“Sixty-Five Roses (for Dylan Mortimer)” by Steve Scott

The spoken word artist’s latest album was partially inspired by a 1926 missionary text.

Update (4/7/2024): I’ve been notified by several folks, including Steve Scott himself, that Dylan Mortimer is still alive (he’s a cystic fibrosis survivor) and making art. I sincerely apologize for any confusion.

I was introduced to Steve Scott’s spoken word poetry when a youth group friend lent me her cassette copy of 1992’s The Butterfly Effect, which would become deeply influential and even a source of comfort during my tumultuous senior year. After a series of albums in the ’90s, including 1994’s We Dreamed That We Were Strangers and 1998’s Crossing the Boundaries, Scott took an extended hiatus before returning in 2017 with Cross My Heat.

His latest album, 2023’s The Way of the Sevenfold Secret, takes its title from a 1926 booklet written by British missionary Lilias Trotter to explain Christianity to Sufi mystics. The album’s four tracks feature Scott’s own form of mystical imagery intoned over haunting ambient soundscapes and field recordings. However, “Sixty-Five Roses (for Dylan Mortimer)” is inspired by something more personal: the death of a friend.

In his lightly accented voice, Scott speaks of a star-filled river flowing across the land, of all tangled things being loosened and all broken things remade. It’s a lovely poem, one that — despite the evenness of Scott’s voice — is filled with an emotional yearning for reunion and restoration.

The Way of the Sevenfold Secret is currently available on Harding Street Assembly Lab, which also released Cross My Heat.

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