Biography

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LEMN SISSAY MBE is associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, ambassador for The Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night and an honorary doctor of Letters. He has been a writer from birth and foremost he is a poet. 

Lemn is author of a series of books of poetry alongside articles, records, broadcasts, public art, commissions and plays. Sissay was the first poet commissioned to write for London Olympics.  His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London. They can be seen in The Royal Festival Hall and The Olympic Park. His Landmark Poem,Guilt of Cain, was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Fen Court near Fenchurch St Station.

Sissay’s instIMG_4415allation poem what if was exhibited at The Royal Academy alongside Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley. It came from his Disko Bay Expedition  to the Arctic alongside  Jarvis Cocker, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Leslie Feist and  KT Tunstall.  His  21st century poem was released on multi-million award winning album Leftism by Leftfield.  A violin concerto performed at The BBC by Viktoria Mullova was inspired by  Lemn Sissay’s poem Advice For The Living.

Sissay’s award winning play Something Dark  directed by National Theatre of Wales artistic director John McGrath has been performed throughout the world  and his stage adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Novel   Refugee Boy at West Yorkshire Playhouse tours Britain in 2014.  A BBC  TV documentary, Internal Flight , and a radio documentary, Child of the State,  were both broadcast about his life and his Ted Talk has close to a million views. His documentary on the late  Gil Scott Heron was the first pubic announcement of Scott-Heron’s comeback album.Television

Sissay describes dawn in one tweet every day. His Morning Tweets. One Morning Tweet  became an award winning building MVMNT Café commissioned by Cathedral group designed and built by Supergroup’s  Morag Myerscough. It is the only building in the world built below a tweet. Cathedral also  commissioned a Landmark Poem,  Shipping Good,  which will be laid into the streets of Greenwich.

He was the first  Black Writers Development Worker in the North of England.  He created and established Cultureword (part of Commonword) where Sissay developed supported and published many new writers who’ve gone on to a life of creativity.  Sissay received an MBE from The Queen  for services to literature and an honorary doctorate from University of Huddersfield who run The Sissay Scholarship for care leavers: It is the first of its kind in the UK.IMG_4978

The Guardian newspaper heralded the arrival of his first book Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist.   “Lemn Sissay has Success written all over his forehead”. He was 21. Between the ages of 18 and 32 he  tracked his family down across the world.  His career as a writer happened in spite of his incredible life story not because of it.

He has made various  BBC radio documentaries on or with writers such as Gil Scott Heron, The last Poets, JB Priestley, Edgar Allan Poe and poetry films broadcast to the nation.  His head is in London where he’s based, his heart is in  Manchester where he is not, his soul is in Addis  and his vibe is in New York where his mother lives.  He blogs openly for personal reasons.    Google Lemn Sissay and al the hits would be about him. There is only one Lemn Sissay in the world. For Photographs.