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Mel Cooke Get's Ready to "Seh Sup'm

Melville Cooke reading at the launch of Seh Sup'm: Live From Kingston

Poet and journalist Melville Cooke staged a successful launch of his second anthology of poems, a live album titled Seh Sup’m: Live From Kingston. To do so, he teamed up with the Poetry Society of Jamaica as the featured poet of their first fellowship of the year. Interestingly, the stage at the Poetry Society was where Cooke did his first public reading just over a decade ago.

Seh Sup’m: Live From Kingston was recorded in March 2010 at the Seh Sup’m poetry event. The album title is an homage to the event. Cooke revealed that he has long been enarmoured with the live album concept and always wanted to create one.

“There is something about a live album, that when the crowd is responding you feel like you’re in the moment as well,” Cooke said explaining is appreciation for the form. If his reading on Tuesday night was anything to go by, as the audience hooted, laughed and applauded, listeners of Seh Sup’m will have much to respond to.

Seh Sup'm Album CoverHis original intention had been to use material from various readings, but as he read infrequently, that did not materialize. However, after the Seh Sup’m March reading he realized that he had sufficient material that was diverse enough to achieve his goal.

His reading included the poems ‘Crack Down’, ‘House Cleaning’, ‘Tight’, ‘Schoolas’, ‘Child of the 70s’ and closed with ‘Alone’, as he explored Jamaica’s often paradoxical position on homosexuality, love, masculinity and nationhood. Cooke also drew on other Jamaican voices from poetry, fiction, dancehall and reggae, presenting a sliver of the tapestry comprising Jamaican writing. Cooke pulled from Miss Lou with ‘No Likkle Twang’, John Hearn’s ‘Voices Under the Window’, Mutabaruka’s ‘Revolutionary Poet’, Pluto Shervington’s ‘I Man Born Ya’, Mervyn Morris’ ‘Outing’ and Mavado’s ‘House Cleaning’.

He explained that including other voices in his readings was a very important part of what he his approaching to writing and exploring the world around him.

“I want to make it clear that come from an established tradition,” Cooke explains, noting that the people he reads from have influenced him directly and/or indirectly. He pointed out that some of the issues his poetry with have been looked at by other writers, sometimes decades before, and a comparison can be very illuminating, providing a broader lens through which to look at the society. “By looking at how it was treated then and now, you can see how the society has changed or has not changed,” Cooke said.

“Writing is a very solitary business,” Cooke continued. He explained that this aloneness can be countered by placing oneself in the tradition. “You have the company of other writers and often that is your only company in the creative process,” he said.

Seh Sup’m is a 25 track CD featuring 15 poems, an introduction and interludes. Cooke’s first anthology Eleven Nine, which explores the issues surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks from a third world perspective, was published by Blouse and Skirt Books in 2008. His writing has also appeared in the Jamaica Journal and the Calabash Literary Foundation anthologies Jubilation! and So Much Things to Say.