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Jean Binta Breeze

b. 1956


wen yuh see she walk//holdin freedom water//balance pon she head - 'caribbean woman', Jean 'Binta' Breeze

Could it be

Jean Binta Breeze

earth cries

Jean Binta Breeze

Upstream

Jean Binta Breeze

The arrival of Brighteye - an extract

Jean Binta Breeze

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About Jean Binta Breeze

Jean 'Binta' Breeze (b. 1956) was brought up by her grandparents who were peasant farmers in rural Jamaica. She studied at the Jamaican School of Drama before travelling to Britain when she was thirty with the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, a leading light in the emerging 'dub' poetry scene. Dub's fusion of reggae rhythms and the spoken word, combined with political subject matter, had found a responsive audience in the radicalised black community of Britain in the 70s and early 80s and Breeze is recognised as the first woman performer in this traditionally male-dominated field. She has published four books of poetry, made several recordings of her work and written for stage and screen.

In her poem 'The Garden Path' Breeze writes: "I want to make words/music/move beyond language/into sound". Breeze achieves this ambition, utilising powerful rhythms and refrains and singing or chanting many of the poems until they become a kind of alternative liturgy, as in her poem 'Planted by the waters' written for Maya Angelou's 70th birthday. Elsewhere she effortlessly inhabits the patois speech of an earlier generation like the granny in 'The arrival of Brighteye'. Breeze's work has a strong political dimension but it resists limitations, ranging over a wide variety of subject matter from childhood memories of Kingston to contemporary life in inner-city London. Breeze prefers to explore social injustice obliquely, using personal stories and historical narratives to concentrate on the psychological dimensions of black women's experience, exemplified by the deeply moving 'Arrival of Brighteye' which records a life lost between two alternative homes. Freedom is an important theme, artistic and physical as well as political. However, Breeze's poems are also full of delight in the world, as in her deliciously sensual description of longing in 'Could it be'.

One of these pleasures is the human voice and although Breeze writes beautifully for the page, it is in performance that its full power can be experienced, as expressed in her joyful image of Stevie Wonder in 'Upstream': "I heard a laughing river . . ./saw your head thrown back in song".

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 21 September 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

Carribean Poetry Project

This pioneering collaboration between the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the West Indies aims to help teachers develop their...

http://caribbeanpoetry.educ.cam.ac.uk/

Prizes

Selected bibliography

The Fifth Figure: A Poet's Tale, Bloodaxe Books, 2006

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Jean Binta Breeze Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry...

Tracks, CD, LKJ Records, 2000

The Arrival of Brighteye and Other Poems, Bloodaxe, 2000

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On the Edge of an Island, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe...

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Riding on de Riddym, Audio Cassette, 57 Productions,...

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Hearsay, Audio Cassette, London, 57 Productions, 1994

Spring Cleaning: Poems, London, Virago, 1992

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Riddym Ravings and Other Poems (with Mervyn Morris),...

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A tour of the archive with Roger Stevens's tour

I really enjoyed listening to all the poems in the Archive. It's fantastic to hear poets reading their own work. It...

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