Melbourne was enchanted last night by the mellow and soulful murmurings of African American jazz poet Lewis Scott. The poet’s set at the Northcote Social Club last night as part of the Overload Allstars event left Overloaded’s Alec Patric strangely enchanted. Overload Allstars will also be reviewed, in full, by Koraly Dimitriatis.
Lewis Scott is not the Jimi Hendrix of Performance Poets. That’s the way he was introduced last night. If you’re going to insist on musical comparisons, then you’d have to reach for the laid back perfection of Miles Davis with the spiritual drive and intensity of John Coltrane. But that’s just confusing and why refer to musical legends when genius is always unique. It doesn’t mimic or pretend to be anything other than a glorious exhibition of this one individual, alive, present before you, on this stage right now. And Lewis Scott certainly does not leave you wondering on that score.
As if to illustrate the point I made in a previous post, there was not one sound, not even a smatter of applause until Scott finished his fifteen minute set. Well IQ couldn’t stop himself from dancing around and yelping with pleasure. Steve Smart couldn’t help but chant and sing at the base of Scott’s stage and Geoff Lemon may have been rolling around blissfully on Northcote Social Club’s less than pristine carpet. Maxine Clarke’s face probably mirrored mine by way of silent rhapsody.
For all of that I was often left wondering what the fuck is this guy talking about. This guy that looks like some kind of psychedelic priest from the Age of Aquarius. There’s a kind of constant reaching through shifting images of biblical impressionism and biological expressionism with Scott’s poetry; a teasing out of light-filled epiphanies and blood-soaked revelations. Maybe there is something fundamentally musical about Scott’s ethos after all, because now I’m thinking that there’s no metal in his sound. None of the muscular horns of Coltrane or Miles. Perhaps the searching lyricism of Thelonious Monk’s piano compositions.
So I don’t think Scott is about a message you get and he’s not even about individual poems. I asked him afterwards how many poems he’d performed during his set, and he just smiled at me as if to say, how many clouds in the sky? The gift of poetry might not be about sound bite’s or fragments of insight, but the actuality of another being and their space on this planet, alive with us. The way the world breathes for Lewis Scott, and the way it sings above his head, and how we can find ways to be reborn into all of it again
African American jazz poet Lewis Scott has performed with an array of poets and musicians in more than 50 countries and still enjoys meeting new people, new lands and new sounds. His work is underpinned by the sounds and cadences of the spoken word of the Black Church. Scott defines his work as jazz blues, a repetition of sound that he trusts much more than the creation of defined words. The sound is a human tongue drum, licking the flesh, sticking deeply in your ears to suck the taste of your mind and leaving in your consciousness the agony of a stolen race from Africa. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, journals and anthologies in Aotearoa/New Zealand, India, Fiji, Australia and the USA. He has had more than 15 books of poetry and prose published and has edited a number of anthologies. Scott’s most recent poetry collections are Bones, published by Five Islands Press (Melbourne) in 2004 and Speaking in Tongues, published by HeadworX Publishers (Wellington) in 2007. His work also appears in two recent anthologies, Fingernails Across The Chalkboard and Gwendolyn Brooks and Working Writers, both published by Third World Press (USA) in 2007.