Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war barely caught the attention of Western media, but it raged on for over a decade, bringing misery to millions of people in West Africa from 1991 to 2002. The atrocities committed in this war and the accounts of its survivors were duly recorded by international organizations, but they run the risk of being consigned to dusty historical archives.
Derived from public testimonies at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Freetown, this remarkable poetry collection aims to breathe new life into the records of Sierra Leone’s civil war, delicately extracting heartbreaking human stories from the morass of legal jargon. By rendering selected trial transcripts in poetic form, Shanee Stepakoff finds a novel way to communicate not only the suffering of Sierra Leone’s people, but also their courage, dignity, and resilience. Her use of innovative literary techniques helps to ensure that the voices of survivors are not forgotten, but rather heard across the world.
This volume also includes an introduction that explores how the genre of “found poetry” can serve as a uniquely powerful means through which writers may bear witness to atrocity. This book’s unforgettable excavation and shaping of survivor testimonies opens new possibilities for speaking about the unspeakable.