Benjamin Zephaniah: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Benjamin Zephaniah.

  • Benjamin Zephaniah is a British poet and writer. In 2008, he was voted one of Britain’s top 50 post World War 2 writers, in a poll by the Times newspaper.

  • Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham in April, 1958, the son of Caribbean immigrants. He was dyslexic, and left school at 13, as he couldn’t read or write.
  • His poetry is influenced by the street culture of Jamaica. His first performance was at age 10, and by 15, he was quite well known in and around Birmingham.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah moved to London when he was 22.
  • He published his first book of poetry which sold well. He also made a name writing and reading his poems in clubs and other venues.
  • His poems seemed to capture the mood of the early 1980s in Britain, and were often about homelessness or unemployment. He was described as Britain’s most recognizable poet.
  • Zephaniah is known for his strong and often controversial beliefs and opinions. He has suggested changing the British voting system, and has publicly turned down an OBE medal.
  • His poetry book for children, Talking Turkeys, was an immediate bestseller. He has also written several novels aimed specifically at teenagers, as well as several collections of poetry.
  • In 1991, Zephaniah performed on all 6 continents in just a 3 week period.
  • He has a fan club in the central African country of Malawi, and spends part of his time in Beijing, China.
  • He has produced several records, mostly in a reggae or dub poetry style. However, he describes his album Naked as being a mix of jazz, reggae, rock and hip-hop.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah has been awarded the BBC Young Playwright’s Award, as well as honorary doctorates from several UK universities. His version of the song Tam Lyn Retold won a best song award in 2008.

What next? Discover facts about other famous poets by visiting our Books and Authors section.

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