I know him but I don’t really know him. I like him, I really, really like him. Back in the eighties, I would visit with friends and colleagues in England once or twice a year. Not just London, but Manchester, Luton, Sheffield and other places. Got to meet, greet, and become friends with many artists and activists. Roger was among that crew.
Recently I saw that Roger Robinson won a major award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, for his book, A Portable Paradise, which is both an autopsy and a celebration of Black life in the UK. From portraying the people who were of the “Windrush” generation, referring to those who first immigrated-en-mass from the Caribbean, and from there on to the recent tragedy of the Grenfell fire in London, brother Robinson undertakes the task of eulogizing the hopes and tragedies of those Black Brits who suffered, resisted and, in some instances, overcame UK racism.
He be a dub poet, often performing with music, and also an expert text crafts-person, whose words carry all the weight of English poetic traditions while focusing on the plight, the power, the tragedy, the music and the beauty of UK Black existence. His work is full of a deep vernacular criss-crossing with sage intellectual insight.
It is not easy to write the way he does. He is a father gathering up his offspring in his arms, holding them close to their origin and at the same time encouraging them to run off to share their profundity world-wide. Every land, every city, town and village ought to have a writer of his depth to celebrate and memorialize their existence: who the collective “we” were, what we did, and especially to articulate all our dreams that for diverse reasons only rarely or, too often, never actually see the bright of future light.
Roger Robinson is a special man, one of the ones among us who lets all humanity know that while we were here, some of us managed, some-(awful/awefilling)-how not only merely to survive but to be-and-become special, even exceptional, to somehow, live moments of our lives so beautiful that our existence approached sacredness.
We need our poets to remind us that we can be more than we are. We can achieve, if only momentarily, if only for mere milli-seconds, we can ascend to the angelic, become demi-god-like. Indeed, we can even approach flashes of the divine when our being/our doing be more, much more, than merely human. Conjuring those moments is what poet Roger Robinson does so wonderfully.