Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Poet’s school tour part of Ja trek plan

Published:Thursday | December 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Students at the Kingston Technical High School (KTHS) with poet Malachi Smith (back row, fourth left).
Malachi Smith (third left, back) after his School of Drama performance.
Students at the White Marl Primary School with Malachi Smith, after he perfiormed there in November.
Malachi Smith (rear, right) with memebers of the Northern Caribbean University's (NCU) Literary and Debating Club.
Malachi Smith reading poems at the School of Drama, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, in late November.

Dub poet Malachi Smith has performed in Taiwan, St Kitts and Nevis, Canada, South Africa, Colombia, Nicaragua, "all over the United States" (where he lives), and, of course, repeatedly in the land of his birth, Jamaica.

Still, his school tour of Jamaica in late November was a new experience, and the kernel of a Jamaican tour, which he wants to do.

"For some reason, I was always having this thought that I should come to Jamaica and do a tour of the island, and go to schools in particular and perform for the students," Smith said. With a nephew getting married in Jamaica, Smith had another reason to be in the country. With the alumni associations of several schools active in Florida, he had the contacts.

The result was a series of performances from November 20 - 29, beginning with the White Marl Primary School in St Catherine, and ending at Redbones Blues Cafe for the New Kingston restaurant and entertainment spot's 2017 Literary Awards. In-between, he performed at the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester on November 21 and 23, the Kingston Technical High School (which he had attended for a year) on November 24, Campion College and the University of the West Indies (UWI) main library on the 27th, then again at UWI - this time the Caribbean School of Media and Communication - on the 29th.

Initially, the Campion stop had not been part of his itinerary, that coming after an impromptu fashion party which led to an invitation, where Smith says he was seen by Campion's principal and invited to perform at the school.

"There was only one school I was not able to do and that was Excelsior high. They wanted me to come on the 21st, but I already had NCU," Smith said.

Although he sold - and also gave away - some copies of his book, Black Boy Blue (from which the poem Lyad Mout proved especially popular) and his CDs, Smith was not thinking about profit.

"When I conceptualised it, I was not thinking monetary rewards. Only one school gave me an honorarium, and I did not ask for it. I thought I could give back by doing it. In the US, there is a set fee," said Smith, whose albums include Wiseman and Luv Dub Fever.

He does wish, though, that he had left something with some of the students, like a laminated copy of one of his poems. This after seeing the impact of his performances on the children and knowing it could have been reinforced.

With his combination of formal drama training and literature, Smith is confident that his work translates to a wide age range, and is looking forward to taking poetry to a wider Jamaican audience, in the company of other poets.

"I consider myself a dub poet. However, I have poetry that has nothing to do with that. I usually mix them. I am thinking the way the Jamaican society is, it thirsts for something different sometimes. I would like to get in contact with some poets in Jamaica to see if we could arrange a tour of the island. If we could get the writers and poets to do something like that, it would be so wonderful and good," Smith said.