a group of people reading poetry

Your reactions

Let us know what your reading group thought of the poetry book you discussed. If the book you read is not on this list, email us.

Too Black, Too Strong by Benjamin Zephaniah (Bloodaxe Books, 2006)

England's legal system has had a formative effect on the work of poet Benjamin Zephaniah. It was while serving an eighteen-month prison sentence (for a crime of which he has always said he is innocent) that he first encountered the political power of his words. He used to have secret kung-fu sparring sessions with a prison guard who was a fellow martial arts enthusiast, and one night, after such a session, the young Zephaniah gave him a poetry performance. The guard was strongly affected by the performance, and told the poet that he had "really made him think", and that other prison guards would learn from hearing his poems. This encouraged Zephaniah in his ambition to be a writer, and showed him that his work could change the status quo.

Since then, Benjamin Zephaniah has become one of the most influential poets in Britain. His work with young people has introduced a generation to the joys of poetry, he has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and his poems have inspired debate in the House of Commons.

A residency arranged by the Poetry Society at Tooks Court, the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, the human rights barrister, proved a second significant encounter with the legal system. The court cases and public inquiries he attended during this residency inspired many of the poems in this book, Too Black, Too Strong. In turn, Benjamin Zephaniah inspired the barristers he was shadowing by humanising their work through the power of poetry. He tells how he reduced an audience of hard-nosed barristers to tears during a performance of work he had written about cases they had worked on.

Zephaniah writes in his foreword to this collection "there are things more important than me or my poetry - Here is a poet who won't stay silent." Too Black, Too Strong is poetry designed to change minds and change the world.


You can read about Benjamin Zephaniah on his website.

You can hear poems by Benjamin Zephaniah here


What other people thought about this book:

"An excellent collection from one of Britain's top contemporary poets. Anti-establishment, and a perfect snapshop of some sections of the Britain of the 2000s. If you are a fan, you'll not be disappointed, if you are new to BZ, this is a great intoduction."
   Reviewer on www.amazon.co.uk


Other books about justice and injustice include:

All shook up: poems 1997-2000 / MITCHELL, ADRIAN -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult Collect 

The Faber book of political verse -- London: Faber and Faber: Faber and Faber, (Book) - Adult Anthology 

Heart on the left: poems 1953-1984 / MITCHELL, ADRIAN -- Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult Collect 

The Hutton Inquiry / MCCABE, CHRIS -- Cambridge: Salt Publishing, (Book) - Adult collection 

Mi revalueshanary fren: selected poems / JOHNSON, LINTON KWESI; D'Aguiar, Fred (introduction) -- London: Penguin Books: Penguin Books, (Book) - Adult Collect 

Samarkand and other markets I have known / SOYINKA, WOLE -- London; Methuen: Methuen, (Book) - Adult Collect 

No comments have been made on this book yet! Why don't you start us off?

What did your group think of this book? Add your comment and you could win a prize from the Poetry Book Society.

:: Back to Your Reactions ::

Back to top Register for newsletter
Bookmark This Page