Benjamin Zephaniah, who has travelled the world for his art and his humanitarianism, now tells the one story that encompasses it all: the story of his life. In the early 80s when punks & Rastas were on the streets protesting about unemployment, homelessness & the National Front, Benjamin’s poetry could be heard at demonstrations, outside police stations & on the dance floor.

His mission was to take poetry everywhere, and to popularise it by reaching people who didn’t read books. His poetry … More

Born OTD in 1958, British writer, dub poet and Rastafarian, Benjamin Zephaniah. Zephaniah, who has travelled the world for his art and his humanitarianism, now tells the one story that encompasses it all: the story of his life. In the early 1980s when punks and Rastas were on the streets protesting about unemployment, homelessness and the National Front, Benjamin’s poetry could be heard at demonstrations, outside police stations and on the dance floor. His mission was to take poetry everywhere, and to popularise it by reaching people who didn’t read books.

His poetry was political, musical, radical and relevant. By the early 1990s, Benjamin had performed on every continent in the … More

Born OTD in 1955, American novelist, essayist and poet, Barbara Kingslover. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her work often focuses on topics such as social justice, biodiversity and the interaction between humans and their communities and environments.

“2016 Vineland Meet Willa Knox, a woman who stands braced against an upended world that seems to hold no mercy … More

Born OTD in 1928, American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents & resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.

In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in … More

Born OTD in 1936, American poet, novelist, & social activist, Marge Piercy. He, She And It, is a cyberpunk novel by Piercy published in 1991. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel in 1993. The novel examines gender roles, human identity & AI, political economy, environmentalism, love, & storytelling through a suspenseful plot, set in a post-apocalyptic America, of the romance between a human woman & the cyborg created to protect her community from corporate raiders.

In the middle of the twenty-first century, life as we know it has changed for all time. Shira Shipman’s marriage … More

Born OTD in 1757, English poet, painter, and printmaker, William Blake. His poetry consistently embodies an attitude of rebellion against the abuse of class power as documented in David Erdman’s large study Blake: Prophet Against Empire: A Poet’s Interpretation of the History of His Own Times. Blake was concerned about senseless wars & the blighting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Much of his poetry recounts in symbolic allegory the effects of the French and American revolutions. Erdman claims Blake was disillusioned with them, believing they had simply replaced monarchy with irresponsible mercantilism and notes Blake was deeply opposed to slavery, and believes some of his poems read primarily as championing “free love” have had their anti-slavery implications short-changed.

Peter Marshall’s study draws on Blake’s complete writings, his poetry and his prose. It offers a lively and perceptive account … More

Born OTD in 1854, Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. In Praise of Disobedience draws on works from a single miraculous year in which Wilde published the larger part of his greatest works in prose the year he came into maturity as an artist. Before the end of 1891, he had written the first of his phenomenally successful plays & met the young man who would win his heart, beginning the love affair that would lead to imprisonment & public infamy. In a witty introduction, playwright, novelist & Wilde scholar Neil Bartlett explains what made this point in the writer’s life central to his genius and why Wilde remains a provocative and radical figure to this day.

Included here are the entirety of Wilde’s foray into political philosophy, The Soul of Man Under Socialism; the complete essay … More

Born OTD in 1952, Jamaican dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson. What is the relationship between poetry and social change? Standing at the forefront of political poetry since the 1970s, Linton Kwesi Johnson has been fighting neo-fascism, police violence and promoting socialism while putting pen to paper to refute W.H. Auden’s claim that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’. For Johnson, only the second living poet to have been published in the Penguin Modern Classics series, writing has always been ‘a political act’ and poetry ‘a cultural weapon’.

In Dread Poetry and Freedom – the first book dedicated to the work of this ‘political poet par excellence’ – … More

Happy Birthday to the fantastic Salena Godden!! Springfield Road is a journey into childhood in the late 1970s, a time of halfpenny sweets, fish n chips in newspaper, scrumping apples and foraging for conkers. Set in the dawn of Thatcher’s Britain, it’s a salute to every curly-top, scabby knee’d, mixed-up, half-crazy kid with NHS glasses, free school dinners & hand-me- downs, as told by the daughter of an Irish jazz musician and a Jamaican go-go dancer. It’s about discovering that life is unfair, that there are bullies out there, and that parents die; yet it is the very antithesis of a misery memoir.

It’s a vivid, uplifting tale that seeks out the humour, colour and tenderness in the world, and when you read … More

Born OTD in 1926, American poet, philosopher and writer, Allen Ginsberg. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state.

Visionary poet Allen Ginsberg was one of the most influential cultural and literary figures of the 20th century, his face … More