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Writers

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah

"The way I write, the way I see the world, is part and parcel of my dyslexia..."

These are the words of Benjamin Zephaniah, who alongside being a hugely successful novelist and playwright, is one of Britain's most celebrated poets. Try as you might you will struggle to fit Zephaniah into any single category-but then conforming is not what he is about. Criminal, dub-artist, people's poet, Rastafarian, environmentalist-call him what you will but one thing is for sure; Zephaniah makes his own rules.

The poet, who appeared in The Times list of the top 50 post-war writers, grew up in Handsworth, Birmingham. As the son of a Barbadian Postman and a Jamaican Nurse, he was strongly influenced from a young age by the music and poetry of Jamaica.

At primary school Zephaniah remembers being told by his teacher that not everyone can be good with words, and so he should try something else. At the age of 13 he was arrested and imprisoned for burglary.

Zephaniah recalls being informed about his difficulties with reading: "The first time someone told me I was dyslexic; it was like they were swearing at me. I had never heard the word before. It made me a very angry person."

40 years later and he has a total of 7 honorary degrees to his name. He has also received the BBC Young Playwright Award, and been offered an OBE-something which he controversially rejected: "Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire."
Copyright © 2017. Helping Every Child to Read.

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