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Afro-Caribbean Poetry in English

Cultural Traditions (1970s–2000s)

Series:

Bartosz Wójcik

This book presents the phenomenon of Afro-Caribbean poetry in English from Jamaican classic dub poetry of the 1970s to (Black) British post-dub verse of the 2000s. It showcases the literary continuum, as represented by Jamaican, Jamaican-British, and ultimately (Black) British writers – Mutabaruka, Michael Smith, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean Binta Breeze, Benjamin Zephaniah, and Patience Agbabi, respectively. The work of these authors represents a gradual shift from the emphasis on ethics to the preponderance of aesthetics that include social concerns typical of classic dub poetry.
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Chapter 2: Uprising

Extract

Chapter 2

Uprising

Linton Kwesi Johnson

“we are here to stay

inna Inglan

inna dis ya time ya”

Linton Kwesi Johnson (b.1952-)

Biography

Thematically, the poetry of Jamaican-British Linton Kwesi Johnson39, who arrived in the UK in 1963, approximates to roots reggae music, which – not unlike North American blues, also of folk song descent – has since its inception witnessed the toil and trouble of the economically and socially disenfranchised. Born “in August 1952 in Chapleton, a small town in the rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica” (Johnson 1981:iv) and raised in “a very poor [Afro-Jamaican] peasant family” (Morris 2005:84), he attended Tulse Hill Comprehensive School, Brixton, London in the 1960s. Then – “[a]bout ‘69, ‘70,” as Johnson recalls, he “began writing poetry” (86) and, inspired by W.E.B. Dubois’ The Souls of Black Folk (87), commenced the formative process of cultural discovery. Influenced by the canon of Third World literature, among others by Guyanese poet Martin Carter (Stewart 1993), and impacted by the Black Panthers, in his self-education Johnson drew on Caribbean and Afro-British resources:

there was nothing in the school curriculum [in the 1960s and early 1970s] that told you anything about yourself. You couldn’t locate yourself anywhere in the poetry or the ← 129 | 130 → fiction you read. So when I discovered New Beacon Books and John La Rose, a whole new world opened up for me (Wheatle 2009:35).

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