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Late Night Lit 2: Big People Business
Touting itself as a night of searing words, the second staging of Late Night Lit staked its claim on Redbones’ full house recently, with a multi-angled exploration of the romantic and other adult concerns.
The event, a presentation by the Jamaican Writers’ Society and part of the 2016 Kingston Book Festival, approached things firstly from a doctor’s perspective, with sex and relationship therapist, Dr. Karen Carpenter reading excerpts from her book, Love & Sex: The Basics. The insightful presentation, which sounded more academic/medical than the prose the author declared it, offered relationship scenarios, coupled with Carpenter's insight and advice on the matters, many of which hit home with the gathering. To close she read Leonard Cohen’s 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' and Pablo Neruda’s 'Love Poem 21', naming them as among favourites.
The night’s host, Mel Cooke, with what he called the poor man’s love poem, chronicled love in action in the poem 'House Cleaning', whcih declared that ‘it might look like is house I cleaning/but I know is love I making love'
The night's first poet with a full set, Andrew Stone, then made his way to the mic. Stone’s mostly narrative poems continued with the romantic, touching on heartbreak in 'Unbreakable', the heart’s resilience in 'The Edge' - lamenting that "passion makes you climb the cliff face of your fears". Stone declared himself further in 'Fever' and admired a prospective lover in 'Star Apple Girl', before closing with 'The Offer'.
The other doctor in the house, Dr. Michael Abrahams, used his set to advocate for change, or rather revolution with 'We Need Some Heroes', arguing that "we downward spiral is like a video gone viral", ahead of reading 'We Need a Revolution'. Abrahams then added spark to the night’s flame in 'Say You Wanna Be A Gynecologist' exploring the intricacies of his profession in response to the curiosity of other men. He tackled gender-based violence in 'This Can Work' before his set with 'Eat Out' speaking to his delight in certain eats, while challenging the prudish, with "scientists have found, it actually cleaner than your mouth". Abraham's set left the audience screaming with laughter.
Two excerpts from Ellis International’s newest production, He Said, She Said, now on at the Courtleigh Auditorium brought a taste of sexual drama to the stage. First up was 'I Take Myself' with Kenesha Bowes’. The monologue, in praise of self pleasure thrilled of the largely female audience. The second sketch levelled sharp critique on the divergent perspectives of men and women as well as how each processes reality. The pieced gave split-screen accounts of a sexual encounter, each party to their respective friends. It was hilarious and left the audience in fits and at least one man in the dark as to his actual prowess.
Women’s sexuality were front and centre in Tanya Batson-Savage’s short stories, both illustrating and critiquing the aged woman gone holy, all things sexual cast out and marked evil or ungodly. In 'Ruth', a visually rich exchange between an older woman and her daughter, the latter does the unthinkable of posing a sexual question to her mother and is all but banished, and reported to God in prayer. 'Bible Leaf' followed in a similar vein with one woman’s lament over having been accused of being sexually involved, "in her [old] years". Both were richly amusing, the voices distinct, various in feeling, and were complimented by a deeply engaged reading. The pieces served as strong commentary on the idea that aging meant the sexual was made immoral, seldom spoken of and never visited; an idea the author seemed out to dispel.
Cooke reentered with his own poem, this time having a worshipful quality, and spoke to the often touchy topic of menstruation. It was a young boy’s handling of his mother’s napkins at a supermarket check out that would strike him, observing adoration where often there is unwarranted scorn, he offered, "for us boys are so sure our mothers are angels/ and sample heavens milk from her breasts".
From there the controls would shift to Tony ‘Paleface’ Hendriks who would drive things home with a slate of monologues from his one-man play, Brixton Road Portraits, set in a photographer’s studio. Each piece was distinct and offered a view into the lives of various subjects, among them, the war veteran who though living in the queen’s land for some time, was still made of Jamaican cloth and did not hesitate to wrap it around the very clock that chimed for him now. His was a vicious unfolding that made the actor/comedian less and less pale as he explosively cursed the colony for its wrongs to him and his, surrendering towards the end, saying, "A jus waah go home".
Hendriks held the gathering until minutes into Friday morning, as his characters moved through their paces, often, as in the case of the lisp-bearing Norma, eliciting sadness at her woes, as well as joy at the prospect of a positive turn. Her’s was perhaps the most haunting voice hendriks summoned up, before closing with a revealing insight into the exploits of the infamous ‘rent-a-dread’ figure.
Late Night Lit 2 served up reality straight, bettering its first output with what seemed an even clearer vision. It seems to have, intentionally or not, initiated thought and possibly public discourse on ideas and realities about sexuality and identity that seldom see the kind of engagement that it received on that night. Late Night Lit 2 took place on Thursday, March 10, 2016.