November 8, 2018
Benjamin Zephaniah turns down poet laureate nomination
by Julie Goldberg
Writer, poet, and musician Benjamin Zephaniah has made it clear that he is not interested in replacing Dame Carol Ann Duffy as poet laureate after her resignation in May 2019.
In response to a tweet that posed Zephaniah as a potential candidate, alongside a number of other writers, including Simon Armitage and Daljit Nagra, the poet tweeted, “I have absolutely no interest in this job. I won’t work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy.”
I have absolutely no interest in this job. I won't work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy. I write to connect with people and have never felt the need to go via the church, the state, or the monarchy to reach my people. No money. Freedom or death. https://t.co/C12amoekbi
— Professor Benjamin Zephaniah (@BZephaniah) November 5, 2018
Wendy Cope also removed herself from consideration, condemning the laureate position as an “archaic post” with “ridiculous expectations attached to it.”
It isn’t the first time Zephaniah has dissed the monarchy. In 2003, he turned down an OBE, telling The Guardian, “Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought… I get angry when I hear that word ’empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized.”
Zepahaniah is known for his poems, “Eat Your Words“, “Vegan Steven’s Vegan Clothes“, and “Ride“. He’s also recorded six studio albums and released an autobiography, “The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah” this past May.
A panel of fifteen literary experts will compile a shortlist to present to the culture secretary and prime minister, who will then one recommend one poet’s name for consideration.
Julie Goldberg is an intern at Melville House.