On Saturday 26th September 2015 I wrote a letter to Benjamin Zephaniah. The previous evening he had delivered a lecture to Spalding Gentlemen's Society. I wrote to thank him and to say how much I had enjoyed his lecture. I also made a simple request. He mentioned that he was in the process of writing his autobiography and that he was struggling how to do this. In the letter I suggested that he simply tell stories about his life and piece them together. I also asked that when he publish the book he have the words "Come Back" printed inside the front cover. This is because every book of his that I had ever owned, whether poetry or novel, I had lent out and not had returned.
Whether the Professor read my letter or not I have no clue. Sadly yesterday, on 7the December 2023, he died and my words "Come Back" can hold another meaning.
Perhaps like many my first experience of Benjamin Zephaniah was the poet in the taxi on the Tube on Channel 4 in the 1980's. However the largest impact he had on me was Hurricane Dub.
1987 saw a great Hurricane hit the country that left a trail of destruction in its wake. Hurricane Dub was a dramatised poem about this event featuring the actors Angela Wynter and Norman Beaton that some may recall from the barber shop sit-com "Desmonds". I first heard this one evening in 1988 listening to it on a late 1960's Sobell transisitor radio whilst in bed. The play seemed to have a great impact on me, possibly due to my north-facing bedroom looking out onto an old Elm tree whose branches would scratch against my sash cord window when a storm blew. As I got older and had children when a storm blew they would look at me as if I was some kind of nutter as I would say,
"Wind blowin' 'ard, wind blowin' 'ard, tree just fell down in our back yard."
They had no clue that this little ditty of mine originated with the Professor.
Like us all the Professor had many facets, Kung Fu, poetry, music, writing, activism. It possibly shows his great empathy that he was one of the few male authors to have poetry published in an anthology by Virago, a publisher dedicated to feminism and female authors.
The only book I have left on my shelf that he wrote was a short story called "Kung Fu Trip" in which an itchy arse and a smelly finger features! As for his biography, its on my Kindle!