WELL VERSED: Graham addresses the gathering. Below, I-Nancy speaks on her work.
The contemporary dub poetry movement in Jamaica is firmly rooted in the pioneering exploits of figures like Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ), Mutabaruka and the late Mikey Smith, who brought vigour, immense passion and a thrilling revolutionary motif to the fledgling art form back in the early days.
And that’s precisely the prevailing mood you sensed this past Tuesday night at the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s August fellowship at the Edna Manley College’s ampitheatre, where Smith’s life and work got a stirring celebration.
Hostess Yashika Graham kicked things off by reading excerpts from the Mikey Smith canon, and throughout he evening shared remembrances penned by everybody from LKJ to Eugene Williams to Owen Blakka Ellis, who was also in attendance. Each stressed the bold originality and fervor that distinguished Smith from the pack and hailed him as not only an impassioned poet but a charismatic activist.
“Mikey had a way of getting audience participation without asking them to participate,” recalled Nabby Natural, who performed during Open Mic, where audience feedback is welcomed. “A vehicle for giving hope” was later cited to describe the power of Smith’s poems, the most famous being “Mi Cyaan Believe it.”
The evening was further enriched courtesy of a series of interesting artwork by featured visual artist I-Nancy (nee Nancy Burke), a former New York model who decided to seriously take up painting a few years ago. Her mixed media pieces, including several abstracts showcasing an array of textures and moods, are on view these days at Café What’s On in Barbican.