Books

Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller: All that is unsaid

Alycia Pirmohamed looks at Kei Miller's latest collection of essays as an invaluable selection of ideas and situations which are too often silenced.

A Racial Smoothie by ssoosay/Flickr

Things I Have Withheld, award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller’s latest collection of essays, articulates what Dionne Brand calls the ‘left hand page;’ the page of restraint, the page that contains all that is unsaid, all that is unwritten. It is an astounding collection, where Miller circles the question of how to put words to what is often silenced. The following evocative essays  hinge on how Miller’s body as a Black, queer man, are perceived. “It is always the body I return to,” he says in one of his opening letters to James Baldwin, where he revisits painful assumptions. In a lyrical, effortless style, Miller traverses questions of class and race, and how love, privilege, and community exist within them.

“And what I want from you is a way – a way to write things I have been trying so hard to write.”

Books 1465
Books 1465
Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller is out now Canongate, £14.99

With captivating moves across styles, Things I Have Withheld traces inherited, often buried, familial histories against a Caribbean backdrop. It also expands outward, voicing violences that echo into the public sphere. “There are crimes that haunt the body, and specific crimes that haunt specific bodies. This haunting is not a memory.” The book closes on a sharp essay about police brutality, where the poignant words “I can’t breathe” take up almost a full page of space.

Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller is out now (Canongate, £14.99)

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