But do they? I look at Marechera and question all I have ever been told. Is he uneven, sloppy in his diction, careless in his imagery, lacking refinement…or does the failure come from me?
Here is “Smash, Grab, Run” from 1979-80, one of the few published poems—it appeared in West Africa magazine. As I cannot assemble any studium around it (Am I unable? Or do not wish to do so?) all I can do is experience it.
Smash, Grab, Run= The title puts the poem in the context of the Brixton Riots. Already there is a problem, these were in April 1981, so the poem is later than stated.
The title suggests what happened (from a White middle-class point-of-view, as reported in the press: widespread looting by uncontrollable Blacks).
Let the minutes unleash
The bullets Brixton wishes=this is not “slip the dogs of war”, but something more deadly. Time brings about desired violence. Time is as much apart of the war to come as the police dogs brought to Brixton. Time—like the minutemen of revolution—is ready, has been prepared for this. (Historically, this was true, for Brixton was waiting for the moment).
Barbed wire is the ivy on my walls=ivy-clad tradition (as at Oxford), that middle-class dream of the house with ivy growing, a countryside retreat, is a spiked reality in the inner-city.
Acrid cordite like mist in autumn
Dissolves the harsh street into pellucid cameos=anti-Romanticism whereby Keats’ “season of mists” becomes unnatural. Mist dissolves streets, yet people become shining and hard profiles. Violence, though it thins social order, thickens identity.
Think how the striking truncheon outpaces thought=a statement that mocks: action is quicker that thought, yet the invition is to think. Is this the weakness of the liberal when faced with (police/social) brutality?
How the burgeoning Molotov cancels discussion=for the first time, Molotov cocktails were used on the UK mainland. Burgeoning? Spring-life. An April poem, after all. The violent retaliation is budding, alive, more natural and effective than discussion?
Let each viewfinder’s instant exorcise
The pictorial myths complacency devises=viewfinder, gun-sight, in a fraction of time, drives out the found visions that society easily manufactures. Mental focus. Mental terrorism.
Each hurtling brick aimed to smash this enchanter’s glass
Aimed to loot the truths for so long packaged in lies="Smash, Grab, Run", now operates within a new context: the looting by the Black mind of individual truth.
I am the hundreds of putrid meat in English prisons
In derelict houses, in borstals, the millions of condemned meat
Who let the grim minutes unleash their canned grime=grim/grime, inscape (out of Hopkins)? Rather an anti-inscape for the mind is drawn into humanity, not nature, and is pulled into intellectual horror and fragmentation, not beauty and spiritual order. Grim minutes? Grim reaper, Death. canned grime=sealed and mass-produced black identity? A moment of intellectual terror(ism)/the poem/offers a focus/aim that destructs the social experiences offered to the Black individual who is seen as meat/flesh/not mind.
The diction, the idioms, the allusions and the syntax are brilliantly unstable.
A Marechera Cocktail.