Michelle Cliff, Adrienne Rich: Animal Sound

April 3, 2013

It’s surprisingly difficult to find a photo of the two of them.   In fact I found only one.   Yet they’ve been together since 1976, a companionship of almost 40 years.

Maybe photos aren’t the point?   Maybe the visual medium isn’t what it takes for this particular relation?   Maybe something other — more fluid, less straightforward — yields something more satisfying?

I’d like  to think that the sound of animals is a plausible alternative medium.  Cliff gestures towards it in the title of her first novel, “Abeng,” a word used  by overseers to summon slaves to the sugar fields, but originally a word from the Twi langauge of the Akan people, meaning “cow horn.”   The maroons used it as a musical instrument as well as a means of communication.

Here’s Rich: “I am an instrument in the shape/ of a woman trying to translate pulsations/ into images for the relief of the body/ and the reconstruction of the mind.”

The visual field is still there, in those lines, but not in these: “For a human animal to call for help/ on another animal/ is the most riven the most revolted cry on earth/ come a long way down/ Go back far enough it means tearing and torn endless and sudden/ back far enough it blurts.”

Entitled “Fox.”

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
This entry was posted in Africa, African languages, Animals, Auditory field, Black-Jewish alliances, Caribbean literature, Contemporary literature, Diaspora, Ethnicity, Media, Music, peripheral networks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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