John Baker's bloggin' book tour continues over at Dick Jones' place tomorrow but here (chez Rachel) I'm moving on to these two hugely talented men - Lemn Sissay (top) and Gil Scott Heron.
I have mentioned poet Lemn Sissay...oh, once or twice on here before but today I will mention him again because this week he has a radio programme called 'Pieces of a Man' about one of my very favourite writers/singers/musicians/people Gil Scott Heron on BBC Radio 4 (available for the next 7 days on 'listen again' here).
It could have been a longer programme (an hour please BBC!) but it's really worth a listen...as much as anything for GSH's voice which is always just about the most amazing voice you'll ever hear (speaking or singing). But speaking also of Sissay (as I am)...when I was in St Andrews for StAnza in March I bought his latest book of poems in the Waterstones there (cover image above). Sissay wasn't on at StAnza – I just came across the book whilst browsing in the regular poetry section of the bookstore (not the special StAnza featured poets bit at the front) and now I think of it - has he ever been at StAnza? Not that I can see on the festival's website...but he must have been on everywhere else – judging from his blog he rarely seems to stand still! Anyway, I do know that his latest book is called 'Listener' and was published by the very fine Scottish publisher Canongate in 2008. I haven't read it all yet (I read poetry books either VERY quickly or VERY slowly...) but I have read enough to know that it has, at the very least, some quite brilliant poetry moments sparkling from its pages. Sissay doesn't write for purists or academics or critics (I don't think!) so I'm sure there is plenty in 'Listener' that would have some hardcore poetry folk tutting like crazy (oh, they just like tutting...). I haven't seen the book reviewed anywhere as yet either but luckily there are heaps of people/listeners/readers who have always responded well to Sissay's work and who will, no doubt, get a lot out of this latest book of his too.
I count myself (loudly) in that latter group because Sissay is just my kind of poet (and person) - he's a natural writer/poet/performer, an instinctive artist and a thinking man who follows his heart, his mind and his completely individual path. I suppose part of that is down to his well-documented start in life (foster families, children's homes, his later search for his natural family) but it is not all about that – some of it is just that insane driving force that comes from some artists...those people who really must create or die. I love those kind of people...always have, always will, sometimes even feel a tiny bit like one...but of course we need the full spectrum (and a few calmer, quieter individuals) to have any kind of functioning society, trains that run on time etc. Anyway, I'm rambling...back to the book! My favourite section so far is this from the title poem 'Listener':
“Standing, I hear the sun rise,
Not the birds of morning nor the cock crowing.
The cars coughing the footsteps of early workers
Muffled in the red dust trudging through sleepless mystery
But I hear the actual sun rising.”
I just find that riveting. Don't you? Listen carefully to the sun today...can you hear it? And if not then why not..? Listen harder! And then a bit harder still!
And speaking of listening...here's some GSH because nobody (and I mean nobody!) does it better. First here he is with 'Lady Day and John Coltrane' from the 1971 album 'Pieces of a Man':
and then here's a much older GSH (in a quite bizarre cardigan) – doing a live show in the UK in 1990 (I saw him in Leeds as part of the same tour, I think). He is, to use a much overused word, simply awesome.
See! Who needs bloody Leonard Cohen anyway...
5 hours ago