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. I believe this is an “impossible” story to tell simply because M. Nourbee Philip wasn’t present and neither were we. It’s not possible to know how these slaves felt or what was going through their minds as they drowned. She put in a lot of research into “Zong!”. When trying to find the names of these unfortunate slaves, she couldn’t. On page 194 she explains how she couldn’t find them, “I receive a copy of a sales book kept by Thomas Case…:Purchasers are identified while Africans are reduced to the stark description of ‘negroe man,’ ‘negroe woman,’…”. This lack of information makes the story hard to tell. She had to use whatever documents she could find to interpret the situation and who everyone on the ship was. Although her poetry may not have all the details, she is able to give an idea and a feeling of what had happened.

  2. When I first read through the poems, I was so focused on the poems that I didn’t even notice the names at the bottom of the page. It wasn’t until they were deliberately said and brought to my attention that I noticed the names. I think that really emphasizes the point of the names being there to begin with. “The African men, women, and children on board the Zong were stripped of all specificity, including their names” (194). The names in this book are a footnote, just like the people on the ship and their names were a footnote. They were small and overlooked just like the names on the page. I think NourbeSe does this on purpose, to both emphasize how these people were overlooked but to also acknowledge them and that they were there and suffered.

  3. I believe this is considered an “impossible” story because no one that was there is alive to tell the full story. Philip says, “What did, in fact, happen on the Zong? Can we, some 200 years later, ever really know? Should we? These are the questions I confront. Although presented with the “complete” text of the case, the reader does not ever know it, since the complete story does not exist. It never did. All that remains are the legal texts and documents of those who are themselves intimately connected to, and involved in, a system that permitted the murder of Africans on board the Zong” (p. 196). In class, we learned that her information of this event came from events and of a person who heard more information of the story, but she did not have a slave or the captain of that ship present to tell the story. The author is able to tell the world of what happened on the Zong but the effects, emotions and deeper accounts can’t be told without those who were involved, but they are long gone. These accounts are what drives the story and makes it more meaningful but we will never get that.

  4. Listening to Philip herself read truly changed the way I read the text. When I tried to read it myself, I did it in multiple different ways because of the arrangement of the text. I tried to put sentence fragments together, and tried to make sense of it, but with every try, I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t figure out how to read it correctly, I felt no type of emotion or any sense of motivation to try to understand it. However, listening to Philip herself read it, I was suddenly persuaded to give it another try. The amount of emotion Philip held in her voice was staggering. I felt as though there was a strong sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair as she read it. The silence followed by each of the words intensified each of the emotions that her words were conveying. It helped me read and look at the text in a new way. Initially, I wasn’t able to try to connect to how raw the emotions were, but after listening her read it out loud, it really just changed every aspect of how I was looking at the text, both when I followed in the book and when I didn’t.

  5. Hi everyone! First, I wanted to say that reading this book has been sort of challenging for me. Between the format and trying to understand what the poems mean exactly, I’ve hd to figure out a way to really get into this book. Some strategies I use to help are to reread a couple times, and to go slow and try to really understand every word. Also listening to Philip read aloud helped as well. One thing that left me questioning at the beginning of reading this book was the names at the bottom. I noticed they were there but wasn’t really sure why. All this and the phrase “There is no telling this story; it must be told” repeated throughout leave me so confused but excited to read more and find more clarity in the work.

  6. When I first started reading these poems I honestly didn’t know what I was reading. It was really hard for me to get a clear understanding of what she was trying to say. I also struggled to follow the lines in the order that the words were supposed to go. I used a couple strategies to try to understand the poems better. The first thing I tried was simply reading the poems over again. I followed the words with my fingers to try and keep my lines straight. I still was having a hard time reading them so actually googled Philip reading them out loud to see if there was a video or audio recording. I was able to find this exact video that was linked on the blog. It was really helpful to actually hear her read it because I knew what order and how the words were supposed to sound and be put together.

  7. After reading Zong for a little while, I began to get confused at the way the poems were organized. There weren’t that many words on each page and they were positioned awkwardly. A strategy that I developed to help better understand the meaning of the poems was to read each section of words piece by piece. After reading one section of 2-3 lines, I would analyze what I believed it meant, and then move onto the next section. By doing this I was able to more easily understand the meanings of the poems due to taking it slow and putting an emphasis on analyzation.

    1. Hey guys,
      I believe this reading is an “impossible” story to tell because of no one telling a first hand story. Though it did happen I believe and there being other instances of it happening in other aspects of history such as, The Amistad Ship. The author of Zong, Setaey Adamu Boateng, even gets majority of her information from M. NourbeSe Philip and even she wasnt present at the time. The only way this story to be believed by people within the world is by evidence. In the book she states that in trying to find names of these slaves on page 192 that, “On page 194 she explains how she couldn’t find them, “I receive a copy of a sales book kept by Thomas Case…:Purchasers are identified while Africans are reduced to the stark description of ‘negroe man,’ ‘negroe woman,’…”. But the only thing that remains is on page 196 when she states, All that remains are the legal texts and documents of those who are themselves intimately connected to, and involved in, a system that permitted the murder of Africans on board the Zong”.

  8. Hi everyone! I’ve personally had a difficult time reading Zong! and making sense of the novel. A lot of the time it feels as if I don’t know what I’m reading, and how to interpret what I’m reading. I get confused on the organization of the poems. A strategy that I often find myself using is following along the page with my finger. I always feel as if I miss a word, or important part of the text. I use my finger to guide my eyes across the page while reading. This strategy helps, as it ensure that I don’t miss a word. As well as that, I make sure that I reread parts that confuse me in order to try and get a better interpretation of the text. Listening to Philip read however, gave me a better understanding of the way in which that I am supposed to read and interpret the poetry.

  9. When I first opened Zong, I was confused about how we were going to be reading these poems. I didn’t know how to even begin reading these poems until I seemed to found a ‘rhythm’ that worked for me. I took each section word by word. I would re-read the sections about four times and then I would connect/analyze the section. By slowing down, it definitely helped me take my time and actually read the words and take them in.

  10. Hey everyone,
    When I first started to read Zong I was very confused with the style the author, Setaey Adamu Boateng, was using and how the story was portrayed. I have never ed something like this before and usually wheen reading, I tend to go fast and not always analyze and think about the deeper meaning. With Zong, I tried my old strategies that I am used to and I. just could not grasp the concept and meaning. I then made a change and began to read the text slower and started to analyze each line to find the meaning and to get a better understanding. By slowing down and analyzing, I began to understand the message being spread by the author. This is definitely a different, challenging, and interesting read and I am Excited to move on throughout the text!

  11. I started this assignment by watching Philip read her poem without my book in front of me. Then, I read through the rest of the assignment. Next, I listened to the lecture. Finally, I came back to the poems being read aloud, while my book was in front of me.

    When I didn’t have my book, I focused on the flow of the poems. I focused on what they were about and the way she spoke; where she took breaths and where she paused. When I returned to watch the video with my book, it was interesting to see how long she took when the gaps in the words were smaller or larger. I found that when she reads the poems, they seemed to make more sense to me. Whereas when I read them, they seem like more an unfinished thought than a whole poem. Hearing Philips read the poems helped me decide how I should read them to myself to make more sense. The poems have to be read slow, paying attention to the size of the gap between words.

    I also paid close attention to the fact that she read the names at the bottom of the page every time before she moved on. When listening to this part without my book, I didn’t pay close attention to it. Even when I had my book out, the first time she read the names I was confused. I didn’t even pay attention to the fine print at the bottom of the page. Although listening to her read these names with her passion and empathy, I will never forget to read the names in the fine print at the bottom again. After listening to her read, I focus on every detail a little closer. The repetition, the lack of punctuation, and the changes in shape are all important pieces of the poems Philip creates.

  12. The video of Phillip reading changed the way I read the book in different ways. First off, I noticed that the way she read was in a much slower tone. When I read the text, I did it somewhat fast. I feel like because I read it faster, it really made it difficult to capture the true emotion of the book. I noticed that because she read it in this slower tone, more emotion was prominent. I also realized that this is the case in many works of art in which I visualized and comprehended in video form versus reading. When you are observing something visually, many intangible assets become expressed that you would not receive when reading a text. These observations become clearer to observe because you can see the way the author or reader expresses the words which can dictate the tone in which the text is being described in. I also made the connection that the camera angle in this video is significant. I believe that because the camera is positioned the way it is, it more clearly dictates the emotion and power to the speaker. If it were the be more zoomed out, and say included the crowd, I feel like it would lose some of the emotion from the speaker.

  13. I have been struggling to make sense of Zong! since we started reading the novel. I have never read something written like this before. Although there is so much space open on the pages, I have been taking longer than I would expect reading these poems in order to make sense of them. I usually read the page over once or twice before I begin to analyze the words and try to interpret what Philip is saying. Breaking the text into sections and reading it slowly has been my strategy for understanding the poems. After listening to Philip read aloud without reading along with her, I had a better idea on how to read the text. I went back after and reread pages with her rhythm and had an easier time following along.

  14. When I first started reading this book I was so confused on what was going on and it was very hard for me to follow along, but after watching this and hearing someone else read it, it really helped me understand what was going on. At first I was reading pages over and over again and each time I would catch something new and important. After reading along it helped me find more and more important details. One major thing that was brought to my attention while listening along was the names at the bottom of the page. When I went through the first time I never noticed that the names were there.

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