A favourite poem is brought to life

Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Zephaniah
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By award-winning blogger Trish Burgess

It was only a few weeks ago I was having a sort out of books to take to the charity shop when I came across The Bloomsbury Book of Love Poems. I sat down and flicked through it, remembering Dougie had bought it for me, romantic old soul. I thought perhaps I had owned it for about five or six years but inside Dougie had written, “Happy 10th Anniversary”. That’s 15 years ago. Surely not? It’s that old cliche, where did the time go?

The poems in the book were selected by Benjamin Zephaniah and are all refreshingly simple and heartfelt

The poems in the book were selected by Benjamin Zephaniah and are all refreshingly simple and heartfelt, covering young love, unrequited love and the love of family and pets. There are three of Benjamin’s own pieces in the collection, my favourite being I Luv Me Mudder, dedicated to his own mum.

On Friday, I heard this poem live for the first time as it was delivered by the author as part of the Spalding Gentleman’s Society current lecture programme. The words on the page, which had always touched me, fizzed and crackled when they were spoken out loud, the rhythm dancing across the room. Benjamin had written this poem as a young boy and, hearing it from his own lips, the devotion and strength of feeling was palpable.

Benjamin Zephaniah, looking much younger than his 57 years, entertained his audience at Spalding Grammar School with his easy, mesmerising delivery. He told us about his mother coming to Birmingham from Jamaica in the 50s, his unstable schooldays, how he drifted into a life of crime and eventually turned himself around when he moved to London and found an audience for his poetry.

I can understand how it is taking him so long to write his autobiography. In the captivating hour and a half he spoke to his fellow South Holland residents (and how proud are we that he has chosen to live here) we heard much about his experiences, such as his support for the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, yet this only touched the surface of his fascinating life. We’ll need another session to know more about his connection with Nelson Mandela or his experience of sitting in on the Bloody Sunday inquiry while he was poet in residence for Michael Mansfield QC.

At the end of his talk, I managed to have a few words with Benjamin at the back of the room and asked him if he would sign my poetry book, which I had brought with me, just in case the opportunity arose to speak with him. I opened the page with the poem about his mother and he happily scribbled a little message for me: ‘Peas an Luv’.

Anyone who missed this lecture seriously missed out. What a remarkable, inspiring, funny man. Peas an luv to you too.

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com


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