In 1984, following a tremendously successful year of touring and performing for large audiences across Canada in support of an album entitled De Dub Poets (1983), Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph, and Devin Haughton sought membership with The League of Canadian Poets. The League is a Canadian literary organization whose mission it is “to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada” and to promote “the interests of poets.” As Allen recounts in Toronto-based This magazine, their membership applications were denied at a meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan that same year because the League did not recognize them as poets. Instead, they were distinguished as performers. “Are we all supposed to get up and do that?” one League member reportedly quipped. In her poem on the Regina Affair, Allen refers to the League’s decision as an effort to maintain the Board’s firm grasp on literary power and what it meant to be a poet in Canada at that time.
In the beginning there was the word. And the word was “she,” born from her mother like so many other public prayers. d’bi.young anitafrika, daughter of foundational dub poet and scholar Anita Stewart, stands at a lectern that transforms into a pulpit by the first move of her hands (Mac laptop not nearly withstanding). At the same time that anitafrika offers a critique of the repressed lust in the life of the common homosexually active and actively homophobic preacher, she creates a new congregation.
“Let me ask you to consider the ideological agenda in claiming poetry for one section of society.” Lillian Allen’s provocative performance-talk pierces the business-as-usual of literary communities, literary criticism, and of literariness itself. She reviews the occluded history of dub poetry — a form of performance poetry known for its musicality and its overt politics — and examines its incredible but too-often-unattributed legacies.