Benjamin Zephaniah is a British writer from Birmingham, born to Jamaican and Barbadian parents. Zephaniah had a difficult childhood, being diagnosed with dyslexia and leaving school aged 13 unable to read and write. Despite this, he persisted to become one of the most influential living poets in the UK.
Heavily inspired by the dub-rhythm and music of Jamaica, he began writing and performing his own poetry. By the age of 15 he was well known throughout his community and within only seven years, he had moved to London and published his first book of poetry Pen Rhythm.
Zephaniah’s made it his mission to shake up the world of poetry. He makes it accessible and enjoyable for everyone, especially those who wouldn’t normally read. His purpose in sharing his writing with the world is powerful and successful.
He is well known for his collections of poetry for kids including Talking Turkeys, and his young adult novels. Zephaniah has also written several plays.
Why he inspires us
Benjamin Zephaniah’s poetry addresses political issues, racial inequality, cultural diversity, and human and animal rights all through fantastic rhythm and with accentuated Jamaican dialect. He connects to people for whom the traditional canon of British literature is inaccessible and unrelatable. His poems focus on the telling, the significance of self-expression, and the importance of open dialogue without a class, race, sexuality, or gender divide.
He is currently starring in the hit BBC series Peaky Blinders as the character Jeremiah Jesus, based on the real Jimmy Jesus. This aids in the representation of black people from history into the cultural sphere where they have previously been whitewashed. The school curriculum in England features poetry from Zephaniah as he continues to inspire generations old and new. He is also a musician and toured the UK this year with his band The Revolutionary Minds. This man, so much more than a poet, is an inspiration and we cannot wait to see what he does next.