From The Team
Bessie Smith, By Jackie Kay
Absolute Press, 1997
“This outline of Bessie, her raucous on-the-road relationships, professionalism and death and how it all influenced Jackie’s character and work, weaves Bessie’s songs explicitly with Jackie’s poems, and Bessie’s lesbian life implicitly with Jackie’s. A passionate, personal, imaginative insight in to Bessie’s art.” Ruth Padel, Daily Mail
Such a stunning biographical treatment. Lesbian poet/writer Jackie Kay discovered Smith when she was just a girl in Scotland. Yet, the impression the legendary blues singer made on the poet would continue to resonate when she became a woman.
Kay gives us a glimpse of her life as she and her childhood friend listened and mused over Bessie and her music. For Kay, growing up in a primarily white geography; Bessie represented a vital connection to Kay’s identity as a Black woman. Interspersed throughout the text is Kay’s beautiful and evocative poetry, as she excavates the sexual and racial geography of the segregated south – in this intuitively researched exploration of a blueswoman’s life.