Remembering Mikey Smith
Linton Kwesi Johnson, Roger Robinson & Anthony Wall
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Sun 18 Aug, The New York Times Main Theater
With typical insouciance the dapper master of reggae poetry graciously bats aside the initial question of compere, Jamacain-raised author Leone Ross. He takes to the mic, regaling the Book Festival’s reverential, po-faced audience with the best known work of his friend and fellow genre-founding father, Mikey Smith.
Mi Cyann Believe it
Mikey Smith – social worker, writer, died in murky circumstances at a political rally in ’83 – composed a strident paean to the Jamaican diaspora, specifically those who landed on these shores. Smith’s first visit to Britain was documented in the 1982 film Upon Westminster Bridge by BAFTA-winning film maker Antony Wall – who was also on the Book Fest’s three-strong panel. The other being all round chief Rocker Roger Robinson.
Robinson, a protean talent, is affectionately teased for his whippersnapper status in the eyes of the godfather of Jamaican patois, who later delivers a blistering ‘half-poem, half-rant’ referencing Grenfel Tower and Windrush issues that LKJ avers ‘show us how far we have to go ‘ Happily it seems the legacy of LKJ and Mikey Smith is in safe hands.
Anthony Wall contributed a port-stained whine about the plethora oflLiterary festivals, the horrors of free wine, and the insight that Mikey Smith was not only the most important poet of the 20th Century, but almost as good as some English poets; whilst reducing the immeasurable contribution of the man recoiling beside him to absurdity by describing it as a ‘A fuck you to the man as we would call him.’ I kid you not!
After 15 minutes of inchoate waffling, the following Q&A consisted of the usual ‘I love you, you’re great, you saved my life sycophancy,’ along with the inevitable posh nob bleating a surreally unconnected anecdote about a pony before, RR ripped it up and finally LKJ himself had the audiences’ eyes brimming with his peroration to his dead father .
A true master