House of Lords and Commons, and Safiya Sinclair's Cannibal. I'm ambivalent about Cannibal. Sinclair has passages of gorgeous beauty, but the associative metaphorical leaps often leaves me holding on to nothing. I had the impression of listening to a virtuoso but had no idea what I was listening to, besides the generalities of family, home, and feminism. I did ...more
Amy Layton
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
Sinclair's whole outlook and composition is absolutely beautiful, from the production of the book down to the results of her editing process.  Her themes, the way she elicits such emotions, the references from Shakespeare to everyday occurrences--they're all beautiful, wonderful, magical.  This is a poetry book definitely worth reading (despite the fact that it'll probably get you some weird stares on the metro).  This book is just as evocative as it is sentimental.

Review cross-listed here!
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very strong collection. I think it would have been stronger if it were a tad shorter. I found parts 2-5 to be fantastic but part 1 dragged quite a bit, and being 25 pages long I couldn’t simply ignored it. That said, I’m glad I pushed through and didn’t give up because the rest was definitely worth it.
Gabie (OwlEyesReviews)

I have no idea why but I had a really difficult time following the prose in this book. There were definitely beautiful images but I found myself getting very confused. It's probably a me thing. Maybe I'll read it again.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Her language is lovely, rich, sensory. So many of the poems feel “pitched” the same way, not even just in consistently using a similar form, but in the emotional and linguistic progression itself. Emotionally, many poems take me on the same ride, use the same pacing.
Danah Hashem
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dense, rich, complicated poetry. As someone who doesn’t love poetry, I enjoyed piecing through these slowly. Approaching this from a post colonial or feminist lens is particularly full of meaning, and I doubt I have begun to scratch the surface of some of these very intense poems.
Alla  Kireeva
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This poetry book is like an ocean. Somehow you can smell, taste, feel the gritty texture of words. A must read.
Stephen Byrne
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Delicious. A very well written and crafted book. Beautiful lyrical language and stunning imagery.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the language––very reminiscent of my own.
Lee-Ann Liles
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
- Dreaming in Foreign
- Litany for Charlottesville
- Omen
- Woman, Wound
- Little Red Plum
- A Separation
- Kingdom-come
- The Art of Unselfing
Jherane Patmore
A collection that felt like it was birthed from our Jamaican traditional poetry form, dipped and crushed in the world of being a black woman, and smoothed over with introspective snark & brilliance. ...more
Siddharth Nishar
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
The poetic art is beautiful but the text is extremely hard (for me) to parse. Unarticulated, non-Googleable external references make the effort frustrating.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Read a physical copy if you can. I read it as an ebook and had major formatting issues.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diversity
This book is absolutely engaging and I couldnt put it down.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I watched Sinclair perform at the Dodge Poetry Festival a few years ago, and I wanted to check out more of her work after seeing her live.

I loved the intersectionality of Sinclair's work, and how she tackled both race and gender in her poems. I'm not really familiar with Caribbean culture, so this was eye-opening in that aspect. Having read The Tempest last year, I also thought it was interesting how she incorporated Caliban as a theme and wove him through her works, since I wasn't expecting tha
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Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, the Kenyon Review, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, the Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Sinclair receiv ...more

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“The word "cannibal," the English variant of the Spanish word canibal, comes from the word caribal, a reference to the native Carib people in the West Indies, who Columbus thought ate human flesh and from whom the word "Caribbean" originated. By virtue of being Caribbean, all "West Indian" people are already, in a purely linguistic sense, born savage.” 1 likes
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