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Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson

(Jamaica, 1952)

“W’en wi can’t face reality 
Wi leggo wi clarity 
Some latch aan to vanity 
Some hol’ insanity 
Some get vision 
Start preach relijan” 
- from: Reality 


Linton Kwesi Johnson or LKJ is a Jamaican-born and British-based poet and activist. 

He started combining poetry and activism early on in his career when he joined the Black Panther movement in 1970 and started organizing poetry workshops for members of the movement. In a 2018 interview Johnson describes his motivation to start writing poetry as a way of expressing his anger about racial oppression as well as his passion for the struggle against it: “Poetry was a cultural weapon in the black liberation struggle”. 

His first work appeared in the magazine Race Today, which also published his first collection of poetry Voices of the Living and the Dead (1974). LKJ’s fifth publication Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems (2002) made him one of only three living poets to be published by Penguin Modern Classics. Besides English, he regularly uses Patois in his poetry. 

As a pioneer of dub poetry, Johnson merges poetry and dub music (a subgenre of reggae) into powerful and rhythmic performances. He has recorded and immortalized his musical performances in sixteen records, many of which were released by his own label LKJ Records. In the poetry collection and record Dread Beat an’ Blood (1975/1978) he describes brutal police attacks on London’s black youth. However, he does not stop at mere description, but points to the possibility of insurrection and social change. 

The Jamaican government has recognized LKJ’s extraordinary achievement in poetry and popular music by conferring onto him the Order of Distinction. Furthermore, he has been awarded countless honorary titles by universities and institutions in the UK, Jamaica and South Africa. For his Lifetime’s Achievement in Writing, he has been decorated with the Golden PEN by the English branch of PEN. 


Voices of the Living and the Dead (London: Race Today, 1974) 
Dread Beat An' Blood (London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1975) 
Inglan Is A Bitch (London: Race Today, 1980) 
Tings An' Times (Newcastle upon Tyne and London: Bloodaxe Books and LKJ Music, 1991) 
Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2002) 
Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 2006) 
Mi Revalueshanary Fren (US edition) (Keene, NY: Ausable Press, 2006) 
Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 2022) – republished with a new introduction 
Time Come: Selected Prose (London: Picador, 2023) 


Dread Beat An Blood (Virgin, 1978) 
Forces of Victory (Island, 1979) 
Bass Culture (Island, 1980) 
LKJ in Dub (Island, 1981) 
Making History (Island, 1983) 
LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub Band (LKJ Records, 1985) 
Tings An' Times (LKJ Records, 1991) 
LKJ in Dub: Volume Two (LKJ Records, 1992) 
LKJ Presents (LKJ Records, 1996) 
LKJ A Cappella Live (LKJ Records, 1996) 
More Time (LKJ Records, 1998) 
Independant Intavenshan (Island, 1998) 
LKJ in Dub Volume 3 (LKJ Records, 2002) 
Straight To Inglan’s Head: An Introduction to Linton Kwesi Johnson (Island, 2003) 
LKJ Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band (LKJ Records, 2004) – CD and DVD 
Reality Poems - The Best Of Linton Kwesi Johnson (Spectrum Records, 2014)    


Associate Fellow of Warwick University (1985); 
Honorary Fellow of Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1987); 
Award at the XIII Premo Internazionale Ultimo Novecento from the city of Pisa for his contribution to poetry and popular music (1990); 
Premio Piero Ciampi Citta di Livorno Concorso Musicale Nazionale in Italy (1998); 
Honorary Fellowship from his alma mater, Goldsmiths College, University of London (2003); 
Honorary Visiting Professor of Middlesex University in London (2004); 
Silver Musgrave Medal, Institute of Jamaica for ‘eminence in the field of poetry’ (2006); 
Golden PEN award from English PEN for a Lifetime’s Achievement in Writing (2013); 
Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (2013); 
Jamaican government’s Order of Distinction (Commander Class) for achievements in poetry and popular music (2014); 
Artist-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs (2014); 
Honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Rhodes University in South Africa (2017); 
His first UK Honorary Doctor of Letters from the Solent University, Southampton (2018); 
Cholmondeley Award for Poetry from the Society of Authors (2018); 
PEN Pinter Prize from English PEN (2020); 
Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of the West Indies (Mona Campus, Jamaica) (2021). 

Poems of Linton Kwesi Johnson
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère