Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Thinking (again and more) with M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong!

Share |

In returning to thinking about Zong!, I’m also returning to the idea of neuro-plasticity, the forming and deforming inscriptions experience leaves on the brain. When reading Zong! or when listening to it being performed, something perceptible happens in my body, a vibration, an inhabitation, a resonance, each of which is deeply material. If events and experiences are transcribed in the brain and have the capacity to alter or reframe the inscriptions that have preceded them in an individual brain and also, by extension, in several brains in a community that experience together, how might Zong! quite literally influence our neurology? How might this crucial work be engaged in an affective labor that returns to the slaves their voices through the circuitry of our brains? Another way of asking this is, how might the lives and voices of the slaves on the Zong, given time, texture, and rhythm in Philip’s book, come to take on a physical presence in our bodies, our thoughts, our communities? Comte said the brain is a device in which the dead act on the living. What if this insight is not perceived as a threat but as a way of being? A way of living among the lost as an act of care that extends into imagining and building the kind of future Danez Smith calls for.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Julie Joosten

Julie Joosten is originally from Georgia but now lives in Toronto. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers Program and a PhD from Cornell University. Her poems and reviews can be read in like starlings, Lemon Hound, Lit, Jacket 2, Tarpaulin Sky, the Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead. She recently guest edited an issue of BafterC, a journal of contemporary poetry. Her first book, Light Light, was shortlisted for the 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, and the 2014 Goldie Award.

You can reach Julie throughout the month of April at

Go to Julie Joosten’s Author Page