Memories Have Tongue


107 pages
ISBN 0-920813-50-X
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish Studies at the
University of Guelph.


Memories Have Tongue is a volume of poems lodged in the sensibility and
awareness of a Third World black woman who emigrates to Canada, where
she empathizes with the abused, whether the abuse they suffer is
motivated by gender, race, politics, economics, or a blend of all four.
The memories of the title are both personal and social.

The volume communicates a rich and diverse experience, and the many
levels of being that make up a person. Starting with the childhood
memories of Westmorland, Jamaica, and the exploration of family history,
there is a pride in identity and female identity, and already a shimmer
of protest. This grows stronger in the poem about Columbus, and even
more so in the prose piece “500 Years of Discovery,” in which the
poet exposes the lies and cruelties in the European conquest of America
through her identification with the Indian and African. From this
identification springs one of the most memorable poems of the volume,
the descriptive invocation of the Arawak goddess Atabeyra.

The focus on women is intense, sympathetic, and celebratory. Whether it
be heroic women from the days of slavery or the slaving domestic in
Toronto, tenacity and rebellion in the face of oppression is the theme,
though the path to rebellion can bring anguish and doubt. In the spirit
of rebellion, there are some longer poems of protest against racism in
which Cooper waxes rhetorical. A fine synthesis of message and form is
achieved in “A True Revolution,” and the rhythmic strength often
characteristic of the protest poems combines successfully with the
images to bring the poem “She Dance” to life.

While there is unevenness of quality and some of the clichés of
protest are not redeemed by any particular virtue of expression, this
encounter with the various moods and varied voice of Afua Cooper is a
revealing and worthwhile experience.


Cooper, Afua., “Memories Have Tongue,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,