‘Dis Poetry’ by Benjamin Zephaniah is a two stanza poem with the subject being the poem itself. It is an art piece describing the connection of this poem with the author. This poem would probably be more effective if it was read aloud because then it would be possible to truly experience the voice, rhythm, and accent that the author is trying to get across to his audience through his unique style of writing. To allow the reader to experience his message in a holistic manner Zephaniah has chosen to write with his Jamaican accentuation being visually (and acoustically) in full focus throughout the poem. The poem is about being able to create literary art without any restrictions in order for it to be an authentic representation of the author. You can read the full poem here.
Dis Poetry Analysis
Dis poetry is like a riddim dat drops
De tongue fires a riddim dat shoots like shots
Dis poetry is designed fe rantin
Dis poetry goes wid me as I pedal me bike
I’ve tried Shakespeare, respect due dere
But did is de stuff I like.
The first stanza of this poem consists of fifteen lines that focus on defining what this poem means to the author. The spelling used throughout the poem is intended to help the reader connect to the Jamaican tone this poem is meant to be read with. Line one introduces not only Zephaniah’s style of speaking but also his culture. Rhythm is important in all oral presentations of poetry and especially in written poems as it builds the character of the poem for the reader to experience. Line one mentions that this poem is like a rhythm, this is significant as the reader is being told that there is soul, passion, and movement in this poem and one should be ready to experience it. The second line expresses the fierceness of the message as Zephaniah mentions that the tongue “fires” a rhythm as is it were gunshots: loud, impactful, and powerful. He continues to explain in lines three and four that this specific poem was “designed” for communicating the enraging frustrations that he possesses in almost a musical approach with nothing holding him back. Line five is important because Zephaniah is expressing that he does not write to mold the minds or opinions of his readers, he does not intend for his spoken or written poetry to put people to “sleep”.
Lines six and seven further explain his claim by stating that he does not expect people to follow him like “blind sheep” because his message is not about brainwashing, it is about empowering a person to experience their life by being present, alert, and mindful of their words and actions.
Lines eight and nine clarify that Zephaniah is not trying to raise political questions or ask people to be critical about political or even personal views; it is a poem about recognizing oneself and accepting oneself.
Lines ten through thirteen describe the poem being a part of the author and his identity this is extremely relevant for the reason that Zephaniah is a poet so words, rhythms, and verses are always on his mind. The lines also imply that this poem heavily portrays his identity so it is always with him wherever he is. Line thirteen specifically illustrates that no matter where he goes in life, as he moves forward it will always be a part of him as it displays his sincere drive to encourage individuals including himself to embrace their own personal rhythm.
The last two lines of the stanza truly deliver Zephaniah’s vision for this poem and its message. He mentions that he has “tried” Shakespeare and he respects him for his work that has become an essential part of education for language arts; however, he prefers his own writing as it has no boundaries and allows him to be himself freely. These concluding lines depict Zephaniah’s personality of appreciating well constructed and formally written out work but still preferring a style of poetry that will allow him to embrace and represent who he is as an individual with his own culture and identity in relation to that culture. He is making clear that formal writing is an art form but not one that allows the writer the independence to create a piece that is distinctively an authentic representation of the author. Just as the identity of an individual is beyond restrictions their poetry should be allowed the same requirements.
Dis poetry is not afraid of going ina book
Still dis poetry need ears fe hear an eyes fe hav a look
Dis poetry is Verbal Riddim, no big words involved(
Dis poetry’s from inside me
It goes to yu
The second stanza is made up of thirty-seven lines and is the final stanza of the poem. Lines sixteen through nineteen express Zephaniah’s idea that poetry is beyond an official art form with guidelines. He believes that whatever way the poem is written it should not shy away from being printed especially if it is written to be more powerful as a spoken word. This poem is not conventional but that does not mean that it is not powerful or without a strong message. Every author should have the permission to express their visions in whatever way they seem fit; for Zephaniah, this means that this poem should be accepted at face value as “verbal riddim”. Line twenty goes on to explain why; it is because he feels that trying to be something he is not as a poet (such as a romantic) would only ruin his work because it would not be authentic, nor would it give him any form of freedom. Line twenty one continues to communicate to the reader that Zephaniah took something that he felt he comfortably identified with (Reggae Rhythm) and constructed a poem that would allow the reader to experience a small piece of his existence as a poet and a person in general.
Lines twenty-two and twenty-three are clarifying to the reader why he chose to display this specific part of his identity; it is because he felt that writing a more emotional piece would not standout to his audience and he wanted to present something that would be new for his intended audience.
Lines twenty-four and twenty-five convey the message that Zephaniah thought that the idea of creating a very personal poem did not appeal to him since he feels that it would just get lost in a sea of words and poems that came before him. Line twenty-six relates his poem to Dub Ranting ( a kind of oral presentation of poetic works) telling the reader that there is more to this poem than the way it has been written, so much more could be experienced if it was also heard the way Zephaniah had intended.
Lines twenty-eight and twenty-nine communicate that this poem is something that needs to be experienced by your entire body as you get trapped in its rhythm. Zephaniah also mentions in the next five lines that you don’t have to be wise or foolish old or young to enjoy this poem, in fact, this poem is for anyone and everyone who enjoys being themselves.
Lines thirty-three and thirty-four warn the reader or listener not to read too much into the poem because he is simply creating it for enjoyment and entertainment.
Lines thirty-five through forty one convey Zephaniah’s strong energy as he illustrates himself chanting day and night through every circumstance that life throws his way because that is how he celebrates himself and his identity.
Lines forty-two through forty-five disclose that he has found himself most educated about himself and that is what everyone really should know more than anything else.
Finally, the last few lines of the poem conclude the poem on a note of love as Zephaniah proclaims that this poem is such a big part of him and he is putting it out in the world with nothing but “luv”.