Poetry - 'The poems of Benjamin Zephaniah'
Benjamin Zephaniah is probably one of the most popular Dub poets in the world. He is particularly popular with school children because he gives them poetry in a language they understand, he has rapport with them and he offers them a fun way to be creative with poetry.
Benjamin Zephaniah is also renowned for his music through his band.
- Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham, England.
- His poetry is influenced by Jamaican music and 'street politics'.
- By the age of 15 he had developed a reputation as a young outspoken poet.
- His work became popular within the African-Caribbean and Asian community.
- At 22, he headed to London where Page One Books published his first book 'Pen Rhythm'.
Although 'Pen Rhythm' sold well, it was in performance that this Dub (Reggae) Poet would cause a revolution, injecting new life into the British poetry scene and attracting many mainstream publishers. Even publishers who had previously rejected his work took an interest in Benjamin Zephaniah.
In the early Eighties when Punks and Rasta's were on the streets protesting, Zephaniah's poetry could be heard on the demonstrations, at youth gatherings, outside police stations, and on the dance floor.
Because of his ability to perform not only on stage but in front of the television cameras, Benjamin Zephaniah became one of Britain's most filmed, photographed, and identifiable poet, bringing Dub Poetry straight into British living rooms.
Zephaniah's mission is to take poetry everywhere, he hates the dead image that academia and the establishment had given poetry and declared that he was out to popularize poetry by reaching people who did not read books, those that were keen on books could now witness a book coming to life on the stage. His poetry was political, musical, radical, relevant and on TV.
you can keep your money when governments about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust your neighbour when they trust not you
And they be very nosy too;
If you can await the warm delights of summer
Then summer comes and goes with sun not seen,
And pay so much for drinking water
Knowing that the water is unclean.
If you seek peace in times of war creation,
And you can see that oil merchants are to blame,
If you can meet a pimp or politician,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you cannot bear dis-united nations
And you think this new world order is a trick,
If you've ever tried to build good race relations,
And watch bad policing mess your work up quick.
If you can make one heap of all your savings
And risk buying a small house and plot,
Then sit back and watch the economy inflating
Then have to deal with the negative equity you've got;
If you can force your mind and body to continue
When all the social services have gone,
If you struggle on when there is nothing in you,
Except the knowledge that justice can be wrong.
If you can speak the truth to common people
Or walk with Kings and Queens and live no lie,
If you can see how power can be evil
And know that every censor is a spy;
If you can fill an unforgiving lifetime
With years of working hard to make ends meet,
You may not be wealthy but I am sure you will find
That you can hold your head high as you walk the streets.
Dis poetry is like a riddim dat drops
De tongue fires a riddim dat shoots like shots
Dis poetry is designed fe rantin
Dance hall style, big mouth chanting,
Dis poetry nar put yu to sleep
Preaching follow me
Like yu is blind sheep,
Dis poetry is not Party Political
Not designed fe dose who are critical.
Dis poetry is wid me when I gu to me bed
It gets into me dreadlocks
It lingers around me head
Dis poetry goes wid me as I pedal me bike
I've tried Shakespeare, respect due dere
But did is de stuff I like.
Dis poetry is not afraid of going in a book
Still dis poetry need ears fe hear an eyes fe hav a look
Dis poetry is Verbal Riddim, no big words involved
An if I hav a problem de riddim gets it solved,
I've tried to be more romantic, it does nu good for me
So I tek a Reggae Riddim an build me poetry,
I could try be more personal
But youÕve heard it all before,
Pages of written words not needed
Brain has many words in store,
Yu could call dis poetry Dub Ranting
De tongue plays a beat
De body starts skanking,
Dis poetry is quick an childish
Dis poetry is fe de wise an foolish,
Anybody can do it fe free,
Dis poetry is fe yu an me,
Don't stretch yu imagination
Dis poetry is fe de good of de Nation,
In de morning
In de night
In de darkness
An under de spotlight,
I pass thru University
I pass thru Sociology
An den I got a dread degree
In Dreadfull Ghettology.
Dis poetry stays wid me when I run or walk
An when I am talking to meself in poetry I talk,
Dis poetry is wid me,
Below me an above,
Dis poetry's from inside me
It goes to yu
De Rong Song
Your house is
And you got
But you don't
Own a pound,
You ain't got
You really like,
They tell you to
Get on your bike,
You're on your bike
And all is fine,
You get caught
In a washing line,
You go to school
The school is
Put pressure on,
Your tea is
Your ice is
Your head is
Tied up in a
- In 1991, the only way the oral tradition could live was for Benjamin Zephaniah to embark on a 22-day tour where he performed on every continent on this planet.
- Benjamin Zephaniah's only Number One Hit Record, musically, was in the former Yugoslavia where the Rasta LP was released on the Helidon label.
- After Bob Marley's death, Benjamin Zephaniah was the first person to record with the Wailers. They recorded a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela.
- 'Free South Africa' by Benjamin Zephaniah and the Wailers was recorded at Marley's Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica.
- Mandela heard the tribute whilst in prison on Robben Island and after his release he requested a meeting with Zephaniah. As a result of this new friendship, Zephaniah now works with children in South African townships.
At the bottom of my garden
There's a hedgehog and a frog
And a lot of creepy-crawlies
Living underneath a log,
There's a baby daddy long legs
And an easy-going snail
And a family of woodlice,
All are on my nature trail.
There are caterpillars waiting
For their time to come to fly,
There are worms turning the earth over
As ladybirds fly by,
Birds will visit, cats will visit
But they always chose their time
And I've even seen a fox visit
This wild garden of mine.
Squirrels come to nick my nuts
And busy bees come buzzing
And when the night time comes
Sometimes some dragonflies come humming,
My garden mice are very shy
And I've seen bats that growl
And in my garden I have seen
A very wise old owl.
My garden is a lively place
There's always something happening,
There's this constant search for food
And then there's all that flowering,
When you have a garden
You will never be alone
And I believe we all deserve
A garden of our own.
Take some Picts, Celts and Silures
And let them settle,
Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.
Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years
Add lots of Norman French to some
Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.
Mix some hot Chileans, cool Jamaicans, Dominicans,
Trinidadians and Bajans with some Ethiopians, Chinese,
Vietnamese and Sudanese.
Then take a blend of Somalians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians
Combine with some Guyanese
And turn up the heat.
Sprinkle some fresh Indians, Malaysians, Bosnians,
Iraqis and Bangladeshis together with some
Afghans, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Japanese
Then add to the melting pot.
Leave the ingredients to simmer.
As they mix and blend allow their languages to flourish
Binding them together with English.
Allow time to be cool.
Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future,
Serve with justice
Note: All the ingredients are equally important. Treating one ingredient better than another will leave a bitter unpleasant taste.
Warning: An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain. Give justice and equality to all.
Benjamin Zephaniah's poetry for children
Benjamin Zephaniah's first book of poetry for children 'Talking Turkeys' went to the top of the children's book list and stayed there for months. At first he wasn't keen on publishing a book for children, he believed that there was just poetry, not children's poetry or adult's poetry, but he was soon convinced that young people did appreciate the fact that he was not afraid to write about the real world where there are bullies, guns, racism and war.
Being a passionate vegan, Benjamin Zephaniah writes a lot about animals but these animals are not all smiley, happy creatures, some may just be waiting for slaughter or losing their habitat, and of course some may be having fun.
Wot a pair
I waz walking down Wyefront street
When me trousers ran away,
I waz feeling incomplete
But still me trousers would not stay,
When I found where they had gone
De pair addressed me rather blunt,
And they told me they were sick of being put on
Back to front.
I told dem I would treat dem good
And wear dem back to back,
I promised dem protection
From a friend who is a mac,
Me trousers did not believe a single word I had to say,
And me underpants were laughing
When me trousers ran away.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos' turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don't eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I'm on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.
Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
'I cannot wait for de chop',
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.
I once knew a turkey called...Turkey
He said "Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?",
I said "I am not too sure turkey
But it's nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash'.
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey'll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends 'FOR LIFE'.
The teenage novels
was the first of four novels written by Benjamin Zephaniah in 1999. These novels proved that teenage boys would read if
they have access to books that they can relate to. Zephaniah writes
gritty, realistic novels about the lives of teenagers. These novels are
directed to adults as much as they are to teenagers.
Benjamin Zephaniah has inspired many young writers and many generations of rappers, and of all the performance poets that emerged in the late seventies/early eighties he is one of the few that is still going strong.
I sincerely hope you enjoy this hub. I saw Benjamin Zephaniah perform in Birmingham a few years ago when (as a school) we decided to take year 9, 10 and 11 to see a group of well-known British (and Scottish) poets perform. The poets were all included in an anthology that the children were studying (or about to study). Benjamin had the kids in the palm of his hand from the moment he first opened his mouth. The kids could not believe that this 'rasta' Jamaican in a reggae hat from Birmingham was a world famous poet. They quickly realised the connection between poetry and lyrics and music, raggae, rap, etc. and they didn't stop taking about him for months.
All comments appreciated.
Has this hub made you a fan of Benjamin?
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© 2010 Leni Sands