Tag Archives: dub poetry

Squatter’s Rites

Dennis Scott (1939-1991) was a Jamaican poet who was influential after independence. He often wrote in the vernacular. He was also a playwrite and involved in drama and dance, he even had a role in the Cosby Show.

Squatter’s Rites

Peas, corn, potatoes; he had
planted himself
king of a drowsy hill; no one
cared how he came to such green dignity,
scratching his majesty
among the placid chickens.

But after a time, after
his deposition, the uncivil wind
snarled anarchy through that
small kingdom. Trees, wild birds
troubled the window,
as though to replace the fowl
that wandered and died of summer;
spiders locked the door,
threading the shuddered moths,
and stabbed their twilight needles through
that grey republic. The parliament of dreams
dissolved. The shadows tilted
where leaf-white, senatorial lizards
inhabited his chair.

Though one of his sons made it,
blowing reggae (he
dug city life)
enough to bury the old Ras
with respect
ability and finally
a hole in his heart;

and at night when the band
played soul, the trumpet
pulse beat
down the hill
to the last post,

leaning in its hole
like a sceptre
among the peas, corn, potatoes.

Dennis Scott


The Harlem Dancer

The Harlem Dancer

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway ;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form ;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm,
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell ; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze ;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.

Claude McKay

Claude McKay (1889-1944) was a Jamaican poet and an important writer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Colonisation In Reverse

Colonisation In Reverse

Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs’
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.

By de hundred, by de t’ousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a-pour out o’ Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old and young
Jusa pack dem bag and baggage
An turn history upside dung!

Some people don’t like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a-open up cheap-fare-
To-Englan agency.

An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat o’ de Empire.

Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see de turnabout,
Jamaica live fe box bread
Outa English people mout’.

For wen dem catch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.

Jane say de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
Dat suit her dignity.

Me say Jane will never find work
At the rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.

Wat a devilment in Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But I’m wonderin how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.

Louise Bennett
Jamaica Labrish, 1966


Run Riot

Beverley Skyers was a teenage poet in the early 80s and came from Lewisham. This poem is from late 1981.

Run Riot

A brethren throws a brick
an’ a bull get lick
A sister throws a stone
an’ more bull come down.

babylon tek out dem riot shiel’
but dat nah stop dem from bleed
‘Stop all this violence’ a shout from de
but it was no use, the frustration
grew loud.

Babylon a run but me don’t know why
Youthman a run but me still don’t know
School children a run, but why?

“Dem a run fe dem life
Man a fe hol’ up him wife
dem a try to survive
fe stay alive.”

A white man chucks a rock
an’ a shop window brok,
Black han’ white han’
looting out de lan’.

Looting, fighting against the
Trying to achieve a war dat
should be won.

“Fire,” shouted one man.
They had lighted a light bue van.
Riot on de lan’
from those with the wicked han’.

Will de violence ever end,
and the heart aches ever mend?
Shall we have truth and right,
and stop the fuss an’ fight?

Beverley Skyers

Michael Smith – Meck Dem Know How Yuh Feel

From his posthumously published book It A Come, 1986.

Meck Dem Know How Yuh Feel

Meck dem know how you feel
fi siddung deh so long,
an a no you one de pressure a teck.
Down to de yout-dem inna Brixton
stop sing glory to Englan,
for not even a laugh
can come outa dem heart
de way dem desperate
fi sinting fi nyam.

Meck dem know dat bull inna pen
waan fi come out
fi go chat wid im frien
an backward dem wid dem
mock-ritual-of-poverty chat
dat dem hold we wid
when election pop.
Dem tink we doan know,
meck dem galang so.

Dem tink we figet Vietnam
when we did jump and shout
dat dem fi drive dose barbarians out
an never realize dat dem a human
dat have a burnin desire fi free
like any odder man.

Meck dem know how you feel,
an no bodder come to me
come look sympathy,
for friendly understandin
is not de solution.
We waan answer, or else
dis-ya civilization ya
cyaan go no further.

Michael Smith