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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  978 ratings  ·  86 reviews
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 t ...more
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Wesleyan University Press
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Davíd No. Unless you're using "nonsense" with the intention to undermine colonialism's supposed monopoly on understanding/logic. Otherwise, calling this tex…moreNo. Unless you're using "nonsense" with the intention to undermine colonialism's supposed monopoly on understanding/logic. Otherwise, calling this text "nonsense" is a miserable interpretation and pretty offensive imo(less)

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The last time I read a lawyer turned writer who happened to be a woman, others saw heterosexual romance where I saw power. What, I wonder, will the sheep make of this.

So, in post-Renaissance/Enlightenment/Humanism in the European spigot of things, we got: slavery; rape; colonization; bunch of thought stolen from Islamic Empire thinkers that sometimes were partially colonized Iranian thinkers; bunch more stolen from Indian/Chinese/other nations of non-white thinkers running through their own fram
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing

In water space has no name. In water light and matter do not interact. Photons are not exchanged to give breath to charged particles. Time runs overboard in water. It bears cargo. Space has no space in water. Time does not reciprocate. Space is opened in the graves of lungs. In water there is no cargo. Time fills up. Space has no name without time. Light and matter are unable. The water has no name for cargo. In space water water is never overboard. Spacetime breathes. In water space has no nam
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most painful and beautifully written books I've ever read. Part plea, part prayer, and a story that unravels the way shame surfaces. ...more
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
the whole book is worth it just for the "Notanda" essay at the end. but also this book taught me how to be a more generous reader. ...more
Matthew Mousseau
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A remarkable text! I want to represent all the forms it takes, but unfortunately my ability to do so is limited by goodreads. I will try nonetheles...

- pg. 3


Zong! #2
the throw in circumstance

the weight in want
in sustenance

for underwriters
the loss

the order in destroy
the that fact

the it was

the were

the after rains

- pg. 5


- pg. 8


- pg. 14


Zong! #7
the when

the which
the who

the were
the throwing

the be

come apprehended

exist did not

I am not rating this because I was unable to finish the final book of the text Ferrum. As it stands it would probably be a hight two or very low three star book, but I will be hearing the author read and perhaps it will make more sense afterwards.

Zong! explores the case of the Zong a Dutch slave ship that jettisoned 150 live enslaved Africans on its journey to the Americas and hoped to receive insurance compensation for the same. Philip takes the court reports and as she says "murders the text"-
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This may be closer to 3.5 simply because it was an exhausting read--which I absolutely think was by design, but somewhere during Ferrum it became very difficult to keep reading, and more due to the way in which it was written than the content. I had gone with a 'read every word and make sense of it' approach, which was rewarding because there were so many small pockets of phrases and meaning that I would have missed otherwise, but it also was a very taxing task. So most of Ferrum onward got a mu ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think it's about time to write my first book review on here, and this is a good one to begin with.

I read this book for a capstone class on postcolonial women writers, and I'm glad that I read it despite the frustration I felt while reading it. I'm giving it four stars because of the creativity of this text which gives the reader an experience, not a novel. That's something I can get behind, even if this was a challenging read.

If you're working on this book, I recommend listening to a live read
Jan 08, 2021 added it
This is not a book I want to rate. Here is what I can say.

"It is a story that cannot be told; a story that in not telling must tell itself."

There are names she finds and truths that the language of the law cannot hold.

Different languages hide in the same words or letters.

"The oba sobs."

The first movements are primers for deciphering "Ferrum" - finding its logic of enunciation and moments where the poetry sparks.

Ebora (water spirits)- the words cannot be deciphered in parts when everything is und
John Hyland
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-poetics
This is an important book. But I still don't know how successful it is . . . I know that some find the closing notes "problematic"--they don't bother me as much. More, it is a question of form somehow and how that is (re)working the history herein engaged/(re)documented/encountered.

It is useful to read this alongside Ian Baucom's SPECTERS OF THE ATLANTIC (Duke UP 2005), which is also considers the Zong incident.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was recommended at a reading I recently attended and was definitely worth tracking down at the univ. library. In 1781, 150 slaves aboard the slave ship Zong were thrown overboard in order for the captain and crew to collect the insurance, and this book, in steeply poetic and minimalist narratives, attempts to tell the story they couldn't. An intersection of history and arts that is as brutal as the synopsis indicates. ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
haunting. important. a demonstration of what you can do with words -- m. nourbeSe philip stretches words, objectivity, subjectivity, history, breath, time across the page, throughout the book. this is both a masterpiece and a tragedy. in my reading thus far, there is no other text that embodies the trans-atlantic slave trade as fully, as affectively as m. nourbeSe philip does in zong!.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Such an amazing endeavor and a beautiful collection. I found it helpful to read her notes at the end first, as an introduction to her process.
Jacob Wren
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Right now I'm feeling it's one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. I actually can't think of anything that's blown me away, page by page, to the same degree... ...more
Kate Savage
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is a legal document where judges analyze a question about insurance claims. In the language of the law, it tells about a ship called the Zong, which carried a 'cargo' of enslaved human beings. The inexperienced captain got them all lost at sea and before they reached land they threw 150 people overboard. Once he got back home, he asked the insurance company to pay for the loss of his 'cargo.'

In two pages, the justices deliberate the case. It is not a murder case. It's an insurance question
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tcnj
The idea behind this collection is fascinating, but the execution was definitely below average. I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading it, but it really just made me feel as though I lost the ability to read. As intentional as the confusion may be, Philip's work simply just misses the mark for me. ...more
Jul 29, 2021 rated it it was ok
I do appreciate how the anti-narrative mirrors the strained piecing-together of the senseless Zong tragedy. However, I did not enjoy reading it that much.
Fiona Murphy McCormack
Aug 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
You don't read Zong!, you witness Zong! ...more
Amber Manning
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Purpleaekua Bobson
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Zong! Is a collection of poems reflecting the harsh realities of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, pushing readers to confront the atrocities of the trade. It is soulful, poignant, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
If I could give this 0 stars, I would. I had never in my life thrown away a book, but after being forced to read this in an Introduction to the Study of Literature class, and then being imprisoned in an hour and fifteen minute long "discussion" of this utter crap, I flung the text (it is by no means a book) down the garbage chute, because I didn't even want to have it in my trash bin. It is comprised of completely nonsensical words scattered about on a page, seemingly organized by a toddler with ...more
Mike Hayden
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would actually rate this as being a 4.5. I find Philip's "Notanda" is very helpful for clarifying and deepening much of 《Zong!》, but at the same time wonder why she doesn't explain the Setaey Adamu Boateng aspect; and why oh why she needed Derrida to help clarify why the dead need speak/ why the story that must be told cant be told. Her poetics themselves are very frustrating and fragmented and more than once i wondered if what Philip was doing was respectful to the story itself. Again her "No ...more
Steve Mentz
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous experiment in giving voice to the voiceless, in this case the roughly 150 Africans who were thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong in 1781. M. NourbeSe Philip takes the text of the notorious court case of Gregson v Gilbert, in which the ship's owners attempted to get an insurance settlement for the value of the jettisoned slaves, as her word-hoard. From it she builds a gorgeous array of scatted poems. "There is no telling this story; it must be told." ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This book is beautiful, and each poem works well on its own but also as a collection. This book is a must read. It's also a great example of why ebooks aren't always an alternative. ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it

It’s impossible to give this a star rating. In terms of enjoyment and understanding it would be 1 star. But in terms of appreciation and respect it would be 5.

Do you like to be challenged by what you read? I don’t just mean the content, I also mean the way in which the text is written? To see the extent of what I mean, swipe to see the next image which is an example of how the poet has chosen to set out a lot of these poems (or is the whole thing one long poem?)

Justin Goodman
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
What makes Zong! such a remarkable, exhausting, and fascinating piece is perfectly captured in the transformation of Philip's performance of it. Initially she recites it somewhat stoically as in 2010 and 2011. This matches her Language poetry influence, a school of poetry dedicated to poetry calling attention to its own written/constructed-ness.

By 2013 (at least from what's available online) this shifted to performance, with an emphasis on communal performance. Most explicitly turning Zong! int
Apr 15, 2021 added it
After some careful thought, I have decided not to give this book a rating. The reason behind this is that this text is extremely important, but I don't want my complicated thoughts on the author and her intention to be conflated.

Philip takes apart the well known 1781 two-page Zong case and strategically separates and rearranges them to create a haunting and mournful masterpiece.

The form and content that Philip uses within her poetry enables marginalized writers to create from intergenerational
Nazeny Hovakimian
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
As I read the first Zong! poem, it reminded of "dada" poems. FYI - Dada was a 20th century international literary and artistic movement which rejected reason and logic and valued nonsense, irrationality and intuition instead. Different in idea and aim, yet similar in form and structure, both Zong! and Dada poems are in a way freeing poetry from the restraints of the logic. But if Dadaist poems were a protest against the capitalist society constrained by logic and reason, Zong! poems pursue a tot ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the cases where you absolutely need to have the context in order to really enjoy the book. You'll do better to do a little search and read the story behind the book, however, in a nutshell, Zong was the name of a slave ship which went on the wrong route and because of a shortage of food and water for all its passengers ended up drowning more than 100 of the slaves aboard it. Then the captain tried to get compensation from his insurance company for the "loss of property."
It became
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Ultimately, I think that Zong! does a disservice to itself when it is printed. I know that the piece has been performed aloud many times, and while I think that Philip's ideas of fragmenation, channeling, corrupting, exploding, investigating and trying to write about an incident that defies language are interesting, it was ultimately her process essay at the end of the book that solidified these ideas for me. The 200 some pages of the poem ultimately collapse under it's own weight. While many ...more
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M. NOURBESE PHILIP is a poet and writer and lawyer who lives in the City of Toronto. She was born in Tobago and now lives in Canada. In l965, when graduating from Bishop Anstey High School, M. NOURBESE PHILIP was awarded the Cipriani Memorial Scholarship for standing first in a Caribbean wide examination at the high school level. This award entitled her to carry out her undergraduate studies at th ...more

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“they ask for water we give them sea
they ask for bread we give them sea
they ask for life we give them only the sea”
“we rescue our tears from the sea
secure them by writ”
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