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Spell me freedom. By Lemn Sissay (b 1968). Sissay was born in Billinge in the United Kingdom. He says, ‘I am British, of course I’m British. But being British and black are two different things…the system here doesn’t accept the Britishness of Blacks.’

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spell me freedom

Spell me freedom

By Lemn Sissay (b 1968)

slide2

Sissay was born in Billinge in the United Kingdom.

He says, ‘I am British, of course I’m British. But being British and black are two different things…the system here doesn’t accept the Britishness of Blacks.’

Two collections of his have been published; Perceptions of the Pen and Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist. He is a regular performer of his work and has performed his poems in South Africa.

slide3

Spell me freedom

And make it simple

If you spell a word to a person you explain to the person how the word is put together.

By asking people to spell the word ‘freedom’ the poet wants a detailed explanation of what freedom really is.

He wants the explanation of freedom to be made really simple like the spelling of a word. You either spell it correctly or incorrectly.

You either say what freedom is or you don’t.

slide4

So when I eat

It shall not make me sick

When you present the definition of freedom to him, it must be something he can digest.

He compares the definition of freedom with food. When he ‘eats’ the definition it must not make him sick.

slide5

Spell me freedom

And make the ingredients carefully

Freedom is compared with a dish or a drink. Freedom consists out of different aspects like a drink or dish consist out of different ingredients. These ingredients should be prepared carefully.

What freedom consists of should be stated carefully.

slide6

So when I drink

It does not make me choke

When he drinks the ingredients of freedom it must not make him choke.

If you choke you are unable to speak.

If you choke literally there is an irritation in your throat.

The definition of freedom must be something that goes down smoothly.

slide7

Spell me freedom

And whisper it quiet

The definition of freedom should be so simple that you could whisper it to someone.

A whisper is usually a very short conversation.

slide8

So when we speak

It does not give me a headache

The definition of freedom should be simple and uncomplicated. It should not be so comlex that when you discuss it, it gives you a headache.

slide9

Spell me freedom

And bake it fresh

You should not come with an old definition of freedom. It should be as fresh as something that is newly baked.

slide10

So when I’m thirsty

It shall not make me dry

The definition of freedom should quench his thirst for a satisfying definition. It should not make him more thirsty after he has heard it.

slide11

Spell me freedom

And stir it quickly

Freedom must be explained as if you are stirring something. Mixing together a lot of ingredients.

slide12

So when I taste

It shall not burn my tongue

When you contemplate the definition of freedom it must be acceptable it must not be like hot food that burns your tongue when you taste it.

slide13

Spell me freedom

And tell the joke well

The poet tries to say that no one can give a definition for freedom. Those who try to only turn the definition into a joke. The definition becomes something you can not believe.

Freedom is a joke. It does not exist

slide14

So that when I laugh

It shall not unveil into hopeless tears

Initially you may find the lack of a definition for freedom laughable.

Behind the laughter there are tears.

Not being able to define freedom is something to cry about and it is actually sad.

slide15

Spell me freedom

and cradle each word

A baby is kept safe in a cradle.

Your words defining freedom must be selected and treated as carefully as a baby that is in a cradle.

Consider every word you use very carefully.

slide16

That when I use them

They shall not crack like spines

The definition of freedom must be strong. If you apply the definition of freedom to life, it must work.

It must not break like a spine and leave the person paralyzed.

A spine shows strength, a weak spine is worth nothing.