A Voice of the Voiceless

By Joseph Sills

Vocabulary of Silence
By Veronica Golos
Red Hen Press, 2011

In “Vocabulary of Silence,” Veronica Golos brings the atrocities of war and violence from Iraq and Palestine, as well as the drug wars in northern Mexico, to the reader’s consciousness in a powerful yet respectful way, avoiding heavy-handedness and accusations. The book is divided into two parts that both address these heavy topics, but in very distinct ways. Part I opens with a dream depicting war-torn Baghdad, followed by protests of the horrors of Abu Ghraib and Ciudad Juلrez. Golos focuses on giving a voice to the voiceless – prisoners of war, children, and abusedwomen factory workers –  striking a delicate balance between the importance of using words to express the complexity of their pain and the recognition that in the face of unspeakable acts, only silence fully dignifies. Part II, titled “Broken”, unfolds at a starkly faster pace, alternating between a series of seven short “veil poems” examining the veil’s effect on the wearer and the beholder – an issue to which the author has devoted much of her work – and seven longer poems examining the responsibility we all bear in perpetuating violence, challenging the reader’s notion of assumed innocence. “Vocabulary of Silence” gathers threads of different accounts of war and artfully weaves them together, then follows by taking them apart to reveal the nuances of the individual’s experience.

This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 64

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