Terry Tempest Williams

A lifetime resident of Utah, environmental writer and poet Terry Tempest Williams writes from her own experiences as a Mormon woman living in that state. She has authored six books, as well as "An Unspoken Hunger," a collection of essays, and two children's books. Her work has been anthologized widely and reproduced in The New Yorker, The Nation, Outside, Audubon, and Orion and she's best known for Refuge, a book that tells the parallel tales of the degradation of the environment and her mother's battle with cancer. She's been inducted into the Rachel Carson Honor Roll and has received the National Wildlife Federation's Conservation Award for Special Achieveme

Freedom from Speech

The erosion of voice is the build-up of war.

Silence no longer supports prayers,

but lives inside the open mouths of the dead.

Questions for Reflection: “Freedom from Speech” 

  1. How can the erosion of the land be compared to the erosion of a voice?
  2. What happens when something is worn down? What happens to communication? Dialogue? Understanding? Conflict? How have you experienced these in your life?
  3. What does Williams mean when she claims that “silence no longer supports prayers?” What is she asking of us in this poem? 
  4. Consider the last line “but lives inside the open mouths of the dead.” Is there an accusation being waged against us? If so, what does it imply?