2021: Event 8

(8) Desert Island Poems:
Benjamin Zephaniah interviewed
by Rhian Edwards

Friday 16th April | 5:30-6:45pm | Free

Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham, England. He cannot remember a time when he was not creating poetry. Poet, writer, lyricist, musician, he is one of the UK’s most recognised and popular poets. He discusses six of his favourite poems with prizewinning Welsh poet Rhian Edwards and we hear readings from some of the authors who wrote them: Liz Berry, Grace Nichols, Kid Anansi (Jamal Hassan) and Mary Jean Chan.

All profits from the sale of the Desert Island Poems pamphlet will be donated to the Crossroads Women’s Centre. If you would like to make an additional donation via the festival, you can do so here:

Donate to the Crossroads Women’s Centre:

Sign Language interpretation provided

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The Festival is organising the bookselling in partnership with bookshop.org. There’s an expanded range of Festival titles for each event available from our bookshop.org affiliate shop. Take a look at them here. If you buy from our shop, you are supporting the Festival, the writers, the publishers, and, thanks to the way bookshop.org operates, independent booksellers generally.

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham, England. He has always created poetry but this had nothing to do with school where poetry meant very little to him and he finished full time education at the age of 13. His poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls ‘street politics’. His first public performance was in church when he was ten years old and by the time he was fifteen he had developed a strong following in his hometown of Handsworth where he gained a reputation as a young poet who was capable of speaking out on local and international issues. Although he loved Handsworth, calling it ‘The Jamaican capital of Europe’, he was destined to seek a wider audience, first in London, then in the rest of the world. His first book sold well, but it was in performance that the Dub (Reggae) Poet would cause a revolution, a revolution that injected new life into the British poetry scene. He has since become the most recognizable poet in Britain, appearing on film, television, at festivals and events as a poet and musician with his band who have toured the world. In one 22-day period in 1991 they performed on every continent. He has also emerged as a children’s poet and as a writer of novels for teenagers, encouraging young people to read by creating accessible writing, all the while still engaged in his music and performance projects, as well as speaking out for human and animal rights organisations.  

Benjamin ZephaniahDesert Island Poems
ISBN: 9781781726341

All profits from the sale of this pamphlet will be donated to the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

Benjamin ZephaniahThe Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781471168956

Benjamin ZephaniahWindrush Child
ISBN: 9780702302725

Benjamin ZephaniahRevolutionary Minds

Rhian Edwards

Rhian Edwards is a multi-award winning poet. Her first collection of poems  Clueless Dogs  (Seren) won Wales Book of the Year 2013, the Roland Mathias Prize for Poetry 2013  and Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice 2013. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2012. Her pamphlet  of poems, Parade the Fib  (Tall-Lighthouse), was awarded the Poetry Book Society Choice for autumn 2008 and her most recent pamphlet Brood (Seren) 2017, was illustrated by Paul Edwards. Rhian is also a winner of the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry, having won both the Judges and Audience award. She was the first Writer in Residence at Aberystwyth Arts Centre from March to June 2013. Rhian’s poems have appeared in the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, New Statesman, Spectator, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Arete, Prague Revue, the London Magazine, Stand and Planet amongst others. Rhian is a poet and musician and has delivered over 400 stage, radio and festival performances world-wide. She lives in south Wales with her daughter. Her second collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter was published by Seren in 2020.

Rhian EdwardsThe Estate Agent’s Daughter
ISBN: 9781781725832

Rhian EdwardsClueless Dogs
ISBN: 9781854115737

Grace Nichols

Born in Guyana, Grace Nichols has lived in Britain since 1977. Her first collection, I is a Long Memoried Woman (1983) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Her later poetry collections published by Virago) include The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (1984), Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman (1989), Sunris (1996), winner of the Guyana Prize, and Startling the Flying Fish (2006), poems which tell the story of the Caribbean, along with several poetry books for younger readers, including Come on into My Tropical Garden (1988), Give Yourself a Hug (1994), Everybody Got a Gift (2005) and Cosmic Disco (2013). She has published four books with Bloodaxe, Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009), I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (2010), The Insomnia Poems (2017), and Passport to Here and There (2020), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. She lives in Sussex with the poet John Agard and their family. She was made a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020.
Image: Mike Park

Grace NicholsPassport to Here and There 
ISBN: 9781780375328

Grace NicholsI Have Crossed an Ocean
ISBN: 9781852248581

Grace NicholsThe Insomnia Poems
ISBN: 9781780373393

Grace NicholsPicasso, I Want My Face Back
ISBN: 9781852248505

Kid Anansi

Kid Anansi is the poetic equivalent of finding out that the drinks machine in your local McDonalds has quietly replaced its Pepsi button with spiced rum. He is confusing, frightening, delicious with ginger beer and lemon, and unhealthy in large doses. His unique brand of poetry will either make you laugh, cry, bite your knuckles in second-hand embarrassment, or all three. He has hosted and featured at poetry nights all over London and Portsmouth, performed on TV for Sky Arts‘ Life & Rhymes and… *checks notes* Apparently, he also makes a mean veggie lasagne.
Image: Cathal Moran

Anti-Hate Anthology 
Spoken Word London
ISBN: 9781527236578

Liz Berry

Liz Berry‘s first book of poems,  Black Country (Chatto 2014), described as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’ (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Her pamphlet The Republic of Motherhood (Chatto, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and the title poem won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018. A new book of Liz‘s collaboration  with  photographer Tom Hicks will be published by Hercules Editions later this year.
Image: Thom Bartley

Liz Berry – Black Country
Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701188573

Liz Berry – The Republic of Motherhood
Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9781784742676

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan is the author of  Flèche, published by Faber (2019). Flèche won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. Chan‘s writings have featured in The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New Republic, The Telegraph, The White Review  and The Poetry Review. Chan won the 2018 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem twice, receiving an Eric Gregory Award in 2019. In Spring 2020, Chan was guest co-editor at  The Poetry Review. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chan is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and lives in London.
Image: Adrian Pope

Mary Jean Chan – Flèche
Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571348046