Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Bird Head Son

Enlarge poem

for Kamau Braithwaite

1
At some dusk burning bush
in the back
yard fowl raking in
the dust dirt an soot
Gripe-green guavas and iguanas
lime tree root
bare naked fruit
of Pomme-cythere an Zaboca
The Sikyé fig and the green plantain
The old man in his Wellingtons
with his cutlass stabbin in
the soft dirt beside the dasheen stream
It’s blade glint ** sparks **
colonial iron
colonial black
rubber heel
The leaping tongues of flame
that plead with the darkness to wait
Night is a secret a promise to keep
What burns
in the black pepper soot
of leaf and feather
when he fans the flame?

2
An dat guava tree root dat burn too
De same guava tree dat used to bring out she young — hard an green
Then when de rain come it pulp would glow — it sweet get soft
an it stem get slippery to release the yellow beads of its honey
Well all I could do when I see it that year
was to seek it beating heart
where the fire never reach
A never ask why
When you shivering with sickness in your wicked room
an you motorcar park up an you false teeth rot
an dat same jumbie vine dat you tired kill
still reach in
creep in
Even these trees will die
Even the weaves of beetles and red ant gullies
and the underground streams that trickle will not
Even the sweet Julie mango tree is weeping white lice
Between this spirit bush — a see a Iguana —
sat still in the midday sun with it eye up
an it belly puffin tender
As quick as it is not enough to escape
the stick that breaks its back
Till its spasm is dire
And its mouth becomes a poem with no words

3
Yuh ever wake up one Sunday mornin
an walk round yuh cassava?
Inspect yuh lime tree
for aphid
yuh dasheen
see how dey growin
An you frizzle neck cock
jus kickin dust back an crowin
You ever ask yuhself
what snake is this lord
dat leave this skin?
You ever walk out in dem Indian garden
an see a aeroplane passin
an imagine
is you in it
dat leavin?
When you never even row boat
an you navel string tie up tie up in dis aloes bush
An’ all dem crapaud an lizard that making mischie
know your name
And all dem saga boy still grinning coins on Mt Lambert corner
see you when you pass an asking
“Ai, you is bird head son?
You mus be bird head son f’true
cause your father head
did small too”

Anthony Joseph

Featured Poem:

Bosch's Vision

Enlarge poem

…and I look in the rearview and see a man
exactly like me, and the man was weeping
for the houses, the streets, that whole fucking island.
Derek Walcott – The Schooner Flight

It started as I was leaving
with a dim groan in the afternoon.
I saw my grandmother
embrace me
in her hand stitched dress
and wrench my soulcage open.

I saw vistas of apocalyptic Europe;
heard obscure tongues.
Till sudden now the sky become
peppered with woe.
Slack eyed soldiers were howling
in the wind.
Botched leper experiments
and gene mutations
with veins hung
like vervain from the neck.

The sun long gone and weeping.

The oil.

The Devil.

No doubt it was.
The Devil.
Who chased colour from the earth.
Who left sulphur where he spoke
like a jitney carburettor.
No doubt it was.
The devil.
Twisted muscle of night.
Who crackt
the sky glass lid.

Maman.
Tell me again why I should leave this island.
Tell me again that those cities exist.
All I know of the ocean
is that a river
starts here.

The day I left Mt Lambert
the wardrobe doors would gleam.
It was a day like any other.
Woodslaves ran and woodslaves waited.
Lovers lay against the Samaan trees.
Cattle grazed and bachacs burned
in matchbox discoteques.
And the sandbox tree released its fruit.

But we were going to the airport
and my brother in the backseat
is him I ask : is me
this happening to?

Anthony-Joseph

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Comments

  1. This is really what Africa needs to get the massage across to the rest of Africa. I like what i see in this site! Thumbs up guys, I will write my own staff some day.

    Mfanelo Ritilili

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Biography

Anthony Joseph is a poet, novelist, academic and musician. He was born in Trinidad, moving to the UK in 1989. His publications include Desafinado (1994), Teragaton (1997), The African Origins of UFOs (Salt, 2006) and Bird Head Son (Salt, 2009).

In 2004 Joseph was selected by renaissance one, Decibel and the Arts Council of England as one of fifty Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature, appearing in the historic Great Day photo. In 2005 he was selected as the British Council’s first Poet in residence at California State University, Los Angeles. Joseph “voodoo punk” band The Spasm Band released their debut album Leggo de Lion (Kindred Spirits) in 2007. Their most recent album is Bird Head Son (Naive/Heavenly Sweetness, 2009).

His work has also been included in several anthologies, including Identity Parade (Bloodaxe, 2010), Red (Peepal Tree, 2010) and Black, Brown & Beige (University of Texas Press, 2009). He performs and lectures internationally and tours with his band The Spasm Band. Joseph lectures in creative writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is an AHRC scholar and doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths College.

Anthony Joseph

Anthony-Joseph
Anthony-Joseph

Biography

Anthony Joseph is a poet, novelist, academic and musician. He was born in Trinidad, moving to the UK in 1989. His publications include Desafinado (1994), Teragaton (1997), The African Origins of UFOs (Salt, 2006) and Bird Head Son (Salt, 2009).

In 2004 Joseph was selected by renaissance one, Decibel and the Arts Council of England as one of fifty Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature, appearing in the historic Great Day photo. In 2005 he was selected as the British Council’s first Poet in residence at California State University, Los Angeles. Joseph “voodoo punk” band The Spasm Band released their debut album Leggo de Lion (Kindred Spirits) in 2007. Their most recent album is Bird Head Son (Naive/Heavenly Sweetness, 2009).

His work has also been included in several anthologies, including Identity Parade (Bloodaxe, 2010), Red (Peepal Tree, 2010) and Black, Brown & Beige (University of Texas Press, 2009). He performs and lectures internationally and tours with his band The Spasm Band. Joseph lectures in creative writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is an AHRC scholar and doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths College.

Bird Head Son

Enlarge poem

for Kamau Braithwaite

1
At some dusk burning bush
in the back
yard fowl raking in
the dust dirt an soot
Gripe-green guavas and iguanas
lime tree root
bare naked fruit
of Pomme-cythere an Zaboca
The Sikyé fig and the green plantain
The old man in his Wellingtons
with his cutlass stabbin in
the soft dirt beside the dasheen stream
It’s blade glint ** sparks **
colonial iron
colonial black
rubber heel
The leaping tongues of flame
that plead with the darkness to wait
Night is a secret a promise to keep
What burns
in the black pepper soot
of leaf and feather
when he fans the flame?

2
An dat guava tree root dat burn too
De same guava tree dat used to bring out she young — hard an green
Then when de rain come it pulp would glow — it sweet get soft
an it stem get slippery to release the yellow beads of its honey
Well all I could do when I see it that year
was to seek it beating heart
where the fire never reach
A never ask why
When you shivering with sickness in your wicked room
an you motorcar park up an you false teeth rot
an dat same jumbie vine dat you tired kill
still reach in
creep in
Even these trees will die
Even the weaves of beetles and red ant gullies
and the underground streams that trickle will not
Even the sweet Julie mango tree is weeping white lice
Between this spirit bush — a see a Iguana —
sat still in the midday sun with it eye up
an it belly puffin tender
As quick as it is not enough to escape
the stick that breaks its back
Till its spasm is dire
And its mouth becomes a poem with no words

3
Yuh ever wake up one Sunday mornin
an walk round yuh cassava?
Inspect yuh lime tree
for aphid
yuh dasheen
see how dey growin
An you frizzle neck cock
jus kickin dust back an crowin
You ever ask yuhself
what snake is this lord
dat leave this skin?
You ever walk out in dem Indian garden
an see a aeroplane passin
an imagine
is you in it
dat leavin?
When you never even row boat
an you navel string tie up tie up in dis aloes bush
An’ all dem crapaud an lizard that making mischie
know your name
And all dem saga boy still grinning coins on Mt Lambert corner
see you when you pass an asking
“Ai, you is bird head son?
You mus be bird head son f’true
cause your father head
did small too”

Featured Poem:

Bosch's Vision

Enlarge poem

…and I look in the rearview and see a man
exactly like me, and the man was weeping
for the houses, the streets, that whole fucking island.
Derek Walcott – The Schooner Flight

It started as I was leaving
with a dim groan in the afternoon.
I saw my grandmother
embrace me
in her hand stitched dress
and wrench my soulcage open.

I saw vistas of apocalyptic Europe;
heard obscure tongues.
Till sudden now the sky become
peppered with woe.
Slack eyed soldiers were howling
in the wind.
Botched leper experiments
and gene mutations
with veins hung
like vervain from the neck.

The sun long gone and weeping.

The oil.

The Devil.

No doubt it was.
The Devil.
Who chased colour from the earth.
Who left sulphur where he spoke
like a jitney carburettor.
No doubt it was.
The devil.
Twisted muscle of night.
Who crackt
the sky glass lid.

Maman.
Tell me again why I should leave this island.
Tell me again that those cities exist.
All I know of the ocean
is that a river
starts here.

The day I left Mt Lambert
the wardrobe doors would gleam.
It was a day like any other.
Woodslaves ran and woodslaves waited.
Lovers lay against the Samaan trees.
Cattle grazed and bachacs burned
in matchbox discoteques.
And the sandbox tree released its fruit.

But we were going to the airport
and my brother in the backseat
is him I ask : is me
this happening to?

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Bird Head Son

Enlarge poem

for Kamau Braithwaite

1
At some dusk burning bush
in the back
yard fowl raking in
the dust dirt an soot
Gripe-green guavas and iguanas
lime tree root
bare naked fruit
of Pomme-cythere an Zaboca
The Sikyé fig and the green plantain
The old man in his Wellingtons
with his cutlass stabbin in
the soft dirt beside the dasheen stream
It’s blade glint ** sparks **
colonial iron
colonial black
rubber heel
The leaping tongues of flame
that plead with the darkness to wait
Night is a secret a promise to keep
What burns
in the black pepper soot
of leaf and feather
when he fans the flame?

2
An dat guava tree root dat burn too
De same guava tree dat used to bring out she young — hard an green
Then when de rain come it pulp would glow — it sweet get soft
an it stem get slippery to release the yellow beads of its honey
Well all I could do when I see it that year
was to seek it beating heart
where the fire never reach
A never ask why
When you shivering with sickness in your wicked room
an you motorcar park up an you false teeth rot
an dat same jumbie vine dat you tired kill
still reach in
creep in
Even these trees will die
Even the weaves of beetles and red ant gullies
and the underground streams that trickle will not
Even the sweet Julie mango tree is weeping white lice
Between this spirit bush — a see a Iguana —
sat still in the midday sun with it eye up
an it belly puffin tender
As quick as it is not enough to escape
the stick that breaks its back
Till its spasm is dire
And its mouth becomes a poem with no words

3
Yuh ever wake up one Sunday mornin
an walk round yuh cassava?
Inspect yuh lime tree
for aphid
yuh dasheen
see how dey growin
An you frizzle neck cock
jus kickin dust back an crowin
You ever ask yuhself
what snake is this lord
dat leave this skin?
You ever walk out in dem Indian garden
an see a aeroplane passin
an imagine
is you in it
dat leavin?
When you never even row boat
an you navel string tie up tie up in dis aloes bush
An’ all dem crapaud an lizard that making mischie
know your name
And all dem saga boy still grinning coins on Mt Lambert corner
see you when you pass an asking
“Ai, you is bird head son?
You mus be bird head son f’true
cause your father head
did small too”

Comments

  1. This is really what Africa needs to get the massage across to the rest of Africa. I like what i see in this site! Thumbs up guys, I will write my own staff some day.

    Mfanelo Ritilili

Your email address will not be published.