One of our many fantastic Shadow Poet’s on Shake the Dust, Carmina Masoliver, tells us about her Poetry Hero…Benjamin Zephaniah.

I used to think Nurses

Were Women

I used to think Police

Were Men

I used to think poets

Were boring

Until I became

One of Them. 


As a pioneer of British performance poetry, it would be wrong not to mention Benjamin Zephaniah. He has been a continuous source of inspiration for me since my childhood, reading his poetry and fiction books, and later exploring other aspects of his career, such as his music. I recently interviewed him when I chose to do a case study on him as part of my coursework for the Creative Entrepreneurship MA I am currently studying. I also found a piece of work I did at school where I wrote a biography on him that I had forgotten about, which reminded me of what a great influence he has been in my life.

Although when I was at school we didn’t have amazing opportunities such as Shake the Dust, the closest thing to it was during my GCSE’s when we had a school trip to an AQA Anthology tour. Although I loved Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry, I remember being disappointed with her dead-pan reading. John Agard was one poet that stood out at the event, but Benjamin Zephaniah had to be the highlight for me.

Zephaniah bridges the page and the stage in the way to which I aspire to do. He brings poetry to life and he places equal weighting on the content of his poems and the manifestation of them in front of an audience. When I interviewed him, he said that if you believe in peace and love, and the abolition of arms, those that sell and make money from guns will complain, though he asserted the importance of standing your ground. With his poetry, he manages to shift between those that share his beliefs and deliver a specific message to the playful and comedic.

One of the main things I got through talking to Benjamin Zephaniah was that sense that if you are a writer, it is something that you do because you feel it ‘deep in your bones’ and that, aside from the necessary talent, self-belief is a massive factor in becoming successful in your field.

Believe in yourself, be pro-active and your determination will get to where you want to be!

Read Carmina Masoliver’s full interview here, and ee Benjamin Zephaniah in action here.