Books

Pic Oxfam Control Arms Campaign 2005

I’ve written a few books of poetry. Secondly at 21 years old a small radical press in London published Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist. Bogle L’ouverture  was run by two pioneers of Black literature in Britain Eric and Jessica Huntley. They published Linton Kwesi Johnson’s first book and Walter Rodney’s The Underdevelopment of Africa.

.  A few years later, four to be exact, I went to Bloodaxe Books  who produced Rebel Without Applause in 1992 which sold out. It was an interesting time in publishing. Many of the left field  presses were disappearing. Analogously Bloodaxe soaked up the cuts publishing the likes of Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jackie Kay and myself.   For reasons beyond me they wouldn’t reprint Rebe nor publsih my next book. Worse of all is that they didn’t tell me… It was a nasty blow early in the career of a young writer.  When I saw Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephania bunched together in a bloodaxe catalogue under the title “punk poets” I realised the writing was on the wall. It took seventeen years of silence from bloodaxe before I received a wimpish apology from Neil Astley.

I met  Jamie Byng at The Edinburgh Festival when he was studying at  Edinburgh University and setting the city alight  at a legendary  night called Chocolate City.  On leaving university he bought a small much loved but failing  publishing house called Canongate books  and set up it  its imprint Payback Press.  In 2000 Jamie  re-released Rebel Without Applause (left)  which sold out and has been in print ever since.

A little later Canongate  published my next collection of poems Morning Breaks In The Elevator. By then  Canongate had  won a Booker prize in 2002 with Life of Pi and released the new book by my hero  Gil Scot Heron. I could not be published by a better publishing house nor a better man.

In 2000 I edited a book called The Fire People, a collection of contemporary Black British Poets. It seemed to me that there was no longer the same opportunities for Black Poets to be published and yet there were so many reading their poetry around Britain and the world. There were new black poets influenced by Hip Hop as much as Walcott. It needed a spirited book and publisher to do them justice. These were not “punk poets”.

It’s now 2002  and Bloomsbury who publish  The Harry Potter Series approached me to write a children’s book of poetry. It was the most  difficult but the most rewarding writing project.  It’s inspired by Rudyard Kapuscinski’s book Downfall of An Autocrat. The poems are I hope playful and enjoyable.

In Autumn 2008 Canongatre published Listener. It’s cover picture is by international pop photographer Rankin.  Listener is a book of key commissions from The City of London  (Gilt of Cain) to The World Service (Listener).  Poets have been delivering  news long long before CNN and they’ll be writing and publishing  long after CNN has gone.

Listener begins with a poem  Let There Be Peace and ends on an  article about the year 1968 the so called summer of love.

In  2013 Metheun Drama at Bloomsbury  my  Refugee my adaptation of Benjamin Zephanih’s international hit novel Refugee Boy.

The play was produced at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and it’s a hit. Four Stars in The Guardian. Four Stars in The Times. An extremely good review in British Theatre Guide.