Benjamin Zephaniah, other poetry in England

This 2007 video says about itself:

Benjamin Zephaniah Talking Turkeys

Benjamin at Hay book festival.

By Peter Mason in Britain:

Friday, May 4, 2018

Book Review: Poetic licence to thrill

Benjamin Zephaniah‘s excellent autobiography allows him time and space to take stock of a hugely engaging life, says PETER MASON

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

(Simon & Schuster, £20)

POET, playwright, novel writer, children’s author — now we can add autobiographical skills to Benjamin Zephaniah‘s list of writing attributes.

This is a beautifully penned and highly entertaining account of an intriguing life, opening us up not just to Zephaniah‘s story but to a wide range of topics arising out of it, from death and racism to co-operativism and male infertility.

All are tackled with down-to-earth honesty and insight, not to mention an element of gentle humour and self-effacement, intermingled with a certain amount of justifiable pride at a life characterised not just by radical intent but by radical action too.

As you might expect from someone whose first love is poetry, the words are carefully wrought. Almost imperceptibly, the language changes from the childlike phrasing used to describe Zephaniah’s tough early years in Birmingham where he ran, with his mum, from a physically abusive father through to a more confident voice as he shows how he switched from the world of crime into a new and more productive world of dub poetry.

There is politics aplenty, for Zephaniah is a political man to his bones. But nothing is rammed down the reader’s throat and two of the most important touchstones of his life — veganism and rastafarianism — are mentioned almost in passing and never in any preachy kind of fashion.

On the other hand, it’s not difficult to discern where Zephaniah is coming from. Though a man of peace, he is rarely squeamish about the need to meet force with force or to take action to show the authorities that enough is enough, as he hints that he did in the context of the Brixton riots of the 1980s.

Still an angry man with a punk sensibility, identifying, he says, most easily with anarchism, he observes that, “when I see what people have to put up with from their governments, I’m surprised they don’t rise up more often.”

As with the best of autobiographies, however, the emphasis is on good storytelling and the political messages are rarely overpowering. Instead they filter through as Zephaniah tells his tales.

From his early days in Brum to the more relaxed rural existence in Lincolnshire of his later years, he has much to reflect upon and much to tell and there are a number of moving moments in this book, one especially in relation to the despair he felt after divorce.

In his introduction, Zephaniah says: “I hate autobiographies, they’re so fake.” If true, then with this one he has done something to break the mould.

This 2016 video is called The pleasure of poetic pattern – David Silverstein.

By Mike Quille in England:

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Poetry Review: Collective visions of a better world

MIKE QUILLE reports on an inspiring Teesside International Poetry Festival

Middlesbrough-born James Cook set sail 250 years ago on one of history’s iconic imperialist journeys, a voyage which extended scientific, geographical and cultural knowledge of other peoples.

It also facilitated the violent economic exploitation of the globe, the political domination of those people and massive cultural theft and appropriation by Britain’s ruling class.

Working men and women in Middlesbrough, which has the most ethnically diverse population in the north east, never benefited very much from Britain’s imperialist project. It is now one of the most economically and socially deprived places in the region.

In this environment of deindustrialisation, poverty and dispossession, the Teesside International Poetry Festival which ran in venues across Middlesbrough, showcased a phenomenal variety of examples of artistic, social and political engagement from countries around the world as well as from communities in the north east.

The sheer internationalism of the event was astounding. Poets came to read and perform their poetry from Iraq, Finland, Iceland, Nigeria, Botswana, Poland, Russia, India and elsewhere.

Lev Rubinstein

And the variety of work on offer was equally astonishing, from the Russian conceptual poetry of Lev Rubinstein (pictured), with its roots in the wonderful flowering of conceptual arts in the revolutionary Soviet Union of the 1920s, to Peter Adegbie’s and Eric Motswasale’s gloriously entertaining praise-poetry from Nigeria and Botswana, interrogating the rapacious and ongoing effects of European colonialism on language and people.

Over the course of four days the festival shaped itself into a living collage of poetics, gradually building a conversational echo chamber of voices and languages that was stimulating and energising.

Diversity was expressed and celebrated through the wide range of events, including readings, cabarets, book launches and workshops. There was the launch of a book of poems by Teesside primary schoolchildren, an Urdu-Punjabi mushaira, poetic gathering, and poetry workshops in local colleges.

What binds this eclectic and multicultural festival together is its gentle, insistent and necessarily subversive internationalism, its celebration of poetry as a tool of resistance, protest and imagining alternatives to the violent night of imperialism, chauvinism and political and cultural oppression.

It’s a suggestive but quietly powerful demonstration of poetry as a fundamentally social art, which makes common cause between communities worldwide and enables a collective imagining of a better world.

4 thoughts on “Benjamin Zephaniah, other poetry in England

  1. Pingback: Poet Benjamin Zephaniah on Windrush scandal, anarchism and more | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Antigua and Barbuda apologizes for discrimination against Rastafarians | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: English bus corporation discriminates against Rastafarian woman | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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