“Paris Blues been here forty four years” says Sam the proud owner straight out of central casting for a Chester Himes novel “The police were more criminal than the criminals”. Sam leaves us to it. Umar Bin Hassan slouches at the bar as the cameras set up. He’s tired after last nights gig at The Shrine. Me too. “Half the time my mind is in chaos and the other half I write about it. That’s the life of the poet” he falls about laughing. As do I. Then we shoot two separate short films for random acts on channel four. he reads sat at the bar and I read from behind it. In the afternoon I interview Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan in Morningside near Columbia at Abiodun’s home.
Abiodun confirms my long held belief that Gil Scott Heron’s most famous poem Revolution Will Not Be Televised was directly influenced by his poem When The Revolution Comes which Gil heard the same evening when he approached them to say he wanted to be a poet like them. “Gil takes my poem to the next level” says Abiodun. There’s no bitterness, only love for Gil. This love from a man who was jailed at the height of his success, a man who had to watch Gil’s ascendance from behind prison bars. “I never served time. Time served me”. The interview finishes and I leave these heroes of mine to get to JFK airport for the flight home. The last poets are more relevant than Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti, more rebelious than Dylan, more truthful than Lennon, they took more risks than all of them. And paid for it too. They and Gil Scott Heron are to me what Ted Hughes is to Armitage. This is and always was my line.