Take my salve
Dressed in black, Larry Jamerson drifts into the RN&R office. His look recalls that of gypsies, between the long, baggy pants and the layered shirts that flow like the many heavy fabrics of a gypsy’s skirt. His head and eyes are covered by beanie and sunglasses. A red, yellow and black bag with an image of Bob Marley on the front hangs around his shoulder.
From the bag, self-proclaimed “People’s Poet” Jamerson removes a dog-eared folder filled with similarly blighted papers that contain his poems. They have titles like “God’s Justice is Brewing” and “Being Real is Being Tough.” The poem “Don’t Be a Slave” starts out: “You put yourself in slavery/With your high price car/You are living above your means/But you look like a star/Looks are deceiving/You are living under stress/Your mind is tense/It is in a mess.” It’s anybody’s guess what else is in Jamerson’s sack.
“I started writing in 1975 when I was boxing,” Jamerson says. “People were telling me my poetry was like James Baldwin. The year I published my first poem was the year he died. He was considered a prophet poet. He was born Aug. 2, 1924, and I was born Aug. 2, 1955. I realized he was supposed to be my role model.”
Jamerson writes today when he feels inspired. However, in the past, he’d only write when in trouble, which generally meant street hustling. While in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being another person’s hand, Jamerson began to write more prolifically, particularly about the practices of the criminal justice system.
“I wrote the poetry book Road to Freedom from 1990 to 1993,” Jamerson says. “The legal system is full of corruption, full of prejudice—rigging juries, etcetera. You’ve got all these people in jail illegally. … They say when dictators take over countries, they lock up all the poets. That’s what happened to me.”
Jamerson plans to release the poetry book Slavery next month. His most recent accomplishment is the single CD “Spiritual War 2003.” The song was originally a poem, which Jamerson turned into a digitally manipulated reggae tune with the help of Tracy Moore and Valerian Rugalabamu. It begins with the typical hollow reggae drum beat, followed by electronic instruments. About 30 seconds in, Jamerson’s heady and clear voice reads over the music: “There is a war that is no longer brewing/It’s time to perform, it’s time for doing/A Spiritual War, start practicing and stop preaching/Be a role model, let your actions do your teaching.”
Jamerson, Moore and Rugalabamu plan to release the full-length poetry/music CD Spiritual War 2004 in July.
“Religions don’t promote spirituality, but a lot of negativity and petty differences through division,” Jamerson says. “'Spiritual War’ gets around all the petty differences we have with one another. It asks: Do you treat other people how you want to be treated? Do you have high moral standards? Is your word your bond? You must become spiritual.”
The fairly self-righteous Jamerson is concerned about the darkness he sees in Reno and across the United States. He hopes to open people’s eyes to their negative selves and set them on spiritual paths through his poetry.
“We’re self-destructing as a nation, and if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re in serious trouble from negativity," he says. "This is about healing people. I come with my poetry in Reno to help people because I’m already saved. I am healed, and I take my salve and put it on people’s wounds."