My critique of Sullivan’s “Long Bay Jump”

Caveat: I have tried to post this over at Alan’s blog a hundred times — well, maybe six or seven in all. It seems as though the comments on that post are closed. It’s not my nature to do stuff behind people’s backs — but as this is a dummy blog, hidden away on wordpress.com for now, I’ll post it just to see how it looks and how it reads. The poem is here. The Erato thread is here.

I didn’t reply on Erato, because I’d rather engage with the author than with his apologists or his demonizers. But as there was a resounding lack of local response over there, I figured you might appreciate a little. Forgive me for coming a little late to the party.

Quite frankly, I didn’t think the thread was worth all the kerfuffle. The poem was pleasant enough as it went. I suppose as a Caribbean person I could have found the energy to take offence, but the piece was too slight to bother. Not that I don’t share some of the arguments put forth by Quincy and Nemo and Rose in the thread, but because I’m not sure that they apply in this particular case.

If I had any quarrel with it, it’d be with your characterization of it as being “reggae-style”. It’s far too regular and metrical to be classified as reggae, in which syncopation and variation are more common than regularity. That’s true of all Caribbean music and rhythms, by the way, but particularly reggae. No song, no verse, is going to have the same rhythm throughout; there’s going to be some kind of breakdown, some kind of playing against the rhythm somewhere. But your stanzas all have the same meter, very regular, and your refrain is too similar to them. The poem’s got more in common with Mother Goose than with Bob Marley. Compare Marley’s “Lively Up Yourself”, which is one of his more regular lyrics:

LIVELY UP YOURSELF [Bob Marley]

You’re gonna lively up yourself, and don’t be no drag;
You lively up yourself ’cause reggae is another bag.
You lively up yourself, and don’t say, “No”;
You’re gonna lively up yourself ’cause I said so!

Hear what you gonna do:
You rock so, you rock so, like you never did before, yeah!
You dip so, you dip so: dip through my door.
You come so, you come so, oh yeah!
You skank so, you skank so: be alive today!

And yes, the imagery’s pretty predictable. Never been to BVI, so the references are lost on me, but to my eye it’s just the sort of thing that a visitor would see anywhere in the “islands”, the stock happy-native stuff. But it’s part of the charm, I suppose. On another matter, you’re right not to create noun plurals or to conjugate the verbs. I like the original refrain, by the way; if you’re seeking “authenticity”, repetition is more “authentic” than anything else.

Cheers.

Scavella-in-the-islands

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3 thoughts on “My critique of Sullivan’s “Long Bay Jump”

  1. Hello. I saw your link and stopped by. Sorry that comments are closed. I have them set to close after 10 days, otherwise the comment spammers can get at the whole site.

    I appreciate your on-the-scene perspective. I only mentioned Marley on the thread because he was someone the commenters could get hold of. I’m aware of the distinctions you mention, though I think you underestimate the metrical variety in my stanzas. There’s a lot going on with secondary stress. But the lyric is just a bit of play. Erato’s inmates really ran amok with it.

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