MEL Cooke is a great storyteller. The writer, poet and journalist possesses that ability to weave engaging stories, borne from personal experiences, with universal appeal to which his audience can relate. Like Cooke states in describing his work, "it addresses current events and records them in the oral format and attempts to make some sense of where we are and where we're going as a society".
He used Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Poetry Society of Jamaica at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in St Andrew to launch his CD, Mel Cooke seh Sup'm: Live From Kingston -- a reading recorded at the Village Blues Bar in St Andrew in 2010.
According to Cooke: "the intention is to document and analyse the contemporary Jamaican experience and history. It is an approach which I think is now lacking in the our songwriting and poetry... I also wish that it helps stimulate an appetite for more -- there are many other persons who can do projects of this nature and should."
The 25-track CD takes on a wide range of topics which Cooke sets up with great anecdotes.
His themes cover politics -- both national and partisan -- and their effects on the people, relationships between man and woman, homosexuality, and personal stories which offer a window into the man behind the writings.
Cooke spiced his presentation on Tuesday by mixing the work on the CD with some of his other writings. This helped to showcase the breadth of his interests and influences, from Mutabaruka and Professor Mervyn Morris to Mavado and Lady Saw.
His uses Mavado's House Cleaning to set up his own take, wherein he proudly speaks to doing domestic chores as foreplay.
"It takes the ordinary household chore and turns it into an act of constructing a relationship between two people, it has sexual innuendo and humour and it is a serious look at the stereotypical gender roles," he explains.
Lady Saw's If Him Lef' is the jumping point for Cooke's Tight Eeh, while a work by Professor Morris describing the death of a schoolmate is used to couch his work of a similar theme.
Entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, Cooke really does 'seh sup'm' with his writings, it therefore makes for a good listen.