Benjamin Zephaniah: “The last thing to make me cry was an act of war”

Benjamin Zephaniah and band

One of Britain’s favourite poets, Benjamin Zephaniah has just turned 60 and released his autobiography. With five quick-fire questions we find out what makes the professor of poetry tick. Find the full interview here.

Image by Richard Ecclestone.

What three words best describe you?

“Passionate. Compassionate. Curious.”

What book changed your life?

“My book! It really did! But other than my own…The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Being a black man it’s about black people and our place in the world. I don’t believe in 100% of what’s written but he believes in the United States of Africa, and that if when you come out of slavery you don’t fix yourself up, you’ll just go into another economic slavery. You can take away the chains but you’re still not free. That’s stayed with me and influenced my life: ‘Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men’.”

What album do you turn to in times of need?

“It depends on the need. I have a few I turn to. I know it’s stereotypical but it has to be a Marley album. He was a singer but I always saw him as a poet. Bob Marley – Catch A Fire.”

What food would you choose for your final meal?

“A big piece of vegan chocolate cake.”

What was the last thing that made you cry?

“As I get older I seem to be crying a lot more easily. I see acts of kindness now and I cry. But the last thing to make me cry was an act of war. It was the fact that things that are made in Britain – and made in Birmingham – are killing innocent people in Yemen. And there’s no outcry because of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is as bad as Saddam Hussein, it’s as bad as anything. Our people have made those bombs.”


Find the full interview here.

Benjamin Zephaniah: “All the books have to change. The way we educate has to change.”

Naked – Benjamin Zephaniah