Benjamin Zephaniah

born in Birmingham in 1958, spent some of his early years in Jamaica. He was expelled from school at the age of fourteen and described by one teacher as 'a born failure'.

He moved to London at the age of twenty two, and published his first collection of poetry, Pen Rhythms in 1981. Today, his work is both universal and distinctly focused, celebrating multiplicity and singular existence. It is political in humanitarian terms and continues to reach an ever expanding audience.

Not confining himself purely to poetry, he has also written for the theatre (Playing the Right Tune, Job Rocking), for children (Talking Turkey, Funky Chickens), and has made recordings (Free South Africa, Dub Rantings, 'Naked'). He also appears regularly on television.

Controversy was created when he was shortlisted for the positions of Artist in residence and Professor of Poetry at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge respectively. In 1988-89 he was Writer in residence for the city of Liverpool and the Africa arts collective. An artist who works on a broad spectrum, he now works in schools, universities, prisons, teacher training and youth centres. In November 2003, Benjamin wrote in The Guardian that he had turned down an OBE.

Amongst his many accolades, Zephaniah is also an honorary patron of The Vegan Society.

I am black red and dread I am a river that is red with blood