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Saturday, 13 June 2009

A Poet Called Benjamin Zephaniah

The British
by Benjamin Zephaniah

Take some Picts, Celts and Silures
And let them settle,
Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.

Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years
Add lots of Norman French to some
Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.

Mix some hot Chileans, cool Jamaicans, Dominicans,
Trinidadians and Bajans with some Ethiopians, Chinese,
Vietnamese and Sudanese.

Then take a blend of Somalians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians
And Pakistanis,
Combine with some Guyanese
And turn up the heat.

Sprinkle some fresh Indians, Malaysians, Bosnians,
Iraqis and Bangladeshis together with some
Afghans, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Japanese
And Palestinians
Then add to the melting pot.

Leave the ingredients to simmer.

As they mix and blend allow their languages to flourish
Binding them together with English.

Allow time to be cool.

Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future,
Serve with justice
And enjoy.

Note: All the ingredients are equally important.
Treating one ingredient better than another will leave a bitter unpleasant taste.

Warning: An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain.
Give justice and equality to all.

About Benjamin Zephaniah
(See website)

Activist. Vegan. Poet. Writer. And More! One of my first influences of poetry and the power of words in the UK came from him and he is among one of the well-known UK creatives in Black British culture. Here are a few clips of a long inner-view...

... See all parts of the interview

"Birmingham's dreadlocked bard Benjamin Zephaniah is blessed with a verbal musicality inspired by his Caribbean heritage. His work addresses global issues such as racism, animal cruelty and the need for greater social justice, shot through with a rich humour, drawing on rap and dub rhythms, that make his poetry accessible to children and perennially popular in schools.

Born in Birmingham in 1958, Zephaniah divided his early years between the district of Handsworth and the tropics of Jamaica. He left school aged 13 unable to read or write, but within two years his lyrical commentaries won him a strong following and, in 1979, he moved to London. His first collection Pen Rhythm was published in 1980 by a small co-operative publisher. He attracted wider public interest through performances at political gatherings and his many television appearances throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Zephaniah has branched out in to other literary forms, including plays and novels such as Refugee Boy (2001). He was the first to perform with The Wailers following Bob Marley's death, and at Nelson Mandela's request, Zephaniah hosted the President's Two Nations concert at the Royal Albert Hall in July 1996.

In 2003 Zephaniah famously refused an OBE for his contribution to literature with the words "OBE me? Up yours", at the time telling to The Guardian (read article) that he feels "profoundly anti-empire".

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