Benjamin Jephaniah – a fiery prophet and entertainer

The extraordinary life of Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, writer, musician and activist was an inspiration to many as his influence as “the people’s laureate” made him beloved across a wide audience. “Noisy, charismatic, provocative but ultimately thoughtful, Benjamin Zephaniah was not just a poet but a cultural force. As a black British writer, and as a performer at home on stage or TV, he cut a path for others to follow.”

  He was born 15 April 1958 in Birmingham, the son of a Barbadian postman and a Jamaican nurse. He was dyslexic and left school aged 13, unable to read or write. A present of a typewriter encouraged him to become a writer. The poetry he wrote was influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he called “street politics”. His first performance was in church when he was 11 years old, and by the age of 15, his poetry was already known among Handsworth’s Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities. As a young man, he spent time in borstal and received a criminal record and served a prison sentence for burglary.

 Zephaniah has said that his mission was to fight the dead image of poetry in academia, and to “take [it] everywhere” to people who do not read books, so he turned poetry readings into concert-like performances. In addition to poetry and novels he was also an actor, most notably playing “Jimmy” Jesus in Peaky Blinders between 2013 and 2022. Latterly he spent time in Beijing and studied Mandarin Chinese for over a decade.

  In an interview recently he admitted having been violent to a former partner, confessing to having hit her and coming to regret it in later life.

  He had an inspirational though bleak Fire Grand Trine of pro-active Aries Sun Mercury trine Pluto trine a thoughtful, knowledge-hungry Saturn in Sagittarius. That was formed into two talented Kites by Sun Mercury in an expansive, enthusiastic opposition to Jupiter in Libra and Neptune North Node in Scorpio giving him his irrepressibly upbeat streak. In complete contrast the other Kite was from Pluto opposition Mars and Chiron, stemming from his experiences growing up with prejudice frustrating and infuriating him. He also had a sensitive Pisces Moon and Venus as well as a determined and inventive Uranus square Neptune.

 His creative, get-it-together 5th harmonic was strong, as well as his creative 7H. His victim/healer 12H was strained and notable, allowing him to channel his anger in productive ways. His leaving-a-legacy for posterity 17th harmonic was his strongest.

One of a kind.

10 thoughts on “Benjamin Jephaniah – a fiery prophet and entertainer

  1. Recently my “…perception that only certain languages in the world should be taught out of practicality.” was reshaped when a friend shared how a student made up a private touch language with their sibling due to eyesight and hearing restrictions.

    Of late I rue the divide between easily understanding and being understood due to linguistic differences. It’s moving to recognize the essential fact of any language, and the miracle of someone creating their own.

  2. Thank you, Marjorie. A beautiful write-up. I had a feeling that Chiron would feature in his chart.
    He apparently lived in an unfashionable part of rural Lincolnshire describing it as the ‘farm of England’ (in contrast to Kent being the garden of England) due to the regions leading veggie farming status (he was an animal rights campaigner and committed vegan since age 13).
    A spiritual man. I wonder if he wrote down his thoughts following his diagnosis.
    Rest easy, Benjamin. You made your mark.

  3. For some reason, I knew absolutely nothing of this extraordinary man. Even so, reading what has been written of him hit my heart. What a life.

    I have a friend born April 17, 1958.
    There was an annular solar eclipse on April 19, 1958.

    Eclipses are another weak area of knowledge for me!! However, this friend has had a rather charmed and “destiny” sort of life that intrigues me.. also in the arts. A quick read indicates that a birth near a solar eclipse can indicate a kind of Destiny.

    Certainly true for Benjamin and for my friend!
    What an astonishing life Benjamin had….
    he grabbed hold of his chart and expressed it so thoroughly… so well!

  4. Thanks Marjorie, a chart full of energy. His rapid exit is shocking, but suits his eccentric, fiery nature somehow. A lovely, inspiring man.

    I noticed that the Mars/Nodes square Pluto in October aspected Benjamin’s Sun/Mercury Kite – coinciding with the brain tumour diagnosis. And now, tr Uranus squares his Mars, while tr Jupiter squares natal Uranus – all the speed and surprise (to us, probably not him) of his death. Venus crosses his North Node and Neptune this week which seems to hint at destiny, and conjures up all the public affection and praise for his activism, and his art. I do feel sad about this departure. As you write, ‘one of a kind’.

  5. Benjamin Jephaniah is well known here in Florida – as we have a very large Caribbean community here and his poetry has, at times been recited at local events that celebrate Caribbean culture. I’ve read some of his works myself.

    One thing I liked about Benjamin Jephaniah in particular was his advocacy for the use of Indigenous British Isles languages (like Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, etc.) to be included, taught, and made mandatory in the United Kingdom school curriculum. I’ve always been a supporter of Indigenous Peoples and languages of every society (including my own) and I’ve always believed that we need to reshape our perception that only certain languages in the world should be taught out of “practicality.”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: