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Benjamin Zephaniah: The book that changed my life

As a young, angry black man in the 1980s, it was a revelation to find a dead white poet that made sense to me

By Benjamin Zephaniah  

Illustration by Bill McConkey

Red Shelley by Paul Foot

In 1982 I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I normally insist on hotels when touring, as I’m not a good house guest. I don’t like being told when to go to bed, or sharing strangers’ bathrooms.

But on this occasion I was persuaded to stay in the house of a lady called Anne. She gave me a small room at the back of the house with one book in it. The book was called Red Shelley by Paul…

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