Mother Tongues

E-book – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4136-0

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4135-3
Publication Date
November 2019
Page Count
96 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Mother Tongues

Tsitsi Ella Jaji

Tsitsi Ella Jaji’s third collection of poems, Mother Tongues, begins at home, with the first words and loves we learn, and the most intimate vows we swear.

This is what we have done since before
the border between wild and free was pinned

The body politics of personal narratives embed into poems that collect the cycles of lives and languages that have shaped the wonders and worlds of Africa and America. 

Jaji’s artful verse is a three-tiered gourd of sustenance, vessel, and folklore. The tongues speak the beginnings and present. The tongues that capture and claim the losses, ironies, and a poet’s human evolution. How deep does your language go back? The language of your childhood, the language of our aging? How deeply do we wear and hear our fore-tongues? How close do we sometimes forget they are? Mother Tongues is the gift, a collection of language unto itself that translates directly to the heart. 

About the Author

TSITSI ELLA JAJI is a poet and scholar from Zimbabwe. Associate professor of English at Duke University, she is the author of two books of poetry: Beating the Graves, awarded honorable mention for the 2015 Sillerman Prize, and Carnaval. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies and in journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Prairie Schooner, Bitter Oleander, New Coin, and Jalada.


“In Tsitsi Jaji’s Mother Tongues the reader is opened to an intimate set of interventions that seek to illuminate and even shape the contours of African and African diasporic art, literature, and sound. With considered precision and a scholar’s lens, we dive deep into the cultural productions of a global Africa rife with brilliance and possibility, and what we learn most clearly is that our mother’s tongue is filled with music!”
—Matthew Shenoda, author of Tahrir Suite