Benjamin Zephaniah Interviews
Benjamin Zephaniah has published four books with Bloodaxe. His three collections Too Black, Too Strong (2001), Propa Propaganda (1996) and City Psalms (1992) were followed in 2013 by the DVD-book Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me, a film portrait of Benjamin which draws on live performances and informal interviews.
‘The Old Truth’ from Benjamin Zephaniah’s City Psalms is the featured poem for 21 May 2020 in Beshara Magazine's Poems for These Times series. Read here.
Front Row: Benjamin Zephaniah, BBC Radio 4, Thursday 14 May 2020, 7.15pm
A half-hour special with Benjamin Zephaniah was broadcast on Radio 4’s Front Row on 14 May.
‘As one of Britain’s best known and loved poets, Benjamin Zephaniah's work has long been featured on the school curriculum. Lately he’s also become a familiar face on television, not least in Peaky Blinders, set in his home city of Birmingham, as well as appearing as a regular panelist on BBC Question Time. But his journey to national literary figure and Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Brunel University has been a remarkable one. There was the relentless racism he faced as in childhood in the 1960s; there was violence within his family, and repeatedly from the police. Zephaniah was involved in crime as a young man. But he knew from an early age that he wanted to be a poet. And he found his voice in a fusion of dub style improvisation and West Indian Music, pioneering live performance poetry on television.
Benjamin Zephaniah joins Front Row from his home in rural Lincolnshire for an extended interview with presenter Samira Ahmed which explores his roots as a poet, his thoughts on the Coronavirus crisis and its impact on frontline workers, and to premiere a new poem he's written in praise of the NHS entitled ‘Praise the Saviour’.'
Listen via the Front Row website:
EX LIBRIS podcast, Episode 7: Benjamin Zephaniah, 17 December 2019
Benjamin Zephaniah gave an hour-long interview to Ben Holden for the EX LIBRIS podcast – a series in which the world’s greatest writers are interviewed in their favourite libraries and bookshops. Benjamin Zephaniah chose the Newham Bookshop, his home-from-home when he lived in London. He was interviewed together with the shop’s owner Vivian Archer.
Benjamin spoke about his autobiography The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah (Scribner), and about how he came to be a poet – something he’d dreamed of since the age of 8. He read his poems ‘The Death of Joy Gardner’ from Propa Propaganda and an extract from ‘Rong Radio’, which he performs on film in the DVD-book Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me.
‘Benjamin Zephaniah speaks truth-to-power like nobody else. A Kung Fu stylist, dub musician, Peaky Blinder, renegade activist, vegan force-of-nature, and much-loved ‘people’s poet’, Benjamin has lived many lifetimes.
He tells Ex Libris in that inimitable raw and sonorous manner about how poetry saved his life; of his mother’s Windrush Generation and its Caribbean oral tradition; being dyslexic and finding a path away from prison; slamming the phone down on Nelson Mandela and exchanging notes with Bob Marley; and why there should be a library on every high street.
Zephaniah also speaks touchingly of the great personal debt - both financial and artistic - that he owes his fellow Ex Libris guest, celebrated bookseller Vivian Archer; not to mention her legendary store Newham Bookshop, which Benjamin fondly calls a ‘home-from-home’.
Click here to listen.
Imtiaz Dharker was interviewed for Episode 3 of the Ex Libris podcast. She chose to meet in Paris’s Shakespeare & Co, where she was interviewed together with the shop’s proprietor, Sylvia Whitman. Her interview can be heard here.
[13 May 2020]