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Things I Have Withheld

UK Publisher: Canongate Books
US Publisher: Grove Atlantic

In this moving and lyrical collection of essays, the award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the silence in which so many important things are kept. He examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it: to risk words, to risk truths. And he considers the histories our bodies inherit – the crimes that haunt them, and how meaning can shift as we move throughout the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.

Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, white women’s tears, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice.

With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why – our actions, defence mechanisms, imaginations and interactions – and those of the world around us.


“Captivatingly elegant . . . It has a powerfully gripping intensity . . . An outstanding effort at tackling experiences we would rather not confront. The emotional pitch is well attuned, the words judiciously chosen. Baldwin would be proud” ― Sunday Times

“A wonderfully challenging book that I will dip in and out of for years to come. Through brilliant storytelling it explores issues of gender, queerness, race and class. Miller’s insights and his grace are hard won. As always, this Jamaican rock-star poet’s writing is lyrical, original and engaging. I left it challenged but tanked up with a new vocabulary and an understanding of the extent to which so much is inscribed on the body” — INGRID PERSAUD ― Observer

“With searing honesty, Miller carries the reader with him through this challenging, insightful book thanks to the lyrical power of his storytelling” ― Financial Times

“A subtle, intimate yet hard-hitting investigation of – ostensibly – racism, class prejudice and homophobia . . . it doesn’t so much tackle as tease out – caress, even – the subject of things that are difficult to talk about” ― The Times, Best Books of the Year

“Invaluable . . . an astounding collection, where Miller circles the question of how to put words to what is often silenced . . . In a lyrical, effortless style, Miller traverses questions of class and race, and how love, privilege and community exist within them” ― Big Issue

“The powerful essays include [Miller’s] own letters to the late American novelist James Baldwin and his reflections on the permanence of racism. He writes movingly” ― Independent

“Miller promises a lyrical collection of essays . . . Drawing on his travels across the US, the UK, Jamaica
and other places, Miller’s essays say something about the ways in which meaning, as well as our own positionality, can shift as we travel through the world and encounter systemic violence . . . Both Miller and Baldwin are known to be devastatingly concise and honest in their observations concerning race and racism

” ― Forbes, Most Anticipated Book of 2021

“Miller’s storytelling is impeccable, and his verse is arresting and beautiful. Things I Have Withheld is a remarkable contribution to literature” — DE’SHAWN WINSLOW ― author of In West Mills

“Perfectly encapsulates what it means to live in today’s world as “the other” . . . Miller is a gifted writer; his silences furthering his craft as much as his words . . . Miller’s writing is courageous and expansive. It seeks to educate its readers about inherent racism and racial bias and does so by tackling nuances head on” ― Wee Review

“Searing . . . entrancing . . . Miller brings into devastating clarity the dangers confronting Black people in visualising the final moments of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Sharp as blades, Miller’s words cut to the core” ― Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet and novelist. His fourth collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet), won the...