Publisher: Bloodaxe Books
Benjamin Zephaniah is an oral poet, novelist, playwright, children's writer and reggae artist. Born in 1958 in Birmingham, he grew up in Jamaica and in Handsworth, where he was sent to an approved school for being uncontrollable, rebellious and 'a born failure', ending up in jail for burglary. After prison he turned from crime to music and poetry. In 1989 he was nominated for Oxford Professor of Poetry, and has since received honorary doctorates from several English universities, but famously refused to accept a nomination for an OBE in 2003. He has appeared in a number of television programmes, including Eastenders, The Bill, Live and Kicking, Blue Peter and Wise Up, and played Gower in a BBC Radio 3 production of Shakespeare's Pericles in 2005. Best known for his performance poetry with a political edge for adults -- and his poetry with attitude for children -- he has his own rap/reggae band. He was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley, in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela, which Mandela heard while in prison on Robben Island. Their later meetings led to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President's Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.