Round 7 (part 2): WILD CARD

From Joe:


For this round, I submit Michael Smith, Picture or Picture.

Mikey Smith was a working-class Jamaican poet and social worker whose verse focused on themes of poverty, suffering, corruption and colonial exploitation.   His poetry was complex, often about the vexing ambiguities of politics and social reality - and it was often quite funny.  Nevertheless, he was fiercely engaged in political criticism.  

Indeed, Smith was stoned to death in 1983 by three JLP members the day after he heckled a party leader at an outdoor rally.   As his great admirer LKJ said about him,  "Although he was contemptuous of the main political parties in Jamaica, Mikey was identified with the radical left. He was not averse to engaging people in high places in heated verbal combat. He once told his editor, Mervyn Morris, that he had anarchist tendencies and that he was close to Rasta." 

Like much of the carribean, Jamaica has a long history of revolutionary politics. Along with the legacy of the maroons, paul bogle, garvey and the rastafarians, jamaica has also been a site of extraordinary labor radicalism, from ultra-miliant sugar plantation strikes in the 1930s to situationism in the 1970s. Mikey Smith was steeped in this tradition of jamaican radicalism.

Smith travelled to England in 1982 to give readings of his work, and while there made the record "Mi Cyaan Believe It" with Dennis Bovell.  There are many fine cuts on this his one record to choose from. Of the dub poets, Mikey Smith is particularly suited to musical accompaniment. He considered what he did to be "sound poetry" and was in fact so committed to that concept that for years he would not put words to paper - for him they had to be oral transmissions, caught live or on tape.  Picture No Picture presents him at his lyrical and performative height.   

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