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Emerging Sound – Spoken Words
by James C. Richmond. New York, 2004.

Recorded & Mixed: Philglotan Sounds, Brooklyn, NY; Drum Over Dubs: Happy Nest Studio, Brooklyn, NY; Graphics: Daneth Dopwell. Produced by James Richmond.

Reviewed by M. Stephanie Browne

Within the last decade, poetry has jumped from page to performance and has reached a new and wider audience thanks to the "Spoken Word" artists and their works. James C. Richmond is one such performer. Judging from his works, Richmond is a clear-eyed observer of people, things, and events, who understands his role in the broader culture, and uses his poetry to show us the world as muse. He recently released Emerging Sound, his first CD of spoken word verses, and a follow-up to his previously published works Reflections of Today and Where the Pomeroon Meets.

Born and raised in Guyana, Richmond started writing poetry at age seven; thereafter his talent flourished. In his own words, his writings were mostly inspired by his love for country and the surrounding Caribbean islands. A poet by heart and a "consummate performer", this artist's newest endeavor has culminated in a staggering and ambitious forty-nine freshly minted works. Each is read by Richmond himself and delivered with clarity, and poignancy, and in a voice that speaks with an unforced ease, yet commands the listener's attention.

Neither radical nor reactionary, this poet is full of creative vigor and prowess, and the spirit of his collection is encapsulated in its concerns, and the richness of his voice. From the inhumanity of 9/11, to the pastoral beauty and, sometimes, hostility of nature, to the much used subject of romance (a most reliable ingredient of poetry), and nuances indigenous to the Guyanese culture, Richmond has carefully chosen his subject matters and parlayed them into verses that tell real stories.

Many of the pieces address tough, ethical issues, but some are more rhapsodic in pursuit and of a lighter and airier mode of expression. Others are metaphysical which make up a good balance. Drum beats, piano, and the natural sounds of the rainforest and its inhabitants all serve well as effective background accompaniments.

The compilation begins with “9/11” – a moving tribute "to the thousands of hearts ripped apart”, and a grim reminder of one of the darkest days in history. Then there is “Time Meet Time”, a piece in which the poet is having a conversation with Malcolm X and relating Dr. Betty's passing to him. In the piece, the poet keeps re-iterating "Malcolm, Betty is dead. Malcolm, Betty is dead” as if it is still difficult to acknowledge this truth.

Titles such as "Time Meet Time", "Mother's Day Affair", "Sweating Underneath”, "A Dream To Come Through", "Anthrax Scare", "Let The Fire Burn”, and “Guyana’s Sea Walls”, understandably have a piercing aim, but these are tempered with lighter pieces like "Spring Time", "Labor Day”, and “Caribbean Thing" all served up like scrumptious hors d'oeuvres in readiness for the main course.

I found several of Richmond's renditions impressive. To those who would argue that in the spoken word line breaks, rhythm, or proper decorum get lost when poets perform rather than write, Richmond may have provided an answer. His lines are meticulously spare and clean with nudges of emphasis in their appropriate places, and words are clearly enunciated and polished in their deliverance like the facet of a gem. This poet has also paced himself very well. In between each piece, he pauses and gives the listener time to assimilate and prepare for more of what is still to come.

In a genre dominated by poets who frequently pepper their works with crude, scatological language, Richmond has chosen, instead, to use only clean, simple narrative content.

James Richmond is certainly holding his own. For those who don't know him, this is a formal introduction. After listening to Emerging Sound one has to be favorably impressed by this collection. It certainly adds an interesting dimension to a rich tradition of Guyanese literature.

This CD may be obtained from West Indian Stores/Outlets.
For Info: 718- 807-8491.
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