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Raymond Antrobus

Years: 2018


Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father, and is the author of 'To Sweeten Bitter' and 'The Perseverance'. He is a founding member of 'Chill Pill' and 'Keats House Poets Forum' and the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works 3 and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is also one of the world's first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University. In 2018 he was awarded 'The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize'. His monologues are stunning studies of voice and substance, and his lyric poems are graceful and finely crafted – Kwame Dawes


My mirth can laugh and talk, but cannot sing;

My grief finds harmonies in everything

– James Thomson


And what comes out if it isn’t the wires

dad welds to his homemade sound system

which I accidently knock loose

while he is recording Talk-Over dubs, killing

the bass, flattening the mood and his muses

making dad blow his fuses and beat me.

It wasn’t my fault, the things he made

could be undone so easily –

and we would keep losing connection.

But I praise my dad’s mechanical hands –

even though he couldn’t fix my deafness

I channel him. My sound system plays

on Father’s Day in Manor Park Cemetery

where I find his grave, and for the first time

see his middle name Osbert, derived from Old English

meaning God, and Bright. Which may have

been a way to bleach him, darkest

of his five brothers, the only one sent away

from the country to live uptown

with his light skin aunt. She protected him

from police who didn’t believe he belonged

unless they heard his English,

which was smooth as some uptown roads.

His aunt loved him and taught him

to recite Wordsworth and Coleridge – rhythms

that wouldn’t save him. He would become

Rasta and never tell a soul about the name

that undid his blackness. It is his grave

that tells me the name his black

body, even in death, could not move or mute.