Greetings from London! GCP is on the road, checking in on globetrotting children. Since we are here on Thoughtful Thursday, today our focus is on Black British poets. From the many talented poets we present here just a few:

Benjamin Zephaniah (“Dis Poetry”) is a British Jamaican writer and dub poet who was included in The Times 2008 list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers. Ben Okri (“An African Elegy”) is a Nigerian poet and novelist who spent his early years in London and returned to London in the late 1970’s to attend college. When his scholarship fell through he was temporarily homeless, seeking shelter with friends or on the street. He considers that tough period to have been very important to his work, and wrote more intensely during that period. In 1991 he won the Booker Prize for his novel “The Famished Road”. George Mpanga aka George The Poet (“My City”), a 23 year old Londoner born to Ugandan parents, is a spoken word artist with a degree from Cambridge and an interest in social and political issues. Enjoy.

Dis Poetry

Dis poetry is like a riddim dat drops
De tongue fires a riddim dat shoots like shots
Dis poetry is designed fe rantin
Dance hall style, big mouth chanting,
Dis poetry nar put yu to sleep
Preaching follow me
Like yu is blind sheep,
Dis poetry is not Party Political
Not designed fe dose who are critical.
Dis poetry is wid me when I gu to me bed
It gets into me dreadlocks
It lingers around me head
Dis poetry goes wid me as I pedal me bike
I’ve tried Shakespeare, respect due dere
But did is de stuff I like.

Dis poetry is not afraid of going ina book
Still dis poetry need ears fe hear an eyes fe hav a look
Dis poetry is Verbal Riddim, no big words involved
An if I hav a problem de riddim gets it solved,
I’ve tried to be more romantic, it does nu good for me
So I tek a Reggae Riddim an build me poetry,
I could try be more personal
But you’ve heard it all before,
Pages of written words not needed
Brain has many words in store,
Yu could call dis poetry Dub Ranting
De tongue plays a beat
De body starts skanking,
Dis poetry is quick an childish
Dis poetry is fe de wise an foolish,
Anybody can do it fe free,
Dis poetry is fe yu an me,
Don’t stretch yu imagination
Dis poetry is fe de good of de Nation,
In de morning
I chant
In de night
I chant
In de darkness
An under de spotlight,
I pass thru University
I pass thru Sociology
An den I got a dread degree
In Dreadfull Ghettology.

Dis poetry stays wid me when I run or walk
An when I am talking to meself in poetry I talk,
Dis poetry is wid me,
Below me an above,
Dis poetry’s from inside me
It goes to yu

Benjamin Zephaniah

An African Elegy

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things
And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.
That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.
And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here
And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.

Ben Okri

My City

My City has a lot of faces
Some can be found in forgotten places
Comfortably sound with a lot of graces
The Sun could be down on his hungry town but in London he found him a shot at greatness
My City has a lot of faces

Some can tell you what a “loss of faith” is

Before we hated people we were all created equal
Then we learnt to despise the strife and
Forgot that variety’s the spice of life – look around you

Constantly standing on the brink of history
Watching Newsreaders linking mysteries
Even though a few reporters taught us to be cautious ‘cause they
Stink of this disease called inconsistency
See my city has a lot of faces

Four of them belonging to Big Ben
The rest of them hidden behind big business and Big Brother
Ensures all of them are monitored with them
Under social tensions you can see London languishes:
30% minorities, 300 languages
Differences – race and class, it’s all enormous
But the common ground we found surpasses all the borders
If you meet a rich man, ass-kiss all his daughters…
Or his sons. We all live once
And who among us wouldn’t want all of his funds?
That’s rhetorical but I don’t need call and response
To know that’s how Londoners are from time to time
Only got the time to grind and whine

Technically I’m from an elegant city but I’m not the kind to wine and dine
I grew up around lots of crime, the violent kind
You might have heard about the rocks, the grime, the hype and shine
It’s not just Cockney rhyming slang, we’ve got block-beef, violent gangs
Awkward interactions which most don’t force
Children navigating through postcode wars
In estates with the least funding, look at the state of East London
That’s a paradox:
Witness economy blooming for the have-a-lots:
Business is gonna be booming
But there’s a difference between having a front row seat and watching from the sidelines

TFL knows the world is your Oyster as long as you can afford it

Even though you might need to re-mortgage just to get from Aldwych to Shoreditch
Inconvenient if you’re poor, which
Could be expected in a tax system where the more rich get more rich
273 times the wealth of the poorest yet your door is next door to the extra poor
We look on the bright side but we’re vexed for sure
Like all we have to ourselves is sex and war
And a lot of diversity, so what could I personally Hate a complexion for?
I see different coloured hands outstretched for more

Feel free to come to London and still see the London Dungeon
Experience a tube of mad claustrophobic’s

Where food and bad posture don’t mix
And join us in moving along to the groove of the song
What a sight to see, we could swap a nicety
Some of us feel you’ve forgotten my city

But hopefully you’ll be proving us wrong

If you can take the rough with the smooth then it’s on

George the Poet