4 years and i still struggle with it – Dike Omeje 1972 -2007

So, it is four years ago tomorrow and i still find it hard to believe.  I still think one day my door bell will ring and he’ll be stood at there smiling and have an explanation for it all.  But as the days go by it becomes more real – that my mate is dead and i will never ever see him again in this cruel cruel world.

I wrote the majority of this post last year but i still think its worth sharing

I met Dike (pronounced DK) in 1995 on the night of my first poetry performance.  It was a poetry slam at the Night and Day organised by commonword – it was hosted by Pete Kalu and Cathy Bolton.

Dike won the slam and i came second.  I won a £10 book token from Grassroots Books and dike won £15 token.  we spoke briefly at the end of the event and learned that it was also his first slam.

He was mesmerising, beautiful and insightful.  We didn’t exchange phone number but we met again at the Arvon foundation three months later.  I remember nervously walking in the room and seeing all these writing types sat there and thinking “shit this aint for me”  then i saw Dike, sat quietly in the corner.  I walked straight over and we hugged each other.  We were close mates from then on.

We spent the week getting to know each other – our ideas about poetry and writing and life.  We slept in the same room, as you do at Arvon, shared food thoughts and wine – got a bit pissed a few times and had a top laugh.

He drove me home on the saturday morning and we exchanged numbers.

We met regularly at his flat just off brunswick street in Chorlton on Medlock and eventually started writing together.  He’d come round to my house – he knew all my kids well and showed a warmth and kindness to them at all times.

We performed together all the time and put on events such as Word of Mouth at the Blue cat in heaton moor.  It was funny, we couldn;t organise a piss up in a brewery – we used to photocopy flyers designed by ant ball and go round handing out to dickheads in heaton moor pubs cos we wanted dick heads to come and listen to poems.

When i launched Men’s Morning in 2000 on boat in salford, Rev Porl hosted and Marvin Cheeseman performed.  mE AND dIKE did the whole of mens morning (25 mins) in towels.  Nothing else, nothing underneath – Mens morning was about men in the sauna and dike sprang it on me at the last minute – it was his idea.

It was that night i discovered that my Mam taught him at school – she told me that as a child he was like a Nigerian Prince.

We did loads together with poetry at the heart of everything – he had so much respect for words – he’d show me scribbles he’d done and get excited by other poets he’d heard – never forget how excited he was when he met Zahid Hussein, author of the Curry Mile – He loved his performance poems and he loved Zahids nature (and so do i)

I published his 2nd collection the Mindfield and we spent months discussing poems images, covers, dedications and truly solidified our friendship.

He was a busy man and involved in many poetry events, groups and organisations – especially Commonword.  He loved Pete Kalu and shirley may and lots of the identity group – he spoke so highly of them all and in a lot of ways they were his poetry family.

On friday 11th of january 2007, he phone me up and told me he’d had some tooth treatment that week and was well pissed off with the pain and wanted to know if we could meet up for a brew and a chat.  We met at Central Library and chatted for an hour mainly about my Vespa motorcycle – i’ll never forget him telling me he was going to get one.  He sat on it like an excited child, holding the handlebars and pretending to steer it.

The sunday after, me and amanda were at her house in wythenshawe – we were cleaning it up, hoping to rent it out when my phone rang – It was shirley may she said”Mike, D’s Dead”. Now i knew that loadsa people called Dike – D, but it didn’t register and also having spoke to him on friday he never came into my mind, then she said it again.  “Mike, Dike’s Dead”  When it sank in, i fell on the floor – literally, my legs couldn’t hold me up and i was flat on the floor – then shirley explained – Dike had had cancer since 1995 but never told anyone – and never had any treatment.

I knew that we shared the same doctor – thebrilliant Dr Chiu at brunswick health centre, so i went to see him or a chat.  He told me that he pleaded with Dike to have the cancer treated at christies but dike would never turn up for his appointments.  He told me that he and one of the countries best cancer specialists called to Dikes house and begged him to come to hospital but he refused.

The day before his funeral, there was an enormous storm in Manchester.  Trees were uprooted, cars toppled brick walls were blown down.  I used to walk in the woods close to my house by the side of the mersey.  One of my favourite trees in the wood, an old willow that used to hang over the mersey, tendrils dipping during high waters, had been uprooted – literally – i could see the trees roots and mounds of soil and the tree had been struck by lightening.  it was blackened and broken lying half in and out of the water – i sat and cried for two hours unable to console myself.

I walk in the woods most days now and spend a couple of minutes by this tree that grows more beautiful daily.

I read his poems to groups of teenagers on a regular basis and i perform “whose afraid of the big bad flow” when i miss hearing his voice but it sounds crap when i do it.

I miss him enormously and continue to promote his work as widely as i can.

If you get a minute today or tomorrow stick the words “Dike Omeje into a search engine, read some of his poems and lets remember how brilliant this man is.


5 thoughts on “4 years and i still struggle with it – Dike Omeje 1972 -2007

  1. Hi Mike,

    Thank you so much for this posting which I got via Kate Fox on Facebook. I too was honoured to be a friend of Dikés. He was due to come and run a master class here at Bristol which I’d organised the weekend after he died. I too was devastated, and your posting has touched my heart and made me cry, but that’s good. To remember him and how much we still love him.

    I promoted him when I can and am just so sorry that I didn’t spend more time with him when I could. We always think that people will be with us for ever.

    He was so kind to me – I booked him several times for Big Mouth here in Bristol and got to call him friend, for which I am so honoured. I love the way your mum described him as a Nigerian Prince. He was.

    One of my abiding memories of Dike was at Ashton Court Festival (I organised and hosted the poetry tent). We had about 500 drunken punters in the audience all baying for the comedians who were on next. I said to Dike – ‘They’re a bit lairy,’ and he said ‘Right,’ gave a grin, took off his waistcoat and strode onto the stage. And waited for them to settle. Almost straight away he had that audience in his hands. You could have heard a pin drop as people strived to hear his words and be included in his magic. He got an encore – which was unheard of in the whole history of Ashton Court.

    I was going through problems with my ex and he said to me ‘I’m a black man – I understand your pain’ – meaning that he knew what it was like to be marginalised, to be discriminated against (of course) – but more than that he therefore could identify with everyone else who was.

    I remember, after his funeral (and I traveled up from Bristol for this) I discovered his poem on myspace called Hope – which I think says it all. He’s at Artycoolate.

    With love

  2. Thnaks for this Mike, but damn you, dont get me crying again. Never forget our conversation after he’d died. You picked me up off the floor…

  3. Lovely words for your friend mike,i was sad to hear about Diekes death,i didnt know him that well but what i did no was that he was a great poet,saw him preform a few times with you an amanda,heaton moor an green rooms and of course your wedding xx RIP Dike xx

  4. Having fell off the poetry circuit many years ago I have only recently heard that poetry has lost one of its beloved wordsmiths. The fact that he didn’t want any fuss during his illness is a testament to his character. I will always remember him as a quiet young gentleman with an amazing talent. I remember the first time we went “Poetry Slamming” and making sure we got the posters with our names on incase it never happened again, we won more than we lost this was mainly down to the man himself. I’m not surprised he went on to achieve so much in such a short time. I was and remain blown away with the talent that is Dike.
    I threw in a near rhyme just for you XX
    Marilyn Morrison

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