Africa As A Dream That Travels Through My Heart is book one of a trilogy
“When inspiration strikes” – it’s a familiar turn of phrase that sums up how some think about inspiration: as something that happens to us, not something we make happen.
For his latest book, Montreal-born poet Jason “Blackbird” Selman turned that notion on its head.
“The quest of this whole book is inspiration. How can I look for inspiration and not wait for it? How can I trigger inspiration?” he said.
Selman is a founding member of the Kalmunity artistic collective, has worked with the Black Theatre Workshop’s Youth Works Program as their poetry/spoken word animator and also plays the trumpet.
Africa As A Dream That Travels Through My Heart is book one of a trilogy of the same name and explores different themes including the discovery of one’s heritage, fatherhood and civil rights. Selman uses music to help spark his writing – he identifies themes in the songs and writes to them, almost like having a conversation with the artist. The songs he writes to make up a playlist that is included in the book.
He has go-to musicians but is always actively seeking out new music either on the Internet, by paying weekly visits to the library or by going through forgotten CDs in his own collection. He isn’t limited to one genre either, citing soul, reggae, spoken word, hip hop and jazz as some of the styles that inspire him.
While some of the music he discovers doesn’t encourage him to write, he sometimes writes multiple poems to the same song. That leads to either choosing the best one out of the bunch or combining different lines to create a new poem.
He employed that pick and choose process to craft a poem called Ferguson, based on the events that transpired after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot in that city two years ago.
“I just kept writing about it, it kept coming up, and I figured I’d go with it. When I had enough pieces that could tell a story in terms of how I felt, I put them together,” he explained.
Another poem in the book, titled Sedgwick Ave., is an ode to the area in the Bronx widely cited as the birthplace of hip hop.
Selman says It took about three years to come up with the material for his latest work, and of the poems he writes, about 70 per cent of them are never used. He’s already selected a few poems he believes will work well for live performances, including some he’s written for the second book in the trilogy, which he’s still working on.
“I want to look at the playlist and even it out, look at artists I missed, balance it in terms of artists or genres. … Thematically, I want to keep it in the same vein but also see what else I can do,” he said.
The launch party takes place Saturday April 23 at 9 p.m. at Casa del Popolo, 4873 St. Laurent Blvd. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10. Selman will also be selling the books at Kalmunity Tuesdays, a night of weekly live improve at Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur Ave. E. For more information, visit facebook.com/events/1681516762114707.