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Afro-Caribbean Poetry in English

Cultural Traditions (1970s–2000s)

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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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Jean Binta Breeze

Extract



“she had stories      that woman

she had stories to tell”

Jean Binta Breeze (b.1956-)

Biography

Jean Breeze was born Jean Lumsden “on the 11 March, 1956, in Patty Hill, in the parish of Hanover, western Jamaica” (Hoyles 2002:211) and raised in a multi-ethnic household – her “father who was black came from an upper middle-class family, whereas (…) [her] mother who was white Jamaican came from the very poor peasant family” (Brown 2006:46). As if from the cradle Breeze was exposed to the resultant social constructedness and the tacit hierarchies of Caribbean pigmentocracy: “[W]hen I started going to primary school in the sixties I was the brown-skin girl with long hair and if my pencil dropped someone would pick it up for me” (46). Equally early Breeze showed an unwavering interest in literature: by the age of 12 she “had already had poems published in the school magazine” (Jackson 2000:116).

Educated at Ruseau High School – an Anglocentric Jamaican educational institution, she was exposed to a typical English-inspired curriculum, a routine dose of classics (among others Chaucer and Wordsworth) and more contemporary literary luminaries such as T.S. Eliot, whom – because of “his music and wonderful sense of conversation” (Hoyles 2002:213) – Breeze venerates as her favourite poet. However, as Afrocentrism took hold of the independent nation’s collective consciousness Breeze became sensitised to the philosophy of the Black Power movement: as she ← 182 | 183 → recalls, “it was the...

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