Watch: Ricky Man- Video Poem by Charl Landsberg

Quaz | February 14th, 2019 | poetry-video | No Comments

Charl Landsberg is a South African poet and a regular contributor to Poetry Potion’s online and print publications. Their work focuses on queer rights, feminism, social justice and anti-racism. Read below as Charl explains the inspiration and context behind their video poem ‘Ricky Man’.

I made the video myself in the middle of the night shortly after I wrote the poem. The poem is a fictionalised account of my drug abusive days and the character of Ricky Man is a bit of an amalgam of my first two dealers, one of whom did die. I think the poem is a reflection of how fragile we all were in those days. The people I considered my friends back then, the people I knew. They were good times as well as bad times, and we lived life not knowing whether we would be dead the next day or not. I wrote this poem thinking of one of my dealers in particular who I genuinely consider to have been a good man, but who died due to suicide after years of alcohol and drug abuse surrounded by familial abuse. Even today I don’t really talk about it all, it’s strange. I miss him a lot.

Obviously “Ricky Man” is nobody’s name, but Ricky as in ricketty, being how fragile everything was. I think the poem is a bit of an ode to the people I knew, the ones I liked and disliked and those long evenings sitting around getting high and talking nonsense with people for hours. I wrote and performed the guitar music after the disjointed jazz stylings of the beat poets and I really do feel that this poem took on an air of that beat poetry feel to it as well and I blame in no small part my constant reading of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and Maya Angelou (who wasn’t really a beat poet as such, but her work influenced me a lot in the writing of this). The beat and rhythm of the poem is important as well, the setting of the beat, the rhythm of the words to be broken up and changed at a moment’s notice. Setting up expectation and breaking expectation with something new.

Even though Ricky Man dies in my poem, I think my poem is a poem about survival, the poetic “I” being set up as a character in the narrative, being the one who survived and is looking backwards to how terrible and horrible things were, how fragile we all were and still managed to survive. Maybe Charles Dickens said it most concisely, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” It’s strange but the way this poem and the music and the video came about was exactly as I remember those days, it felt like a lot of work and that it took forever, but now it’s over and gone. In a flash.

Read more of Charl’s work on here and on their blog

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