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Binta Breeze Blows Through Poetry Society
July’s edition of the monthly fellowship of the Poetry Society of Jamaica, at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, was graced by actor, director, choreographer and one of dub-poetry’s innovators Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. Though she was only able to perform a short set due to ill-health, her poetry was a refreshing, energetic breeze that left the audience asking for more.
Breeze, who was recently appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, was introduced by Tommy Ricketts. In his rather circuitous introduction, Ricketts pointed out that Breeze, herself a former student of the Edna Manley College was not merely familiar with the grounds, but also one of those who helped to develop the school’s culture. Breeze attended the Drama school at the college along with Oku Onuora and Micheal ‘Mikey’ Smith. Ricketts noted that she was an excellent addition to a good year of guest poets for the society which had thus far benefited from readings from Onuora and Owen Ellis.
Reading from her latest collection of poems, Third World Girl an anthology of selected new and old poetry, Breeze read a few classic pieces, as well as some new works. She explained that she had recently suffered from two strokes which had damaged her lungs and therefore her voice would not be at its usual strength.
The audience seemed to have no complaints.
Explaining that she saw herself Breeze, as a performer first and then a published poet. “Over the years the books have come and I’ve welcomed them as documentation,” Breeze said. Breeze’s collections include Riddim Ravings and Other Poems (1988) and The Arrival of Bright Eye and Other Poems (2000). She has also had several recordings. Their documentary evidence has allowed her to have a point of reflection, and Breeze admitted to sometimes being surprised by her work. “Sometimes I say, rahtid, you did really write that?” she said with a laugh.
Breeze’s short performance included ‘Ordinary Morning’, ‘Migrants’, ‘Third World Girl’ and culminated with ‘Caribbean Woman’. As she exited the stage, the audience clamoured for an encore, but though her bright smile showed gratification, she was unable to comply.
The fellowship of the poetry society of Jamaica takes place every last Tuesday of each month in the Amphi-theatre of the Edna Manley College. July’s installment also featured displays of art by Richard Nattoo.