Raymond Antrobus

The great Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg said, ‘poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind; it is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private’ and there are few for whom that is more true today than the celebrated British poet, Raymond Antrobus.

We spoke with him about where a poem comes from, and how to discern which memories, observations, and ideas deserve a poem and which do not. Or, as he put it, ‘Why does a poem demand to be written?

One of the most unique and important voices writing today, Raymond’s poetry seeks to investigate the deeply personal questions of his existence and identity, particularly with regard to his Jamaican-British heritage, and his hearing challenges. He goes about this investigation with a distinctively raucous and irreverent  cadence, wit, that is a delight to read and hear. He styles himself as an ‘investigator of missing sounds’, which aligns with his careful construction of poems as sound-objects as well as his interest in stories and voices often unheard. 

Having published two short volumes, Shapes and Disfigurements (2012) and To Sweeten Bitter (2016), he had his major breakthrough with the masterful full volume, The Perseverance, which was the first poetry collection to win the Folio Award, along with the Ted Hughes Award. His latest collection, All The Names Given was released in 2021, examining among other themes, his identity through the roots of his surname.