Selah by Keith Jarrett
The Hebrew-derived word Selah appears as a musical interlude in the Psalms, often meaning ‘stop and consider’, and is used in other contexts, religious and secular. This collection brings together poems that combine musical intrigue with history and desire, from organ recitals (‘Resonances’ and ‘When the Roll is Called’) to teenage gospel hip-hop (‘Hip-hop Salvation’). Humour and sex punctuate social commentary (‘Gay Poem’ and ‘No Timewasters’) throughout. Above all, Selah asks the reader to stop and consider, pausing at the fault lines in relationships and intimacy (‘Making Light’) and transgression (‘Transfiguration’), asking difficult questions and holding them to the light.
In Selah, Jarrett interrogates what is lost when one seeks to shape something new – namely his Black British Identity - from disparate ingredients such as migrant parents, a religious upbringing and living in inner city London. His poetry dances an awkward shuffle as he negotiates and seeks to reconcile what he inherits from his Caribbean roots, what he has lost and who he is becoming on this British Island. The poems are all fraught with relationships shaped by a severe severing that creates a limbo state where Jarrett states: My body is a boulder, I try to sound out my new / national anthem: I am forever blowing bubbles – I remain stateless. Here the poems are songs that testify, praise, lament and pray, drawing heavily on biblical imagery, mythology and language to score the relevant notes for his compositions. His elegiac pieces are epigraphic whether written for a diabetic dying grandfather or about the breakdown of a long-term relationship. This new Black British voice is relevant and necessary. - Malika Booker