The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Jamaican poet Jean “Binta” Breeze received an honorary Doctor of Letters from England’s University of Leicester at a ceremony last Thursday, January 19, 2017. As the University of Leicester writes, “She was appointed an honorary Creative Writing Fellow in 2011 and has appeared at events the University regularly. She is the author of eight books of poems and stories and has been described as a ‘one-woman festival’. Born in Jamaica, she now lives in County Durham.” Here are excerpts from The Gleaner:
In her acceptance speech for a Doctorate of Letters (D Litt) from the University of Leicester last Thursday, poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze connected the ceremony with a long history of performance. “I just had to say it has been a lifetime of entering and exiting stages, but entering this stage in the robes and the hat was overwhelming,” Breeze told The Gleaner.
The woman whose books include Third World Girl (2011), Song Lines (1997) and Riddym Ravings and Other Poems (1988), with the 1987 Riddym Ravings an early album, was accompanied at the ceremony by her son Gareth (a standout cricketer) and daughter Caribe.
She described Leicester in England’s East Midlands as somewhere which “became my second home, after Sandy Bay (in Hanover, Jamaica)”.
Words brought Breeze to Leicester. “I had just got a fellowship to write my first novel. [. . .] I wanted somewhere quiet to go and one of my friends said come to Leicester,” she said, [. . .] “and I stayed and did another three or four books.”
Breeze described Leicester as “49 per cent white and 51 per cent ethnic minorities. It is really mixed.”
The University of Leicester’s website says Breeze “… was appointed an honorary Creative Writing Fellow in 2011 and has appeared at events the University regularly.” Breeze, who previously received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), said in Leicester “I was very much a part of the community.” [. . .]