The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

The Autobiography

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About The Book

*BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week*

Benjamin Zephaniah, who has travelled the world for his art and his humanitarianism, now tells the one story that encompasses it all: the story of his life.


In the early 1980s when punks and Rastas were on the streets protesting about unemployment, homelessness and the National Front, Benjamin’s poetry could be heard at demonstrations, outside police stations and on the dance floor. His mission was to take poetry everywhere, and to popularise it by reaching people who didn’t read books. His poetry was political, musical, radical and relevant

By the early 1990s, Benjamin had performed on every continent in the world (a feat which he achieved in only one year) and he hasn’t stopped performing and touring since. Nelson Mandela, after hearing Benjamin’s tribute to him while he was in prison, requested an introduction to the poet that grew into a lifelong relationship, inspiring Benjamin’s work with children in South Africa. Benjamin would also go on to be the first artist to record with The Wailers after the death of Bob Marley in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah is a truly extraordinary life story which celebrates the power of poetry and the importance of pushing boundaries with the arts. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner UK (May 2018)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471168949

Raves and Reviews

'The Life and Rhymes has a performative quality reminiscent of Zephaniah’s poetry – honest, unshowy and ultimately unthreatening. It matches the man.'

– The Guardian

'Vivid, frank and to the point, yet bristling with compassion, this is a rousing romp through a life less ordinary and a timely reminder of art’s redemptive force.'

– Mojo magazine

Compelling and inspiring

– Scottish Poetry Library

'His singular career has spanned poetry, music and activism, with detours into acting and academia. And he’s really lived a life less ordinary – from teenage jailbird to celebrity role model, embraced by the British Establishment, even if he hasn’t always reciprocated. His scepticism about the necessity of his memoir, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, is unfounded.'

– The Scotsman

'His singular career has spanned poetry, music and activism, with detours into acting and academia. And he’s really lived a life less ordinary – from teenage jailbird to celebrity role model, embraced by the British Establishment, even if he hasn’t always reciprocated. His scepticism about the necessity of his memoir, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, is unfounded.'

– The Scotsman

‘This is a beautifully penned and highly entertaining account of an intriguing life, opening us up not just to Zephaniah's story but to a wide range of topics arising out of it...tackled with down-to-earth honesty and insight, not to mention an element of gentle humour and self-effacement.’
 

– Morning Star

'The people’s laureate'

– Birmingham Mail

‘A celebration of a truly extraordinary life story which remarks upon the power of poetry and the importance of pushing boundaries with the arts.’ 

– Shropshire Star

'Retaining a humility and humour that belie his extraordinary rise from street gang to cultural touchstone…Zephaniah is one of the rare voices that manages to remain determinedly outside the Establishment (he famously turned down an OBE) yet is embraced by it...a riveting read worthy of a Netflix drama.'

– iNews

'Filled with extraordinary moments, taking in his first poetry performance in a church aged 10, his time in borstal and prison, and his stint in a gang when he feared for his life and slept with a gun under his pillow. He was framed by the police for murder, turned his life around to the extent that he developed a friendship with Nelson Mandela – and his words helped usher in freedom in South Africa. But the book is also a searing social history of Britain and a salutary reminder that when it comes to the fight for racial equality, there is no end bell.'

– Big Issue North

'Zephaniah pulls no punches when it comes to talking about the racism that has shaped his life or the mischief he got up to in response to it.'

– The Spectator

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