Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

aubergine angels

Enlarge poem

Inside Old Street station,
I meet my Waterloo:

Aubergine Afros, primed,
shining and armed, wrestle

my gaze from briefcases,
from city zombies’ eyes;

the sweating on the back
of broad builder’ T-shirts;

a small boy’s arms running,
with ice-cream: a bacon,

sarnie in the happy
mouth of a homeless man.

Arrested by the sight!
– the light of the grander dark

halos moving me up
and out. So I exit

to City Road behind
young Black boys. Black angels.

Dorothea Smartt

Featured Poem:

Because I am nothing you can name

Enlarge poem

“…I still do not exist because the ‘me’ that they see is one they have
constructed without my participation…”
Larry Olomoofe, Visible Invisibility: Deconstructing the Hungarian Gaze

You despise me
before you know me,
recreate me as something of your own,
and don’t stop to ask me.
I don’t think, therefore
I’m some thing you can toy with.
I’m nothing, to be made some thing,
useful for you to examine, fill, classify.
You assume I am yours for the taking,
presume I was just waiting for you,
to make me mean something.

Because I’m nothing you can name
I become nothing,
expire when you leave the scene,
a shadow cast from your light.
I’m nowhere, the edge of terra incognita.
I’m nothing, the unknown incarnate.
I’m nothing, your antithesis, your anti-Christ.
The chimera on the edge of your map,
something to be tamed, domesticated
and you call me Samboo.

Because I’m nothing you can name
I scare you. You war against me,
decide I cannot live
As I lie down I slowly fade,
pine and expire, defaced and denied,
saddened and alone in your world.

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I repeat my own names to myself –
Ibn Bilal Mamadu Abdul Rahman –
over and over, out loud. I let them sing in my ears,
bounce off the perimeters of my confinement,
define me, Fulani, beyond your stares,
anchor me in the quicksand of my memory,
call up echoes of home-voices sounding
my true-true names, with love.

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I falter in my eyes. I peer at my reflection
at the quayside wondering
if my mother will recognize me?
Am I still my father’s son?
Are my grandfathers ghosts?
Am I still alive at home?

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I no longer speak, my words senseless,
and you hear nothing. I swallow myself
whole, haunting my insides.
I look for a way out.
I am not brave, I do not offer resistance;
I am not wise, I have no answers and questions disappear.
Because I’m nothing you can name,
I am not.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

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Biography

Dubbed ‘Brit-born Bajan international’ by Caribbean literary icon Kamau Braithwaite, Dorothea Smartt is a poet and live artist. Her poetry braids together standard and Caribbean English; poetic form and speech rhythms; myth, history, observation and reflection. Her first collection Connecting Medium (2001, Peepal Tree Press) was highly praised and features poems from her outstanding performance works Medusa and From You To Me To You (An ICA Live Art commission). Her latest publication Ship Shape is a rich collection of poems, connecting past and present, presence and absence.

Her recent poetry video installation Landfall was part of an international exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and featured new works exploring the Atlantic Ocean as a natural phenomenon and transporter of dreams and peoples. Dorothea Smartt performs, and exhibits internationally, and regularly works with schools. She is SABLE LitMag’s poetry editor, and Co-Director of Inscribe, a Black & Asian writer’s development program.

Dorothea Smartt

Biography

Dubbed ‘Brit-born Bajan international’ by Caribbean literary icon Kamau Braithwaite, Dorothea Smartt is a poet and live artist. Her poetry braids together standard and Caribbean English; poetic form and speech rhythms; myth, history, observation and reflection. Her first collection Connecting Medium (2001, Peepal Tree Press) was highly praised and features poems from her outstanding performance works Medusa and From You To Me To You (An ICA Live Art commission). Her latest publication Ship Shape is a rich collection of poems, connecting past and present, presence and absence.

Her recent poetry video installation Landfall was part of an international exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and featured new works exploring the Atlantic Ocean as a natural phenomenon and transporter of dreams and peoples. Dorothea Smartt performs, and exhibits internationally, and regularly works with schools. She is SABLE LitMag’s poetry editor, and Co-Director of Inscribe, a Black & Asian writer’s development program.

aubergine angels

Enlarge poem

Inside Old Street station,
I meet my Waterloo:

Aubergine Afros, primed,
shining and armed, wrestle

my gaze from briefcases,
from city zombies’ eyes;

the sweating on the back
of broad builder’ T-shirts;

a small boy’s arms running,
with ice-cream: a bacon,

sarnie in the happy
mouth of a homeless man.

Arrested by the sight!
– the light of the grander dark

halos moving me up
and out. So I exit

to City Road behind
young Black boys. Black angels.

Featured Poem:

Because I am nothing you can name

Enlarge poem

“…I still do not exist because the ‘me’ that they see is one they have
constructed without my participation…”
Larry Olomoofe, Visible Invisibility: Deconstructing the Hungarian Gaze

You despise me
before you know me,
recreate me as something of your own,
and don’t stop to ask me.
I don’t think, therefore
I’m some thing you can toy with.
I’m nothing, to be made some thing,
useful for you to examine, fill, classify.
You assume I am yours for the taking,
presume I was just waiting for you,
to make me mean something.

Because I’m nothing you can name
I become nothing,
expire when you leave the scene,
a shadow cast from your light.
I’m nowhere, the edge of terra incognita.
I’m nothing, the unknown incarnate.
I’m nothing, your antithesis, your anti-Christ.
The chimera on the edge of your map,
something to be tamed, domesticated
and you call me Samboo.

Because I’m nothing you can name
I scare you. You war against me,
decide I cannot live
As I lie down I slowly fade,
pine and expire, defaced and denied,
saddened and alone in your world.

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I repeat my own names to myself –
Ibn Bilal Mamadu Abdul Rahman –
over and over, out loud. I let them sing in my ears,
bounce off the perimeters of my confinement,
define me, Fulani, beyond your stares,
anchor me in the quicksand of my memory,
call up echoes of home-voices sounding
my true-true names, with love.

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I falter in my eyes. I peer at my reflection
at the quayside wondering
if my mother will recognize me?
Am I still my father’s son?
Are my grandfathers ghosts?
Am I still alive at home?

Because I’m nothing you can name,
I no longer speak, my words senseless,
and you hear nothing. I swallow myself
whole, haunting my insides.
I look for a way out.
I am not brave, I do not offer resistance;
I am not wise, I have no answers and questions disappear.
Because I’m nothing you can name,
I am not.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

aubergine angels

Enlarge poem

Inside Old Street station,
I meet my Waterloo:

Aubergine Afros, primed,
shining and armed, wrestle

my gaze from briefcases,
from city zombies’ eyes;

the sweating on the back
of broad builder’ T-shirts;

a small boy’s arms running,
with ice-cream: a bacon,

sarnie in the happy
mouth of a homeless man.

Arrested by the sight!
– the light of the grander dark

halos moving me up
and out. So I exit

to City Road behind
young Black boys. Black angels.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.