Award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the meanings of silence in this collection of provocative and lyrical essays
WINNER OF THE OCM BOCAS PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING
In this astonishing collection of essays, the award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the silence in which so many important things are kept. He examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it: to risk words, to risk truths. And he considers the histories our bodies inherit – the crimes that haunt them, and how meaning can shift as we move throughout the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.
Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, white women’s tears, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice.
With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why – our actions, defence mechanisms, imaginations and interactions – and those of the world around us.
“Captivatingly elegant … It has a powerfully gripping intensity … An outstanding effort at tackling experiences we would rather not confront. The emotional pitch is well attuned, the words judiciously chosen. Baldwin would be proud”
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“A wonderfully challenging book that I will dip in and out of for years to come. Through brilliant storytelling it explores issues of gender, queerness, race and class. Miller’s insights and his grace are hard won. As always, this Jamaican rock-star poet’s writing is lyrical, original and engaging. I left it challenged but tanked up with a new vocabulary and an understanding of the extent to which so much is inscribed on the body”
“With searing honesty, Miller carries the reader with him through this challenging, insightful book thanks to the lyrical power of his storytelling”
“A subtle, intimate yet hard-hitting investigation of – ostensibly – racism, class prejudice and homophobia … it doesn’t so much tackle as tease out – caress, even – the subject of things that are difficult to talk about”
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“Invaluable … an astounding collection, where Miller circles the question of how to put words to what is often silenced … In a lyrical, effortless style, Miller traverses questions of class and race, and how love, privilege and community exist within them”
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978 and has written several books across a range of genres. His 2014 poetry collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection; his 2017 novel, Augustown, won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Prix Les Afriques and the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde. In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to Literature and in 2018 he was awarded the Anthony Sabga medal for Arts & Letters. Kei has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Glasgow. He has taught at the Universities of Glasgow, Royal Holloway and Exeter. He was the 2019 Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor to the University of Iowa and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.