I’ve been working on a non-fiction book for the last few years, bringing together my experience of being an autism mum, an educationalist by osmosis and a firm believer in the transformative power of education.
Susan Rigg loved language and poetry as a child and was amazed when she first heard poetry by Louise Bennett in the vernacular, it took her to another level. Hearing poetry spoken in Caribbean dialect that created an atmosphere and feeling that was unique. Scottish and Irish poets have been doing this for eons but there was a a certain snobbery about Caribbean accents, epitomised by shabby comedians of the day (this was the late seventies, early eighties) so for me, er Susan Rigg, hearing the Caribbean dialect as spoken word poetry gave value and cultural relevance to an accent I had been previously been ashamed of.
As a teenager, when I ‘upscaled’ my name to Suzy, the poetry I learned and recited at school was classical in tone and delivery. When dub-poets like Linton Kwesi-Johnson, Micheal Smith & Mutabaruka came on the scene, they set my brain alight with the possibility of Jamaican dialect, humour and folklore as a tore de force for my literary enjoyment. There is a rich oral tradition in African culture but the cross-over took a little while to permeate. As Louise said herself:
“I have been set apart by other creative writers a long time ago because of the language I speak and work in. From the beginning nobody ever recognised me as a writer. ‘Well, she is “doing” dialect;’ it wasn’t even writing you know. Up to now a lot of people don’t even think I write. They say “Oh, you just stand up and say these things!” LOUISE BENNETT
Everything moves on, Poetry, in particular spoken word poetry, has moved a long way in the last few decades. Married now and going by the Rowland surname, I can reflect on how inspiring it is to see so many black and mixed ethnicity poets, weave their culture, class, dialect into their work and make it their own. The likes of George the Poet @GeorgeThePoet @akalamusic and Yrsa Daley-Ward firmly underline the universal impact of poetry to tell stories in a rich diversity of styles, and dialects.
© Suzy Rowland
The sky turned blue as the MARSO, an official order from Mars Command, flashed across the sky:
‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low.. Blink! Blink! Blink!
MARSOs logged directly into the mainframe, so the operating team didn’t need to do anything but watch through the clear glass screen, as the giant subterranean reservoir four hundred metres down the corridor, filled with water. The reservoir, RES1, was supported by steel girders, due to the extreme pressure it contained. Earth Command Crew watched the process intently; most of them had family on Mars; who had been elected to live there by State One, because they were either over sixty or critically ill.
It was a long time since this process had been activated and the anxiety of it made the atmosphere in Command Centre sticky. A few of the crew noticed that as the reservoir filled, large green areas of planet earth on the monitor, started to turn brown. Species Watch was starting to glow orange, as earth’s reduced water levels signalled automatic extinction for a variety of critical sub-species in our swamps and riverbanks, invisible to the naked eye but vital to our eco-structure.
Marion started to laugh uncontrollably. At 59 and clinically depressed, she was the perfect candidate for the next batch of Mars migration. Her heart racing wildly, she slipped out of Command Centre. No one noticed her leave, slim with shoulder length dark-hair and glasses she was used to disappearing into to the background, not being listened to.
Slowly at first and then with increasing urgency, she broke into a fast trot, sprinting down the long corridor towards RES1. It was a six minute walk from Command Centre, but she needed to be quick before her absence was noticed. The heavy grey slab door was bolted, but Marion had been entrusted with a microchip implant when she passed Security Level Three, as well as a slim iron safety key. She was given this before her beloved aunt was sent away. Aunt Sarah had believed in her as a child, encouraged her interest in science at school, paying 80% of her undergraduate tuition fees and had been a stalwart supporter of her career. She had also counselled her through her divorce. Her love for Aunt Sarah rivalled the love she felt for her parents, her selflessness, her spirit of adventure. She was doing this for her.
She scanned her wrist, punched in the code and the giant door pad seemed to glowed a green smile at her. The key slipped into the lock like a ring on a bride of many years. As it turned, Marion released a primordial scream that ricocheted across the complex, amplifying the security alarm’s siren. Within seconds she had pressed system over-ride, enabling full capacity for the last of earth’s water reserves to flow to Mars via the reservoir. The water in RES1 danced in wild abandon, away from earth, gaily through the reinforced channels to hydrate the red planet, unaware of the devastation that would befall planet earth.
The rest of Command Crew could see what was happening, but they were frozen, blinking in horror at earth’s imminent demise. No-one else on the planet knew it, but it was just a matter of time before the water shortages became commonplace and the rioting would begin.
Deranged tears ran down Marion’s face, she could think and feel more clearly than she had in years. She felt she was rebalancing the injustice of the universe, giving something back, this one’s for you Auntie! And for the others like you who didn’t have a choice.
It was 3018. Earth glowed another red hot summer. There were only two seasons now: winter and summer. This summer was causing earth dwellers some problems. Earth Command Crew beamed a blue message across the sky to ROSS 128b.
‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low! Blink! Blink! Blink!
© Suzy Rowland
hot coffee and granola
your pink cover jumps into my space,
no bubble gum pencil thin barbie here
by the Grace of our Lord,
hot black talent with attitude (TWA),
grins at me, a cover full of promise
revolution in my bedroom by 07:35
my private world of black womanhood in typescript
knowingness of other
everything laid bare
I AM no LONGER inVISIBLE!
replace coffee cup on table with extreme care
in case the words disappear when I look away.’
© Suzy Rowland
In this moment, she felt like an imposter… ‘Who do I think I am, calling myself a writer?’ Where’s the deal, the positive acclaim, cosy interviews on TV sofas, headphones on, waiting in radio studios for the ‘on air’ button to glow red? This is my life! she whispered to herself through frustrated tears.
She had visualised it clearly, rehearsed her life story line-by-line: the longing, the personal and financial struggles and finally – the success! It’s so funny, she grinned – flirting with everyone in the studio – achieving your big writing break when you’re in your fifth decade…flutter, twinkle, wink. Everyone in the studio laughed along with her, but silently they were thinking, ‘It won’t take me that long to get to the top of my game!’
Her gloomy thoughts were a reflection of a sky-full of rain, after a string of endless sunny days. This mood will pass, she said inwardly, closing her eyes in micro-meditation. I will poke my head through this web of despair, but today is a wallow sort of day. Eyeing her white bookshelves groaning with self-help books, she realised there was wisdom in occasional surrender to the drunken master of insecurity. She smiled at this thought, reminding herself that these funks were transitory and usually followed by periods of frenzied activity, globs of creativity and furious link-making with fellow writers, poets and disruptors.
The room was quiet, as her eyes moved from the bookshelves to the window, where a smudge of yellow in the grey clouds threw her hoops of optimism. The soft yellow grew lighter, shining directly onto the rage and beauty at her core.
© Suzy Rowland
So far, 2018 is turning into a mega Summer for heat and the extreme impacts of the heat, it will become one of those years that become fuzzy and pretty in your head if you let it. Save this summer, in the memory bank marked ‘good times’.
The light and heat of the sun can be harsh and dangerous, but if we treat her with respect goddess sun is life-affirming, energy and vitamin providing, endorphin-generating. Even when you’re feeling hot and uncomfortable, close your eyes and say ‘thank you’ for the heat and well-being you feel in that moment.
Happy Sun Day!
© Suzy Rowland
Relentless pursuit of one goal
One, goal. Pure focus
‘what? we can’t cross the river here
let’s build a bridge or a tunnel
there must be a way!”
An unbending line
from here to my destination
details to be written, recorded
stored on plates, words, dates
please don’t distract me
with daily life
I’ve a job to do
stories to be consumed
by everyone I never knew
I cannot stop, not no, cannot,
until the desire of my brain,
is sated, released of its many thoughts about
one thing, many things that are, the same thing
calmer then, until my eye
catches a new target:
‘Go, go go!’
there is no other way.
For a poet – love, marriage and weddings are perhaps the most inspiring, romantic and universal subjects to write about. You can stay with the personal, but stray into the spiritual, global, life-affirming, existential. So it is with this in mind, that I thought I would set up a wedding poetry service. Selecting poems for lovers to read to each other, poems for renewals of vows, poems to convey the depth of feeling and passion that another human being can evoke in you.
Love knows no colour, or boundaries, or prejudices. It finds you when you least expect it, much to the annoyance of many of us when we’ve been single for ever and a day! And love loves food and nourishment like any living organism. Feed your love with kind words, encouragement, praise, laughter, tenderness and understanding and they will stay with you until the last pulse of your heart beats feebly in your veins.
A wedding close to my heart:
Click here to find out more about the wedding poetry service…
Have you ever been in a job that’s wrong for you, but you tell yourself it’s right? When we don’t listen to our instincts, the universe finds a way of EJECTING us, sometimes brutally, from a situation, so we can get back on track, back in alignment with our true purpose in life.
Don’t take that rejection personally, or cry too much after that kick in the teeth… it’s just a prod from your guides, trying to tell you…‘don’t waste your time doing that…. you need to do this!’
Accept the changing situation with grace, write down what you’ve learned and move on quickly. It sounds like a cliche, but if you play to your strengths and listen to the strong pull of your instinct, your next gig, opportunity, job etc., will be more in line with where you need to be and what you need to learn to fulfil your purpose in life!
‘Right now you have the opportunity to transform your life!’
© Suzy Rowland-Rigg
If you like this poem and would like to buy an A5 copy as a momento, copies are on sale at the Black Cultural Archives shop OR click here to purchase online.
© Suzy Rowland-Rigg