karen lee

Jamaica / Xaymaca
Canada / Kanata

In a world that hates the way our very hair grows from our natural heads, I am a lyrical storyteller for us – especially Black wimmin who insist on straightening our backs against Black girl/voicelessness and racist/colonial violence. My polyvocal refusals are interventions against erasure, centring generational stories braided into our tender, Black hair. I sing feminist resistance legacies. Ancestral tending to the Black archive informs the writing. My narrative, confessional rooms in the house of Afrikan-Caribbean orature, strive to contain the unspeakable; chant Joy. Beauty. Literary libations for Black liberatory imagination. 

say you gonna be my testimony

say you gonna be my testimony

Click the interactive pdf below to read the poem.

Artist Notes

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notes for does it have a sound? by karen lee

Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Lisa Patterson at LPM Studio, Toronto, Canada.

Foley sounds created by Karen Lee and Lisa Patterson.

With permission from Tanja Thani, MSW, RSW, and Douglas Kearney.

a poem by karen lee titled does it have a sound? as a visual sheet of paper with words written on it.
karen lee

karen lee



karen lee is a Cave Canem Fellow, Bread Loaf Katharine Bakeless Nason Contributor Award in Poetry recipient, and winner of the 2020 Pacific Spirit Poetry Grand Prize – PRISM international.  Her polyvocal refusals appear in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The New Quarterly, Room, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, The Humber Literary Review, Brick/Brickyard, are anthologized in Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis, and the 2018 Small Axe Literary Prize shortlist. Her poems are forthcoming in Unstitching Silence: Fiction and Poetry by Caribbean Writers on Gender-Based Violence. Tekkin Back Tongue, her first poetry manuscript, is named after her self-directed writing residency in Ghana, Kenya (2018), followed by Kenya (2021), Germany and France (2022).

lee is most captivated by voice, sound, beat; a lyrical storyteller devoted to social justice and reclaiming voice against tyrannies that silence. She supports accessibility as a Jamaican Patois Court interpreter (Ministry of the Attorney General registry), voiceover artist, vocalist, actor, writer and poet.




Langston Hughes and his rivers found me. Hold me close. I grow deep in Black Listening traditions, Afrikan-Caribbean orature. Grow deep in pursuit of words I do not yet have. Voice them courageously. At Audre Lorde’s shoreline I brim with questions :: In what tomb of voiceless noise did Nancy Elizabeth Prophet starve? :: I brim with questions. Crucial. Tekkin’ Back Tongue. Tongue repetition as insistence (Douglas Kearney). As chant. As portal. Loose how/l wrenched from wound’s craw. Pleasure the sacred. Refrain voice / less ness. Grow our thriving. Black rest deep.

Black Listening's website front page header art and Obsidian 49.2 cover art were  created by Nettrice Gaskins

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