To Speak in Salt
Winner of the 2020 Ex Ophidia Poetry Prize Finalist for the 2021 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize

Ex Ophidia Press statement:

In December 2021, amid thousands of asylum seekers in the Mytilene camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis entreated the world, “Please let us stop this shipwreck of civilization.” Joining a sociologists trained eye with a poet’s open heart, Becky Thompson has not only looked into the faces of the dispossessed, but she has also empowered them to speak for themselves in this moving book. The wide variety of poetic forms in To Speak in Salt stands as a metaphor for both the unique suffering of each individual she meets and also for their unique individuality. If the poet cannot stop the shipwreck, she can surely help us feel what it’s like to survive it.

To Speak in Salt poetry, Lesvos, Greece, summer 2021

This video was also shown at the  Conference “Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Opportunities of Crisis: Resilience and Change in World History” at Oxford Brookes University. Oxford, UK in the summer, 2021

Praise for To Speak in Salt

For many years, Becky Thompson has brought poetry to refugees in Greece, and they have brought poetry to her. To Speak in Salt is a testimony to that exchange, packed with poems keenly observing people and places where “barbed wire doubles as a fence / a clothesline for diapers.” These are poems weighted with the question of what it means to be a witness to those who have survived the worst, yet still find a way to persist, to pray, and even to praise.–

Philip Metres, Author of Shrapnel Maps

To Speak in Salt is the heartrending story of a people of maps and stars, men and women with olive trees in their blood, and families huddling on rafts married to water fleeing violence and famine. Becky Thompson unfolds each story with lyrical grace and keen insight.

Sholeh Wolpé, Poet and playwright
“To Speak in Salt is crafted like a hand-made rosary, each poem, each bead holds its own shape and all the pieces come together across Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and other sites of displacement and exodus to tell stories of refuge and survival, longing and loss, the endless waiting and hoping for a life with dignity.”
Jehan Bseiso, Palestinian poet

To Speak in Salt is a compelling tapestry of truths—political, linguistic, cultural, geographic and above all, human. A historical document as much as a work of art, it captures in fewer words what reams of journalism and NGO reports have failed to. Its myriad voices cannot—and must not—be ignored.”

Zoe Holman, Author of Where the Water Ends