Imagine… Lemn Sissay: My Memory: The Magnetic Poet's Journey Into the Anonymous Past Close and Urgent


Lem Sisse is a national treasure. Let’s take a look at the evidence: The Poet’s Memory, Why My Name is, is one of the best books of the past year. He was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, and I remember the last time any of us were happy. His 2015 Desert Island Disc runs a gamut of human emotions and should be performed at least once a year. Now, as more proof is needed, Sisse is one of the BBC's Imagine ... documentaries in which Alan Entob meets everyone from Tony Morrison to Tracy Emin and they joke about their artistic lives.


This time, not much can be said about Sis' artistic life, but how art has saved his life. What a wonderful life he had to rise above the careless cruelty of becoming the champion of the healing power of creativity.

He tells his story with Entob‌: born in the early sixties to an unmarried Ethiopian girl, named Norman Greenwood and given to white foster parents. When he was 12, they decided not to be Sis - eating biscuits was something he did to annoy them - and he spent five years in the homes of four different children who were confused by his shocking rejection.

When he left the care system at the age of 15, he was given a birth certificate and realized that his name was actually Leonsis. Thus began an almost archaeological search for the truth of who he really was.


In this moving documentary (BBC Studio / John O'Rourke) Cisse searches for his past
Imagine… Lemn Sissay: My Memory: The Magnetic Poet's Journey Into the Anonymous Past Close and Urgent


Part of it came through self-expression: Cisse became a poet after selling his first collection before moving to Manchester for the magnificent minors in the 1980s. His words now adorn the walls of buildings. Footage electricity he exhibits in the city in the eighties; In his twenties, despite the AIDS crisis, he speaks of racism as a real virus with lightning speed - reflecting a sentiment this year.

Part of his search is still ongoing: until 2015, Wigan County had access to his social service files from the council, and the typewriter pages are featured here in snatches of his poetry. Cissసే returns to the places where he grew up and talks to many who have appeared in his memories.

For Sisse, who has no traditional records of her childhood - showing old neighbor video footage, it is very close to watching a few moments when she sees herself face to face as a baby. Or when returning home to encourage parents. A tweed plaque on the wall now reads "Wherever we are it is home."

At the age of 20, he reads poetry with the same necessity that eyes see you. His face catches on as if rediscovering the muscular memory he had originally intended to write them.

The silent image of Yentob sometimes transcends Sisse's consciousness. It's contagious: anyone who casts their eyes upon it, wants a go.

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