Poetry - Benjamin Zephaniah

When you turn down a Queen’s honour, you are asked by the government to keep quiet about it, at least for a while. When Benjamin Zephaniah was awarded the OBE in November 2003, he did just the opposite. What else could Nelson Mandela’s favourite poet - who had already written a rhyming critique of the honours system - do? The dub poet/writer/singer said the very name ‘Order of the British Empire’ reminded him of 'thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized'. “Me?” he wrote afterwards. “I thought OBE, me? Up yours, I thought. You can't fool me, Mr Blair. You want to privatise us all; you want to send us to war; you stay silent when we need you to speak for us, preferring to be the voice of the USA."

Zephaniah is currently doing a tour of the country “An Audience With…” during which he recites poetry, talks about his life, and answers questions from the audience. He has a new LP and novel out this spring, and is making a Channel 4 documentary. But it’s poetry he wants to focus on. “When someone writes a good poem, even other poets say, ‘why didn’t I write that?’” he says. “It has such force because it’s just simple, everyday words put in a different order. It can say something profound with real economy, or make something small sound epic. Every day, we all create combinations of words that are unique. We string together sentences that will never be used again. All poetry does is capture those moments.” AG

Benjamin Zephaniah: poet, rasta, vegan, Villain. And you know
where to stick your OBE, Mr Blair
Lewes Town Hall
When? 7.30pm
How Much? £18.50/£13.50
(t) 01323 841414