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Anything but Mute

"Dis poem will not be amongst great literary works/will not be recited by poetry enthusiasts/will not be quoted by politicians nor men of religion." Dat is a piece of what turned out to be one of the best-known lyrics from Jamaica, written by the fierce and legendary Mutabaruka. According to Jamaican-born Terrence Davis, who's organizing the South Florida Poetry Fiesta, you could use Mutabaruka as a Jamaican citizenship test. "Ask if they know who he is to find out if they are really Jamaican. He is like Bob Marley."

Last year, when Davis organized the first Poetry Fiesta, he invited Muta to be the headliner. He suggested that the performer bring a band and throw some tunes into the entertainment mix. "Why?" Big M asked. "You do not have any confidence in the poetry?" Davis needn't have worried. When Muta took the stage, he kept the audience enraptured for two straight hours of spoken word. Then he was called back for a 45-minute encore.

This weekend, Mutabaruka returns for the second incarnation of the South Florida Poetry Fiesta. He'll be joined by a marathon lineup of performers, including Miami-based comedian Rayzor, who's appeared on BET's Comic View, and Will Da Real One, the shepherd of the local literary scene and a veteran of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. There's also established writer (and former cop) Malachi Smith; Sasquash, whom Davis describes as "the first Dominican to win over the tough crowd at the Apollo;" and Shamele Jenkins ("she's all over the place, with storytelling and all that good stuff"). Singers Binghi Bob, Douglas Anthony, and Jah-Al will perform. Another dozen or so artists will join them.

So why did Davis, an electrical contractor by trade, go through the trouble of establishing the Fiesta as a legal nonprofit organization and plan such a massive event? He wrote his first poem, about sugar cane, as a school assignment. Years later, when he immigrated to America, he was inspired to knock out another one -- called "It's Not Easy." Now he feels that "poetry is not rated as it should be" in modern society; plus, he wanted to fund educational initiatives in the Caribbean. Last year, the take from the door enabled him to buy five computers for Jamaican schools. This year, proceeds will go to Haiti.

So despite Muta's prediction that "dis poem shall be called boring stupid senseless," you know that "dis poem is watchin' u tryin' to make sense from dis poem/dis poem is messin' up your brains/makin' u want to stop listenin' to dis poem/but u shall not stop listenin' to dis poem/u need to know what will be said next in dis poem." Go. -- Deirdra Funcheon

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