Benjamin Zephaniah

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I have always loved playing around with words. I didn't know it was called poetry.

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah (born 15 April 1958) is a British writer, dub poet and Rastafarian. He was included in The Times list of Britain's top 50 post-war writers in 2008.


  • As the only black kid in my primary school playground, animals had become my friends. By 15 I was vegan, although I didn't give up honey until 16. For a while my mother thought it was just "a rasta phase". … I can honestly say I've not been tempted to give up veganism in 27 years. I sometimes smell a chip shop and like the smell but then feel guilty because fish might be part of it. But I'll go home and make vegan chips. After all these years, my favourite food is my mother's butter bean stew with whole potatoes, yam and dasheen. I don't think I've ever made a meal for her, to be honest. I think she would consider it a failing of her motherhood and say "Boy, get out the kitchen."
  • One day when I was 11, I asked my mother where did meat come from and she said from the butcher and I said where did the butcher get it from and she said the farmer and I said where did the farmer get it from and she said the cow and I said where did the cow get it from and she said – it is the cow! A shudder went through me! … I read a book about how humans drink milk that was meant for the animals’ young and I decided I wanted to disturb the animal kingdom as little as possible. But it was sometimes difficult to explain why. One day a kid gave me an ice cream and I said I didn’t want it because it had milk in it and milk belonged to babies. ‘You’re a vegan’, he said – and I thought he was calling me a nigger or something so I went to beat him up. He was yelling, ‘No, no, it’s a good thing!’ I was quite proud then because I was the only vegetarian or vegan I knew. … I passionately love life and I understand now how important love is to me. I really think about the true meaning of the word – that and compassion. If I have just one sentence on my tombstone to be remembered by it would be, ‘He tried to love every body’, with everybody as two separate words.
  • I have always loved playing around with words. I didn’t know it was called poetry. I was just an innocent kid messing around with words when an adult said ‘You’re a poet, be published or be damned’.
  • …Sometimes I’ll do these things for a couple of days then suddenly one day the poem comes out, just like that, in a couple of minutes. I might rewrite it later, a kind of fine tuning, or sometimes I’ll tell the audience it’s a new poem and just perform it to see if it works.
  • When I start, I have a story that tends to have a lesson to be learnt. A lot of the time my novels are called novels for young adults and I think one of the reasons they are popular with young adults is because they read them and understand it…

The Little Book Of Vegan Poems (2001)[edit]

AK Press, ISBN 1-90259-333-2
  • I've got no bodies inside me
    All of me is me,
    I will not eat no body else
    So I am what you see.
    I do not plan to eat young sheep
    I will not eat a hen,
    I'm so proud of what I am
    I must say once again.
  • If the young vegan kids of our nation
    Are at school and can't get vegan bites,
    Then the school staff need food education
    Because safe food are one of our rights.
  • There's no vegan who is the greatest
    Because all you vegans are great,
    Just like the peace dove
    You symbolise love,
    And there is no death on your plate.

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