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Benjamin Zephaniah Biography

(1958– ), Us An Dem, Pen Rhythm, The Dread Affair, City Psalms, Inna Liverpool, Hurricane Dub

poems poetry plays poet

British poet and playwright, born in Birmingham, but brought up in Jamaica. As a teenager he had many spells in prison and reform school, but a serious illness changed his perspective on life. Like Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Agard he became a dub poet. He also embraced Rastafarianism, whose values provide a strong substratum to his poetry. His poems are best in performance, and are more readily available on records than in books, for instance, Us An Dem (1990). One of Zephaniah's most memorable readings was with Allen Ginsberg in 1990. Fiercely against social injustice of any kind, the poems range from pure rhetoric to visionary rapture. His collections of poetry include Pen Rhythm (1980), The Dread Affair (1985), and City Psalms (1992); Inna Liverpool (1992) is a pamphlet edition of poems. His plays Hurricane Dub (1988), about the hurricane which hit south-east England in 1987, and Job Rocking (1989), about youth unemployment, have been published in BBC Radio Drama: Young Playwrights Festival (1988), edited by Jeremy Mortimer, and Black Plays: Two (1989), edited by Yvonne Brewster, respectively.

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