The vital signs of Benjamin Zephaniah
I just haven’t had time for a blog recently. I planned to write one when I was travelling, but the traveling got in the way. I planned to write one when my album came out, but the album got in the way, and then I plan to write one when my autobiography was published, and yes, my autobiography got in the way. But now I’m making the effort to sit down and write just a few lines.
My autobiography, ‘The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah’ was published in May (2018) and from the moment it came out, if fact before it came out, I was on a wonderful rollercoaster. I’m not sure if a rollercoaster is the right analogy, I’m never even been on a real rollercoaster, but I’ve said it now. I won’t go into all the statistics but the book shot up high in many charts before it was published, plus it was of course Book of the Week on Radio Four, which was really a great way of giving people a taster of it.
The publisher and others have been telling me daily how well it’s doing but the numbers just go over my head. I’m just happy that so many people are interested in my life. This is not about my characters (in my novels), or my views, ideas, and observations, this is about me, I am the main character, so it feels a little odd, but I have to say I’ve never felt so loved by my readers.
I have just finished the promotional tour. My performances and talks would take about an hour and forty five minutes, but the book signings afterwards could last for anything up to three hours, and I loved them. I never take it for granted that people have sacrificed an evening to see me. Groups of old school friends, gangs of old girlfriends, posses of old sound system friends, and even (now grown up) people from opposing gangs came out to show support for me, and I have been really humbled by all this. I’m met a lot of old friends, and I heard some really moving stories from people who have found some connection with my poetry or novels. I also have to say a really big thank you to everyone who brought presents for me. I have received hats, books, CDs, plants, shirts, a dreamcatcher, a hammock, sweets, chocolate bars, and lots of other wonderful thing, plus cakes, yes, lots and lots of vegan cakes. I want to thank you for all of them, and for the positivity you give back to me, a simple poet trying to tell my truth.
Recently the Windrush generation has been in the news, and the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, but if you’ve been following me lately you would know that I have been trying to remind people that the people of West Papua are still suffering, the people of the Chagos Islands want to return to their land, and the Palestinians need freedom in their land. I feel very down when I remember that millions of girls are still forced into marriage before the age of 18, and over 100 million women are missing. As part of my performance I talk about the conditions that poor people, women, and other marginalised people live in around the world, but in a performance I was doing in Cardiff a member of the audience told me, (and the audience), that more anti-depressants were prescribed in Britain last year than people in Britain. So, the struggle continues, and we still have to fight on many fronts. More compassion, and more love.
I am thinking about touring next year, but the question is how should I tour? My band want to go back on the road, so do I tour with the band, and the paperback of The Life and Rhymes will be published, so, should I do a solo tour? I might combine both! But I’m thinking aloud, so let me not bore you. Basically I’ll be very active next year, and one way or another I hope to see you out there.
Spread the love, show compassion, and wherever you are, don’t trust your government.