Instructions for Friday 4/12

Hi all,

My apologies again that I can’t be in class on Friday! Your homework for Monday is to bring in a short text (article, form, document, song lyrics, bill, etc.) that makes you mad or upset, that feels inaccurate or offensive. Be prepared to write on it. We will be making our own found poems. Also, bring Zong!, since we will continue our discussions.

In order to receive participation credit for Friday’s class, please follow the instructions below and post your comment by midnight on Friday. You will need your copy of Zong! handy.

First, watch this video of Phillip reading Zong 17, 18, 19 (29-34). Start from the beginning and watch until about 4:36. You may want to listen twice: once while looking at the poems she is reading and once without, to take it all in.

Next, please listen to this short lecture (20 mins), which will help you answer one of the discussion questions below. Follow along in your book. (Bonus = my cat interjects throughout!)

In your comment, please respond to one of the following discussion questions. You are encouraged to quote from the text and engage with the ideas of your peers.

  • How did watching the video of Phillip reading change the way you read the text? Did it help you see any aspect of the text in a new way?
  • In what sense is this an “impossible” story to tell?
  • How did you read the names at the bottom of each page? What do they suggest?
  • What strategies did you develop for reading these difficult poems?
  • Phillip repeatedly compares the process of writing Zong! To the actual Zong massacre itself. Why? What is she inviting us to think about?
  • Was there a particularly striking detail, pattern, or theme you observed in the poems for today (20-76) that raised an interesting thought or question? Please explain.

Comments are due by midnight on Friday. Looking forward to reading your responses. Have a great weekend and see you Monday!

15 thoughts on “Instructions for Friday 4/12”

  1. Hi Professor Savonick!! To answer one of your questions, the strategy I used to help me read some of these very difficult poems was to first read it line by line, horizontally. After that, I would try and go back and read it down the line if it was in a row. For example, in Zong #4, I first read it as “this is… not was… or… should be… this be… not… should be… this… should… not… be.” After that, I read it down the line so it would sound like, “not was… this be… should be… should… be… this is… or… should be… not… this… not.” For me, the first time I read it, it made a little more sense to me. For other Zong’s, I found it was easier to read it the second version, but most of the time it was easier to read it line by line. Also, another quick strategy I developed was to read it more than once so that it would make more sense to me and I could try and pull apart what Philip is trying to say.

  2. Hi Professor Savonick! To be honest, when I first saw the names at the bottom of the page, I hadn’t connected that they were names. Clearly, it makes more sense now. It’s quite chilling because one’s initial reaction is that they’re the names of the slaves and this is to honor them. This thought isn’t necessarily incorrect. The names on Zong #1 “Masuz Zuwena Ogunsheye Ziyad Ogwambi Keturah” introduce to the readers that these sets of poems are there to represent what the enslaved people went through. Another detail that you mentioned that I agree with is the fact that they are purposefully placed at the bottom of the page. It illustrates how they were thrown overboard and drowned which is really powerful on Philip’s behalf. Although we do not know for sure if any of the enslaved people had names, Philip still gave them names. It gave them the humanization that they were being deprived of because they were treated as cargo. It allows them to have a role in the telling of their own stories and to not be forgotten.

  3. Hi Professor,
    In a response to the question “How did you read the names at the bottom of each page? What do they suggest?”, at first I guess I didn’t even process in her end statement that she said they were names, because I was very confused at the first sight of reading them until you had mentioned it in your lecture. Quite honestly, I didn’t read them when I was reading the poems, but I suppose that was one of the purposes she was imposing ( that they were hard to notice at the bottom of the page in a super small font). After going back and looking at them I wanted to further understand their meanings. First I typed all of the words together into google. For example in the Zong! #11 poem all of the words together (Nomble Falope Bisuga Nuru Chimwala Sala) put into google translate translated to “and the splendor of the rock and the rock” but when I had typed them in separately each word had a different meaning and in some cases was from a different language. Nomble had translated to “and the umbrella”, Falope had translated to “escape”, Bisuga had translated to “it does”, Nuru had translated to “light”, Chimwala had translated to “a stone”, and Sala had translated to “prayer”. So when put together, the words had a different meaning then when apart. This could relate to the idea that each of the enslaved people on the ship were all very different but at the same time were on the ship for one main purpose- to be forced to be a slave. The words together ending up meaning ” the splendor of the rock and the rock”. The first thing that came to my mind was the rock of the boat in the sea. This kind of mocks the “splendor” of it (splendor meaning magnificent). It was not magnificent at all, it was probably torturous to the enslaved people.

  4. Hi Professor Savonick! Really appreciated the lecture, it was definitely different! To answer one of you questions, I believe Phillip’s compare the process to the actual massacre because that is exactly what it is. The story is at sometimes, pretty graphic, it is disorganized and it leaves you with a sense of guilt; just like the massacre itself. On the ship, the people that were enslaved were most likely confused, the ones that had survived, saw graphic images and situations, and the amount of guilt from losing friends and family. I also think she is inviting us in to see the enslaved person’s perspective. The story is in a way where you are thinking of all these different possible ways to communicate, or read what honestly looks like, a different language.

  5. Hi Professor! In response to one of your questions, in order to be able to understand the book more I had to develop strategies to read the difficult poems. The poem that I found most difficult to read was Zong! #1, which at first came across as random letters jumbled on the page. When I put together the disassembled letters some words appeared like, “water”, “was our water”, and “good”. This was done by first reading the words left to right, and then from the top of the page to the bottom to se if there was anything hidden in the letters. The lines of the poem remind me of the lives of the slaves on the Zong, a mess. In the end, we are left seeing and thinking about water , which is a basic human need and something we need to survive.

  6. Hi Professor Savonick! Thank you for introducing this new way of teaching via an online lecture! I think it was very interesting how many vital points you brought up in such a short time. The question I decided to answer was “In what sense is this an ‘impossible’ story to tell?” and I feel this is a very intriguing and open ended question that needs to be dissected. I feel that this is an impossible story to tell being that the author isn’t writing based off actual events that she has witnessed. She is writing based off what Setaey Adamu Boateng tells her and all the information she gathers is solely from this interview. It’s also an impossible story to tell because she is giving a voice to these enslaved people who weren’t given the opportunity to freedoms. I think it’s also interesting how she speaks in present tense because these issues of inequality are still prevalent to this day. These issues of racial bias, social inequalities, and economical limitations are constantly effecting people’s lives everyday and Philip uses this present tense voice to actualize the severity of these problems.

  7. Hello Professor Savonick, thank you for taking the time to record the lecture for today!
    I have decided to answer this question: “Phillip repeatedly compares the process of writing Zong! To the actual Zong massacre itself. Why? What is she inviting us to think about?”

    For any writer who produces their own work (poetry, novels, research articles) it is often a labor of love, and the very same could be said for Philip and Zong!. She isn’t getting enjoyment out of this, it is more of an obligation – or love- to the enslaved people. To produce Zong!, she had to revisit a dark time in history, and do extensive research, which I’m sure weighed heavy on her heart. Picking her words like white men picked slaves, using fugue to imitate what an enslaved person on the boat may have been thinking or feeling, all of the techniques she uses are comparable to the Zong massacre. She was harming her own mind by creating this story by un-telling. It was a violent creation, fitting for a violent act.

    I think by comparing her writing process to the Zong massacre, is to show us how hard this was for her, and how crazy it is that this was an actual event that took place. Furthermore, it wasn’t even an isolated incident… this atrocity happened numerous times. And the ways that she uses present tense shows us that the racial undertones haven’t gone away, more than 200 years later.

  8. Hey Prof. Savonick! When you first mentioned how the story in a sense is impossible to tell it made me think about why that is, and realize that the author did repeat this idea often. I think what the author might be trying to get at is that the poems were taken apart from a document based on the massacre, so in a way, the poems are personal and sacred. The poems allude to the Zong Massacre and give a more personal feel since they are poems. Philip writes, “There’s no telling this story it must be told” (189) and continues on page 190, “The story must be told by not telling”. In addition, the author may be trying to say that the book must be read in order to get the real feel on the moment in history instead of it being told directly.

  9. Hi Professor Savonick! Watching NourbeSe reading Zong! allowed me to see and hear the different patterns or ways these poems can be read. There are multiple meanings of these poems and theres’s so many different stories being told from different perspectives. It’s all over the place almost like a catastrophe which can be compared to the Zong Massacre. To answer your question I feel like this story is impossible to tell because it isn’t written directly from someone who was in the Zong Massacre. There’s only so much that the readers know and are being told we don’t know exactly what the people who died in the Zong Massacre experienced or went through. From being enslaved to being on the ship and the overcrowding and sicknesses they experienced on that ship. These enslaved people were most likely beaten and given orders and given very little water and food. When they became sick the captains on the boat would take and them forcefully throw them over and I’m sure weapons were used if any enslaved people fought for their lives. Zong! attempts to voice their story and give the readers ideas of what it was like but us hearing the story vs. what it was like living through this massacre as an enslaved person are two different things and I feel like they can’t be effectively compared.

  10. Hello Professor!
    First of all I need to be honest and say that the first time I was reading the book I did not pay attention to the names… I mean, I did not think they were so important as they really are. Now, listening to the author reading, and focusing on the names on the bottom of the page… I truly see their importance.
    As for the strategies I used… I did not read them following a pattern in the first place. The first thing I am doing as I read is letting myself read the words that catch my attention, for example, when there are words that are repeated, I tend to read that first, from one to another, and then I try to see the connection among everything… And then I look for a logic way of understanding them! 🙂

  11. Hi Professor Savonick! As I was watching the video of NourbeSe read the passages from Zong!, I was paying really close attention to how she was reading. There was a pattern… every word had such emphasis behind it as if they were the crashing of waves and the pauses were the build up of the waves. The way she reads it actually makes sense to me. Before I heard how she read these poems, I could not figure out how to construct them in a way that would make sense. It helped me to see it in a much clearer way. Sometimes seeing someone else read something helps you to understand better. With this said, this is just one persons take on the poems. They don’t have to have just one meaning. As there were multiple reasonings as to why the captain threw innocent and helpless human beings overboard to drown.

  12. hi professor

    The video of Phillip reading the text allows us to see the intentions and how they meant for us to read it and look at the text. It did change the text because the emotion is there and that is not something I personally hear when I read it alone. This is an impossible story to tell because it is not like we can go back to the late 1700s to talk to the people aboard the ship and see what exactly they felt and what was going on throughout their head.

  13. Hi Professor Savonick!

    I apologize for my late comment, as I am aware it was due yesterday by midnight. However, even if I do not get any credit, I still wanted to voice my thoughts. I appreciate that you provided us with a lecture and the video of Philip reading a couple of her poems in Zong!. I thought the lecture and the reading were both extremely beneficial. As I was watching the video of Philip reading her poems, I could not help but be drawn back to when I watched Sapphire read her poems. The way in which these two poets read their poetry is very powerful and captivating. Their voices give a sense of power to the language making it come alive.

    When Philip was reading Zong 17, she purposely left silent moments between every one or two words in order to emphasize the words she was stating. She read her poem with such emotion and each word had an impactful meaning to the overall message of the poem. When I first read Zong 17 in my head, I realized I did things quite differently than Philip did in her reading. I paused at areas that Philip did not. I allowed certain words to linger inside my head while Phillip read the words completely through. I read the poem with a more gentle and softer tone and Philip brought a lot more passion and a haunting tone among her poem. I realized that reading in my head did not give enough justice to these poems. When Philip read, her poems became entirely alive. She repeats the same or similar words over and over. However, in the video I noticed that the first time she says a word is different than the next time she repeats it. Again something I failed to do when I read the poems in my head. I noticed that Philip writes at the end of her book that “our entrance to the past is through memory. and water. it is happening always – repeating always, the repetition becoming a haunting . . . the spirit in the text and out of the text at work” (203). I read her poems as if it was one continuous sentence and I did not give any meaning to the repeated words. I failed to take long enough pauses between the words because my eyes wanted to continue reading and my brain did not have time to absorb what the words meant. Watching Philip read her poetry out loud made me realize that I was limiting myself from being able to fully explore the truths within the poem.

  14. Hi Professor Savonick!

    Although this is late, I feel as if I should comment, regardless of credit! Thank you for the online lecture, it was definitely something different, but innovative and fun (your cat obviously only made it better)! The video also helped better my understanding of the Zong! poems, as well as see Philip’s intention and the energy she puts into her poetry. I perosnally feel that listening to the poetry provides so much more than just seeing the words on the page.

    In fact, I found it extremely helpful to read the poem aloud. These poems are difficult to understand, and while I don’t read them much like Philip, it still betters my understanding. As Philip reads, you can hear the power in her voice, and see the emotions of pain and strength as she reads. When reading alone, it is difficult to anunnciate and find areas to pause at and really take them in (if that makes sense). The video really enhanced my reading experience, as these crucial moments were easily identified.

  15. Hi Professor, I hope you had a great weekend (I realized I wrote down the wrong date for the due date, but I didn’t want to ignore the assignment altogether). I enjoyed the audio for the lecture!

    I didn’t notice the names at the bottom of each page until you mentioned that. I like how you bring these things to our attention; just as you’ve had us focus on the covers, quotes, and pictures in other texts, because they’re selected for a reason and I seem to forget that. I think the names, whether or not they’re the actual names, are giving life to the enslaved people who went overboard. I agree that she is memorializing the people in a way. Even if those weren’t their names, they’re becoming humanized. They were dehumanized by the way in which they were enslaved and treated as cargo, and a name is personal. It shows that they mattered as do their stories. When I first noticed them, I thought they represented the bodies at the bottom of the ocean floor, and the small print suggests they were nearly forgotten. It could be a visual representation, especially with the way the words are so often placed on the pages. But then I thought about how the bodies initially float after death, maybe I’m wrong (I’m not the one to ask about science-related things)? The addition of the names on the bottom of the page is paying tribute and is just another nice touch to bringing the story of Zong to life, just as putting parts of it in present tense. It’s bringing attention to it as if the incidents of Zong matter today, like it’s a current issue. Your lecture helped me notice these minor details which prove just how well thought-out this piece of work by Philip is.

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