Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze was a popular Jamaican Dub poet and storyteller whose performances were so powerful she was called a ‘one-woman festival’. Her poems are Caribbean songs of innocence and experience, of love and conflict. They use personal stories and historical narratives to explore social injustice and the psychological dimensions of black women’s experience. Striking evocations of childhood in the hills of Jamaica give way to explorations of the perils and delights of growth and change – through sex, emigration, motherhood and age.
Introduced by renowned critic Colin MacCabe, the book brings together new poems with poetry and reggae chants from four previous collections: Riddym Ravings, Spring Cleaning, On the Edge of an Island and The Arrival of Brighteye. Many of the poems were included in two performances by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce at Leicester’s Y Theatre available by scanning QR codes printed in the book, along with an interview with Jane Dowson.
‘Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze… emerged in the 1980s as the first female dub poet, fusing reggae rhythms and music with the spoken word… Through the use of a variety of women’s voices and contexts, Breeze’s work challenged the usual stances of the dub and performance poetry tradition. Whether on stage, record or page, she spoke for – and to – black female experience, encompassing a wide range of subjects, styles and tonalities.’ – Lyn Innes, The Guardian, paying tribute to Jean 'Binta' Breeze.
'Jean 'Binta' Breeze... was a poet who first came to prominence among Jamaica’s dub poets, but whose work quickly distinguished itself from its origins to gain a subtlety and versatility of its own. Dub poetry... was already capable of delivering powerful political messages. Breeze adopted this eagerly, but brought to it a more intimate voice that enabled her to advance feminism as well as openness about mental illness and sex...Her range included not only the polemical and the personal, but also more extended narratives and memoirs.' - The Telegraph, tribute to Jean 'Binta' Breeze
‘She stood out for the passion of her performances, the raw honesty of her personal stories and her use of Jamaica’s lyrical vernacular.’ – Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times, tribute to Jean 'Binta' Breeze
‘A major, perhaps even a great voice. For stature, Jean “Binta” Breeze invites a Caribbean comparison with Maya Angelou, except that her range is broader still. Her poetry shifts effortlessly through standard English to a native Jamaican which has no equal in its emotional depth’ – Alexander Linklater, The Herald.
‘Breeze sings of sisterhood and the private spirituality that keeps the head above water even when prejudice, and laundry, threaten to drag it down. Her work, and that of a great many other black women writers, affirms life in a way that the rest of the world might do well to emulate’ – Tania Glyde, Independent
‘I absolutely love Jean… the way she brings poems alive, the way she performs… She tackles the difficult, the forbidden, the taboo, the domestic ordinariness… and she is also able to really capture in a humorous and light way the heavy histories of our community, from slavery to post-colonial histories.’ – Malika Booker, introducing Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please
Jean 'Binta' Breeze live at the Y
Third World Girl includes includes QR codes to view two live performances by Jean 'Binta' Breeze and an interview filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce at the Y Theatre, Leicester, in 2010. In this extract from the March event, Jean reads three poems: 'simple things', 'ordinary mawning' and 'Aid Travels with a Bomb'. With thanks to Lydia Towsey of the Lyric Lounge for organising the readings at the Y. These were originally released on a DVD which came with the book.
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