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Raymond Antrobus: ‘In some ways, poetry is my first language’

The award-winning poet on addressing the loss of his father, owning his deafness and being added to the school syllabus

Poet and educator Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, London, in 1986 to an English mother and a Jamaican father. He is the author of the poetry collection The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins, £9.99), and the recipient of the Rathbones Folio prize, Ted Hughes and Somerset Maugham awards. This month he was named the 2019 Sunday Times/University of Warwick young writer of the year. He was born deaf, and his poetry powerfully explores this experience, as well as issues of bereavement, race and violence.

In The Perseverance you write movingly about loss…
I guess I’m drawn to elegiac poetry. That loss was such a huge theme in the book wasn’t something I realised until I finished writing it and was redrafting. Most of the poems about my dad were written pretty much in the week leading up to and following his passing [in 2014]. So looking back at that time, it’s a blur. I rarely write at night, but all of those poems about my dad were written at night, which says something about the rhythm and spirit I needed to find him, to access him in the poems. I was writing whatever I had to write on nerve, on feeling.

I felt that I got more education outside the classroom. That was part of why I started working in schools

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