Up here in the rarefied world that is the Daily Prompt Free Zone it’s quiet. Very quiet. I had given myself a very false sense of security over there in DP land. People visited my blog and even left a comment or two.
This evening I opened up my browser to find tumbleweed blowing across the screen.
It is of course the logical conclusion to cutting the ties. I am alone now in the world of blogging, well not entirely, I do still have a few visitors, but the metaphor holds up. I am alone with myself and the page in front of me. The question why do I write is at this moment seared into my soul. Can I just write or must I BE a writer. Is there a difference? I think yes.
I sat last night in an auditorium at Tramway in Glasgow and listened to Amiri Baraka read his own work. As this frail man made his way to the stage and lifted his notes from an old leather satchel, placing them with trembling hands onto the lectern and his accompanist Henry Grimes readied himself I wondered what was about to occur.
Then he spoke and Henry began to play his double bass. Here was a voice of pure power. A voice that spoke of a life lived. A voice that carried with it an authenticity that moved me to my very core. I had never read any of his work prior to this night. I knew nothing of the man. Still don’t. I will remedy that situation over the coming months.Whatever I discover it will not alter the memory of the power I witnessed.
Once before I have had a similar experience. In West Africa. Meeting my Bougarabou teacher Lamine Bodian for the first time. The similarities are striking. Lamine carried himself in a worn out frame too, the result of years of living in poverty and eeking out a living as the musician to go to in the community, and I was dissapointed on first sight. Then I watched as he played. Astounded. It was as if he had been plugged into some life giving source which animated body and soul. His playing lifted me beyond judgement. As did Amiri’s words last evening.
As I listened to him speak I heard only truth. His truth, and regardless of my own political leanings, or my racial persuasion, I was I felt in the presence of a kind of natural greatness. A man who had walked his talk all of his life in the face of difficulty. In the face of prejudice. In the face of brutality. Here was a torch bearer for a generation or more of Black Americans.Of Black men and women the world over.
Words have power. Spoken word conveys so much more in this context than those that are written. The writer revealed. It punched me in the gut. It was visceral, humorous, dark, bleak and angry at times, but at it’s core was a deep and abiding sense of humanity. A sense of belonging. A sense of identity.
I knew at that moment that I was not a writer. Not in that sense. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Yes I have lived a life and one life is as equal as the next but I have not garnered from mine such purpose. I am sure there are critics who will have railed against his words. I will find out more as I explore his work. Someone with such forthrightness will no doubt have made enemies.
I will never forget last night’s reading though. I was blessed to happen across this moment in time. To sit and listen to a man who was once Le Roi Jones, the founder of Totem press, which published the first works of Kerouac and Ginsberg. For a brief second, as I listened to the sound of the Double Bass roll it’s melodies around the poets voice, I was transported back to a time I have always longed to witness. This was the Beat generation live and in the house and full of soul.
Soul. Such an interesting word. I do not think of the Soul of religion when I hear it but rather the Soul of music, Black music, the likes of James Brown, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.
If we trace our footsteps back far enough to the birth of mankind we find the same Black Soul dwelling in the beginning of things.
In the beginning was the word.