As Malachi Smith explained in the dub-u-mentary, Dub Poetry: The Life and Work of Malachi Smith, his dub poems usually come from a beat suggested by the cadence of the refrain which is repeated throughout the poem and acts as a mnemonic device in long compositions. From the first composition to the performance, the poem is revised primarily to the demands of the rhythm. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several months before the poem is ready for performance on the stage, in a recording studio or publication in a book or magazine.
Several dub poets such as Oku Onoura have been successful with CD sales, stage performances, and book publication. In this excerpt from “Reflection in Red” Onoura demonstrates some of the devices he has frequently used: repetition, rhyme, and word play with the word, “red” which assumes multiple meanings associated with blood, allusions to the music of Peter Tosh, and Babylon the Great of the Apocalypse. These poetic devices are controlled by the theme of a lack of social justice and the rhythm and rhyme reinforce the theme.
Reflection in Red
an de beat
an de scene
an de man
dem a loot
an de fia
an de blud a run
an some people
weh fi tun
By the use of “nation language,” enjambment, rhyme, repetition, and inventive use of the word, “red,” Onoura creates with sound and imagery, the experience of dread during the seventies in Jamaica. The staccato lines build throughout the poem and sometimes with the use of repetition, similar to the echo of an old tube amplifier, he emphasizes one of the main ideas of the poem;
dere’s equal rites
Dub poetry has evolved from the early years of being dominated by male poets and in recent years, dub poets such as Dibi Young and Lillian Allen have risen to prominence and are widely praised within the genre for expanding the concerns of dub poetry to broader and more inclusive themes that deal with injustice against women and the empowerment of women.
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