A Visit From Jacob Sam la Rose

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

A Visit From Jacob Sam la Rose

The morning started in a way people did not expect… well half of us anyway (including me), with around ten of us sitting in our usual classroom, vaguely aware of Sam la Rose’s visit but unsure when and where it exactly was supposed to occur.

“If we had read the student briefing we would have been well informed,” we were told as we were gratefully guided to the room to see Sam La Rose casually sitting on a corner of the table with a kind smile and his hands clasped together on his lap. The situation distinctly reminded me of a lecturer at a university greeting his group.

We were late and a little embarrassed but he welcomed us into the classroom and we quietly sat in our seats waiting with slight curiosity on how this visit will differ from before. The first task we were given was to come up with a list of poems that we thought needed more insight on. Almost instantly the class began flicking through their notes, pages turning in a silent room like the mechanics of a machine or perhaps this was a replication of the inner workings of the mind.

I put my hand up, slightly nervous, but as more and more people added to the list when he got to me I decided upon “Make Some Noise.” He nodded and wrote it down calmly and then looked around the class seemingly content with our choices and almost a little pleased. Some of the poems included were “Plummeting”- a poem about basketball using the structure of Terence Hayes’ Hip Logic. “Magnitude”- a poem about slavery and how it still affects people today, “Here Spirits”- a poem about loss and how there is still comfort to be found and lastly all of “Speechless” “Basically all of it then,” Sam la Rose, jokingly teased but wrote it down all the same.

He helped find other links across poems too aware of where our skills and knowledge were lacking.

Throughout the workshop his enthusiasm and knowledge was something to be admired however he constantly apologised about being a “poetry geek”, but I and I think many others were eager to learn as much as possible before our exams.  He continued to discuss and ask us questions on how we interpreted his collection and he acknowledged them with interest as some of these replies were not what he instinctively thought when he wrote them. Poems such as “Turning Darker Still” and “Magnitude” were based upon the experience of slavery and racist attitudes. He mentioned the difficulties of home life and school life but also suggested that it wasn’t just about race but the “ink blot” could be anyone who felt a little different or an outcast- he was writing about, in some sense, everyone.

When it was time for Sam la Rose to go, I of course corned him about the song and left to give my EPQ to my supervisor, when Mrs Newell suggested I show my work to him. I handed it over hesitantly, consciously aware of a few mistakes I picked up on after I finished it. He looked at my book and carefully flicked through a few pages, picking up on the haikus at the top of the chapters. He handed it back and simply said, “You may see this as a throw away comment, but you have a bright future ahead of you… I expect to see your name in the future.” I took it back with a heavy mixture of pride and embarrassment that most people feel when sharing a project and mumbled a thank you.

Now, whilst this may not be true, these words are going to be one of the things that will encourage to keep writing and trying. For someone I barely knew to take interest in my work- I was happy. And to think, I could have been sitting in an empty room, unaware of this moment for an hour. I think from now on I will read the student briefing as soon as it’s in my inbox.

Louise Howard Year 13