Jean Burden Poetry Reading

Black and gold graphic bar
 Mar. 14, 2005

Margie Yu
Public Affairs Specialist 
(323) 343-3047



Cal State L.A. 
Office of Public Affairs 
(323) 343-3050 
Fax: (323) 343-6405

For immediate release:
World’s First Reggae Poet
to Read at Cal State L.A.’s
Poetry Series on Thursday, April 21

Los Angeles, CA -- The English Department and the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State L.A. present the 20th Annual Jean Burden Poetry Reading featuring the world’s first reggae poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, on Thursday, April 21, 7 p.m., at Cal State L.A.’s Golden Eagle Ballroom. The reading and reception are free and open to the public, in keeping with the mission of the Jean Burden series. CDs and DVDs will be available for sale and signing.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is internationally known as a reggae performing artist and the founder of “dub” poetry—performance poetry that uses reggae rythms. Johnson was born in 1952 in Chapelton, a small town in the rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He moved to London in 1963, and studied Sociology at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. While still at school he joined the Black Panthers, helping to organize a poetry workshop within the movement and developed his work with Rasta Love, a group of poets and drummers. In 1977, he was awarded a C. Day Lewis Fellowship, becoming the writer-in-residence for the London Borough of Lambeth for that year. He went on to work as the library resources and education officer at the Keskidee Centre, the first home of Black theatre and art.

In 1974, the journal Race Today published Johnson’s first collection of poetry, Voices of the Living and the Dead. Dread Beat An’ Blood, his second collection, was published in 1975 by Bogle-L’Ouverture and was also the title of his first LP, released by Virgin in 1978. That year also saw the release of the film, Dread Beat An’ Blood, a documentary on Johnson’s work. In 1980, Race Today published his third book, Inglan Is A Bitch. Four more albums were produced on the Island label: Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980), LKJ in Dub (1981) and Making History (1983).

LKJ, Johnson’s own record label, was launched in 1981 with two singles by the Jamaican poet Michael Smith, Mi Cyaan Believe It and Roots. During the 1980s, he became immersed in journalism, working closely with the Brixton-based Race Today collective. His ten-part radio series on Jamaican popular music, From Mento to Lovers Rock, aired on BBC Radio 1 in 1982 and was repeated in 1983. He has been a television reporter, has toured regularly with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band, and has produced albums by the writer Jean Binta Breeze and by jazz trumpeter Shake Keane.

Recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the album LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub Band was released independently in 1985 and was nominated for a Grammy Award soon after. This was followed by Tings An’ Times in 1991, also the title of his selected poems co-published by Bloodaxe Books and LKJ Music Publishers the same year. In 1992, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell collaborated to produce LKJ in Dub: Volume Two. In 1996, the album LKJ Presents was released, a compilation of various artists including Linton Kwesi Johnson. This was followed in the same year by LKJ A Cappella Live, a collection of 14 poems including some unpublished works. In 1998, Johnson released More Time to celebrate his twentieth anniversary in the recording business. Island also released a two-CD compilation set entitled Independant Intavenshan.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is an Associate Fellow of Warwick University (1985) and an Honorary Fellow of Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1987). He was honored at the XIII Premo Internazionale Ultimo Novecento from the city of Pisa for his contribution to poetry and popular music (1990). In 1998, he was awarded the Premio Piero Ciampi Citta di Livorno Concorso Musicale Nazionale in Italy. He has toured the world from Japan to the new South Africa, from Europe to Brazil. His recordings are among the top-selling reggae albums in the world and his work of poetry has been translated into Italian and German.

Jean Burden Annual Poetry Series
The annual poetry readings were established at Cal State L.A. in 1986 to honor Altadenan Jean Burden for her influence as a poet, essayist, anthologist, teacher and editor, and for her long-standing support of poetry on the Cal State L.A. campus. In addition to poetry, Burden has published a book of essays, Journey Toward Poetry, and articles and books on topics ranging from animal welfare to Oriental religion. Burden was also poetry editor of Yankee magazine for more than 40 years. Last year’s Virginia E. Smith bequest of over $660,000 expands the Jean Burden Annual Poetry Series and increases access to living poets and their works by students, faculty and staff in the Los Angeles area communities. This year’s poet appearance was supported in part by The British Council.

This increasingly popular event features an annual reading by a major or emerging poet. Noted poets, Pulitzer Prize winners and U.S. Poets Laureate have been guest readers since the inception of this series at Cal State L.A., including Anthony Hecht, Maxine Kumin, Mary Oliver, Tess Gallagher, Lucille Clifton, Galway Kinnell, Carolyn Kizer, Howard Nemerov, Richard Wilbur, Linda Pastan, and Mark Strand.

The University is located at the Eastern Avenue exit, San Bernardino Freeway, at the interchange of the 10 and 710 Freeways. Public (permit dispensers) parking is available on the top level of Parking Structure II, at the north end of campus. Cost is $.50 per hour for parking. For more information on the poetry reading, call Lauri Ramey, Cal State L.A. English Department, at (323) 343-4165.

Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 170,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds--reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Among programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include a noted alternative energy technology initiative; an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, to be housed in the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab now under construction.

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