Unraveling tongues

A review of 'She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks'

I first encountered M. NourbeSe Philip’s poetical interruptions three years ago, in a course taught by Tisa Bryant called Unnamable Texts. We spent time with “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” which is a sequence from her 1988 collection She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. My memory of this poem is bodily. Part of this is due to how we read this piece; not only silently to ourselves, but also following along to a recording of Philip performing the poem. Throughout her delivery, she subtly elongates the word language until it becomes a cry, a tender wound, throbbing.

If she does not ravel and unravel his universe, she will then remain silent, looking at him looking at her. — Trinh T. Minh-ha[1]

The human text

Last week in The New York Times, Shelley Podolny considered the growing amount of computer-generated text that appears online. With the dystopian title "If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?" Podolny describes a study by media scholar Christer Clerwell that suggests readers may not be able to distinguish between computer- or human-generated text. Such a phenomenon speaks to growing sophistication of natural language processing software and finely-tuned algorithms that can produce humanoid content.

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