Friday, July 21, 2006

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Having spent part of the day at a conference on HIV and sexual health in the Caribbean community, I went to the Arts Depot in North Finchley last night to see Linton Kwesi Johnson. North Finchley is so far away that, in the past, those of African American persuasion would have referred to it as 'North Hell'.

I first met LKJ at Brixton Art Gallery last year, where he was being interviewed by Henry Bonsu. LKJ informed me that he had once been on the Board of the gallery, which has now sadly closed. Lambeth Council suddenly raised the rents in Brixton Station Road to more than double their previous rate, and several small businesses, including the gallery, suffered. I think this is part of a government policy to raise these rents to 'commerical' rates. But I digress.

I got to the Arts Depot really late and felt very guilty and ashamed as I took my seat. Its Not My Fault!!! I kept silently reassuring myself. I had called a cab at 7 p.m. but it did not arrive until 7:40. The driver then told me he had been sitting around for two hours waiting for work.

It's not my fault!

I got home from the conference before six, plenty of time to get to North Hell for 8 p.m. But I decided to do something on the computer and it should only have taken five minutes, 15 minutes, etc., but it took far longer. Doesn't it always?

Of course, I kept saying 'I should switch off the computer and go now', but then my other voice would say 'This will only take another couple of minutes'. Yeah, right.

Okay, it is partly my fault. Serves me right for listening to the voices.

I know the real problem was that, having sat inside working all day when, outside, the sun was brightly shining, I just could not face the journey up to North Hell, so I distracted myself.

I am just doing too much these days.

I got there in time to here LKJ do three poems, including New Word Order, and to hear him say that the term 'ethnic cleansing' is 'very disturbing'. He made reference to Nelson Mandela, Chief Butelezi and the Holocaust, all in a few short minutes. That's a poet for you.

I spoke with him afterwards adn he remembered me from the gallery! Wow!

LKJ goes for quality, not quantity. Some say his output is small, but I say, who cares when his words have such power? Such weight? Such penetration? And he stands on the stage and delivers them - on an empty stage, just him and the podium - as if it takes no more effort than asking for a cup of tea.

Keywords: Linton Kwesi Johnson, poetry

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