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Afro-Caribbean Poetry in English

Cultural Traditions (1970s–2000s)


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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It is clear that in 2015, over 20 years after Derek Walcott received the Nobel Prize for Literature and over a decade after V. S. Naipaul followed in receiving the same accolade, the observation of Montserratian E. A. Markham that Caribbean authors “no longer have to put the old case that the[ir] work is invisibilised” (2001:13) seems even more justified than in 1989 when it was originally made. Nowadays, Anglophone West Indian writing is an integral part of both GCSE curriculum and the UK’s literary mainstream. Undoubtedly, as attested by the emergence of many Caribbean-British publishing houses, such as New Beacon Books (London), Bogle L’Overture (London), Hansib Publications (Hertford) and Peepal Tree Press (Leeds), long gone are the days of “the dogged lack of opportunity for black poets among the white publishing houses in Britain” (Hampson 1995:54).

Analogously, literary periodicals, such as Wasafiri or Sable, have paved the way for the development of modern British writing, further researched and disseminated thanks to the academic efforts of among others, scholars from The University of Warwick’s Centre for Caribbean Studies. Alongside scholarly volumes such as Cambridge Studies in African and Caribbean Literature, Anglophone Caribbean, African, Black and diasporic poems of often anti-establishment and/or non-metropolitan, experience were anthologised, including Michael Horowitz’s Children of Albion (1969), Andrew Salkey’s Breaklight (1971), and James Berry’s News for Babylon (1984). Although there was, in Stuart Hall’s words, “already a significant black presence in Britain before the war – seafarers, travellers, entertainers,...

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