Last night I met a young poet thirty years my junior. She and I had seemingly nothing in common save poetry yet we found one common reference point: Gil Scott Heron.
Maybe for her it was about his skin colour or his role as, if not father of 'rap' then certainly the man who planted the seed that gave us Hip Hop. He gave us something of a meeting place.
If Gil Scott Heron had not existed I would not be doing the work I do now. Two poets have inspired me: One, Brian Patten, gently spoken English romantic, urged me to write. Gil on the other hand urged me to experience life, get out there, taste it all, feel the bad as well as the good, the rough and the smooth, holler at injustice and then bitch about it and then write. Gil didn't have an easy life, troubles came his way and troubles inspired and informed much of his work. troubles were his muses. Thanks to Gil I now experiment with involving musicians in my poetry, I experiment with sounds. His later poem: 'where has the night gone' is the saddest thing I know and 'I'm new here' reliably assured me that , no matter how far I'd gone, I could always turn around.
He lived long enough to see the revolution televised and the pointlessness of 'Whitey on the moon'. He live long enough to see a black president. He lived long enough to see a resurgence of interest in his work and his words.
But he didn't live long enough.
Gil, youv'e gone too far this time. Too far to turn around.