My Cup Runneth Over: Lyrical Eloquence Reloaded

The artistic scene in Montego Bay is very well-nourished, or so one would think from the sizable crowd that squeezed into Blue Beat Jazz and Martini Bar last Saturday night for the poetry-and-music affair. I am acutely aware that the coverage is also sorely lacking, as I sit here penning this write-up almost one full week later.

Lyrical Eloquence Reloaded is the sequel to Lyrical Eloquence, a night of poetry and fashion where poets, musicians and designers gathered to share their craft and mingle with like-minded creatives. This iteration, with less fashion and more music and poetry, was thematically centered on Black History – apropos of the month of February.

Like so many events in this country, Lyrical Eloquence could not escape the trap of island time, and the programme didn’t start until an hour after the scheduled 8:30pm. Nevertheless the ensuing performances were at turns delightful and thought-provoking.

MC’d by the gracious Brian Brown, whose quick pace did much to move the evening along, Lyrical Eloquence Reloaded featured performances from Montegonian talent and some further afield. For me, the surprises of the night were two as-yet-undiscovered gems: Kali Grn and D Reblz, and Jeeby Lyricist.

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Kali Grn and D Reblz

Kali Grn brought me the humbling realization that I am more than a little out of touch with the Mobay Art Scene. He and his band are much beloved on the hotel circuit and based on the responses of the audience have garnered quite the local following. Though there are clear reggae influences, their sound is authentically millennial with clear melodious harmonies, dynamic instrumentals and clever thoughtful lyrics.

But if I talk about lyrics, I have to talk about Jeeby Lyricist, who by day is a student of law in Kingston (perhaps this is why he manages such quick-witted vernacular). The back-up singer was a little vocally disappointing (especially coming after those Reblz) but Jeeby weaves superb double entendres — his last song a tongue-in-cheek nod to masculine attempts at flirtation in this modern dancehall environment.

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Jeeby Lyricist in action

There are so many honorable mentions: Jah Meikle – whom I had the pleasure of first meeting some years ago in Kingston – is an excellent drummer and poet who makes combining rhythms look much easier than I imagine it would be. The dub poets Mentor and Fyah Marley, among others. Brian Brown himself. And the ineffable, inimitable Carla Moore who closed the show.

My greatest vexation about this event is that I missed Carla Moore’ performance. For those who don’t know, Carla comes to us from UWI’s Western Campus where she lectures in the Institute of Gender and Development Studies. Before that she was in Canada, keeping touch with Jamaica through her vlog countryfromlongtime. Now she mostly Instagrams @mooretivation. I find her to be unerringly in tune with the ethos and angst of this millennial generation, and her unexpected words of inspiration have never failed to comfort me.

My quarrel, of course, is entirely with myself. My bedtime is around 10 o’clock these days and by midnight (when there were still five more performers) I was fighting sleep hard. I was overwhelmed, in a good way, by the crowd that populated Blue Beat’s modest open air terrace and that swelled with appreciation for the spoken (and sung) word. Next time I will know to wear comfy shoes, bring snacks/coffee, and stake-out a good seat at least an hour in advance.

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All image credits to Di Foto Shoppe

 

fangirling new loves | Nayyirah Waheed

can we speak in flowers.
it will be easier for me to understand.

–other language

It seems trite to say that Nayyirah Waheed’s groundbreaking (and self-published) first collection of poetry, salt, changed my life. Just like it seems cliche to say that I couldn’t choose just one poem as the introduction of this reaction post (incoherent praise doesn’t really count as a review). But salt oozes with a tumult of emotions that speaks to every woman, man, feminist, realist, human being. And every poem is, like she says, a whale in the body of a tiny fish.

there is you and you.
this is a relationship.
this is the most important relationship.

–home

In late 2015 when I first joined Instagram, Waheed’s poetry popped up on my feed and I was instantly intrigued. This poet who could capture a whole year of heartbreak and healing in two or three lines, she was magic to me. I was sold. Fast forward to this December when I finally purchased both anthologies – salt and nejma – weighty by both shipping standards and emotional depth. And I fell further in love with her words.

you
are
my favourite kind.
nothing
that i can
name.

Does she bring a whole new set of standards to poetry? Is she brimming with innovative concepts? Does she push boundaries, if only to blur the lines? Does she drip words on the page like warm honey, scattered ash, shattered glass?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

unharm someone
by
telling the truth you could not face
when you
struck instead of tended.

— put the fire out (unburn)

She writes from a place of incredible self-honesty (or perhaps a place of enormous self-delusion?), tearing away the veils of social construct to access deeper inalienable truths. She reaches for our innermost humanity with gentle probing fingers. Her poems are like sunshine, coaxing our souls toward growth. She writes about issues of womanhood, manhood, feminism, activism, the struggles of a dispersed people. She writes about healing and how hard it is to get there.

if i write
what you may feel
but cannot say.
it does not
make
me a poet.
it makes me a bridge.

–from grateful

Poetry hasn’t really managed to tap into the mass market but for those of us who love discovering new (old) poets and their work, Nayyirah Waheed brings a welcome splash of novelty.

Salt and its successor Nejma are available on Amazon. They were on sale for Christmas but I think that ended. Good news is they will be on sale again, probably sometime soon. Maybe.

Pax.

 

Waiting by the Library One Freezing Morning

The pressed kiss of my buttocks
against the cold concrete is mediated by
the thin cloth of my jeans
This bench is a parasite
Across its placenta of 96% cotton and 4% spandex
it steals every molecule of heat
from my begrudging ass

In games of waiting I am a sore loser
with muscles aching and contorted from
spasms of shivering
teased out by every cold breeze
each of them lovers – must be
to garner such
instantaneous, overwhelming reactions

The wind caresses my face with ice
kisses the tip of my nose with frostbite
attempts other intimate contact
I would like to defer

There is nowhere to run,
only the cold confines
of this damn stone bench
pressed up against my backside
like some
unsolicited dance partner

I cannot wait
for this waiting
to be done.

The Unfortunate Business of Death

Breaking bad news at one in the morning
Is not part of the prescribed medical school curricula
Real life has no point score for empathy
Patience
Directness
But conversations twist as they need
And break when they must into tears
Screams
Silence
Five minutes.
(Is an exam, not the ending of a life)

fangirling old loves: redlipsandcitylights

(You know I love my black girl poets).

Nneka Ayana is back after a months-long hiatus with more salves for the broken-hearted. Her poems aren’t always soothing, though, and it behooves the lovelorn to remember that alcohol too stings as it disinfects.

Three new poems from her untitled archive are about the pain of love, even while you’re in it, and the tragedy of watching it slip away. redlipsandcitylights is nowhere near as overly-emotional as I’m painting it because Nneka’s words beat back heartbreak like Smokey the bear at a bushfire. Calm. Cool. Collected. Even while unraveling at the edges. And that’s why I love her.

Her poems read like private invitations into a misery shared that can never really be halved. They read like clinical observations on the loss of one’s arm. Detached and yet strikingly poignant in the contrast of unemotional words and the very emotional events they describe. She says it best.

i wish the word love couldn’t be translated in so many ways
i wish it was as warm and gooey and intentional as
every time i say it.
but sometimes it’s cold
and flat.
empty.

untitled archive I 

Wade through the entire archive of her brushes with affection here.

fangirling | Kathryn L Christopher (round ii)

She’s back. Kathryn L Christopher, aka Woman in the Rainy Season is back in all her Caribbean-seasoned, Trinidadian expat glory. She brings us tidings of displaced island struggles, black woman struggles and matters of the heart. She brings us calypso eloquence, and sun-browned nostalgia. She brings us herself.

Her latest poem Hajj opens with a childhood memory and snakes through human anatomy in its dissection of love. It is good. It is so good I cannot come up with anything but praise in response. And I am waiting with bated breath for someone to publish this woman’s work. Peepal Tree Press? Blouse and Skirt Books? Anyone?

In the meantime, if you don’t know Kathryn’s work please go read any/all of her poems right this instant and bask in the untamed wildness of the rainy season.

The Last Sun-Kissed Cloud

Let me be the last sun-kissed cloud
That receives the golden heat of your love
As you are
Pulled away

Let me be the last rain-dewed blade
Of grass
That your essence clings to
Cooling
Til morning breaks
And you are gone
From me

Let me be your last
Unbroken love
Skin branded by the heat of your touch
Heart chilled by the cool of your gaze, let me be
The last fire in your eyes
The last ice in your words

Let me be
Let me be
Let me be