Acclaimed Poet, Writer, Performance Poet
Rathbone Folio Prize
“Brave, tender and generous. Antrobus offers a haunting study of what we can find in the silences of history when history is recognized as more than a noun, when recognized as something alive and kinetic.” —Camonghne Felix
“Remarkable. Antrobus, who was born deaf, writes about grief, race, and violence in lines that are startlingly immediate and provocative.” —The Washington Post
“Intimate and searching.” —The New York Times Book Review
Jamaican-British poet, writer, and performance poet Raymond Antrobus is the author of Shapes & Disfigurements (Burning Eye, 2012); To Sweeten Bitter (Out-Spoken Press, 2017); The Perseverance (Tin House, 2021) – winner of the Ted Hughes Award, Rathbone Folio Prize, and Somerset Maugham Award; finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and Reading the West Book Award; and shortlisted for the Forward Prize; and All The Names Given (Picador / Tin House, 2021), which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize 2021 and for which he was awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. About Antrobus, Kwame Dawes said: “His monologues are stunning studies of voice and substance, and his lyric poems are graceful and finely crafted.”
Antrobus is also the author of the children’s picture book Can Bears Ski? (Candle Wick Press, 2020), illustrated by Polly Dunbar. This debut was selected as a Ezra Jack Keats honouree winner in 2021, and in 2022 for a Read For Empathy Collection Award. Currently, Antrobus is working on his nonfiction debut, extracts of the book have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 series The Essay and in print in Granta.
In March of 2021, Antrobus hosted his first BBC Radio 4 Documentary – “Inventions In Sounds” – produced by Falling Tree Productions, which won a Best Documentary Award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival that year. His most recent work is a BBC World service documentary, “Recaptive Number 11,407,” that traces the lost story of a deaf man freed from slavery. The documentary was a “Radio Times Pick of the Day” and had over 70,000 downloads and streams the week of broadcast.
Antrobus was a founding member of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. He is an Ambassador for The Poetry School, Arts Emergency and a board member for English PEN, an organization that promotes freedom of expression and literature across frontiers. He is also an advocate for several D/deaf charities including Deaf Kidz International and National Deaf Children’s Society.
Antrobus has won numerous poetry slams including Farrago International Slam 2010, The Canterbury Slam 2013, and was a joint winner at the Open Calabash Slam in 2016. His poetry has appeared on BBC 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, Channel 4, The Big Issue, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Guardian, TedxEastEnd among others. A Sunday Times / University of Warrick Young Writer of the Year, he is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works 3, Jerwood Compton and the Royal Society of Literature. He is also one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University. In 2021, he won the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award judged by Carolyn Forché; and in 2017, Ocean Vuong selected his poem “Sound Machine” for the Geoffrey Dearmer Award.
His poems have been published in Poetry, Poetry Review, Lit Hub, News Statesman, The Deaf Poets Society, among others. He has poems on the UK’s (GCSE) National Curriculum.
Antrobus splits his time between the United Kingdom and the United States.
Jamaican-British writer, poet, and broadcaster Raymond Antrobus is the author of The Perseverance for which he was awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. He was also the winner of the Ted Hughes Award, Lucille Clifton Legacy Award, Somerset Maugham Award, a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Reading the West Book Award, and shortlisted for the Forward Prize. He is also the author of All The Names Given, which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize 2021, and Can Bears Ski?, a children’s book illustrated by Polly Dunbar. His poems have been published in Poetry Magazine, Poetry Review, Lit Hub, Granta, News Statesman, The Deaf Poets Society, among others.Visit Author Website
All The Names Given
“Moving deftly between tenderness and violence, hope and grief, praise and lament, this is a deeply evocative collection that will linger in the reader’s mind.” –The Guardian
Raymond Antrobus’s astonishing debut collection, The Perseverance, won both Rathbone Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award, amongst many other accolades; the poet’s much anticipated second collection, All The Names Given, continues his essential investigation into language, miscommunication, place, and memory. Throughout, All The Names Given is punctuated with [Caption Poems] partially inspired by Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim, which attempt to fill in the silences and transitions between the poems, as well as moments inside and outside of them. Direct, open, formally sophisticated, All The Names Given breaks new ground both in form and content: the result is a timely, humane and tender book from one of the most important young poets of his generation.
“Magic.” –Kaveh Akbar
In the wake of his father’s death, the speaker in Raymond Antrobus’ The Perseverance travels to Barcelona. In Gaudi’s Cathedral, he meditates on the idea of silence and sound, wondering whether acoustics really can bring us closer to God. Receiving information through his hearing aid technology, he considers how deaf people are included in this idea. “Even though,” he says, “I have not heard / the golden decibel of angels, / I have been living in a noiseless / palace where the doorbell is pulsating / light and I am able to answer.”
The Perseverance is a collection of poems examining a d/Deaf experience alongside meditations on loss, grief, education, and language, both spoken and signed. It is a book about communication and connection, about cultural inheritance, about identity in a hearing world that takes everything for granted, about the dangers we may find (both individually and as a society) if we fail to understand each other.
Can Bears Ski?
Children's Book, 2020
Little Bear feels the world around him. He feels his bed rumble when Dad Bear wakes him up in the morning. He feels the floor shake when his teacher stomps to get his attention. But something else is missing, like when his friends tell jokes that he isn’t sure he understands, or when all around him Little Bear hears the question, “Can bears ski?” Then, one day, Dad Bear takes him to see an “aud-i-olo-gist,” and Little Bear learns that he has been experiencing deafness and will start wearing hearing aids. Soon he figures out what that puzzling refrain is: “Can you hear me?” Little Bear’s new world is LOUD and will take some getting used to, but with the love and support of Dad Bear, he will find his way. In this lyrical picture book, award-winning creators Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar draw on their own experiences to tell Bear’s story.
To Sweeten Bitter
Consider the name of Raymond Antrobus’ extraordinary collection of poems for a moment: To Sweeten Bitter. It’s a phrase of infinite possibility and tender worry, open and searching, wanting and volatile. And in this sense, it serves as a kind of secret refrain for us, a haunted current that charges after each line and image, each heart-fraught question (“you think you’re going / to go free?”) and tentative hope (“there is always enough time / in our lives to see / what we must see”). Here, a father laughs “you cannot love sugar and hate your sweetness” and a son reckons with all that might mean “in the scratched light” of history and the “turning / and the losing of myself.” Derek Walcott once reflected that “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer;” these poems— in all their urgent beauty—affirm that faith, embody it. –R.A. Villanueva
Articles & Audio
Read What’s In Print
• Raymond Antrobus uses spoken word poetry to portray a diverse experience of sound – NPR
• ‘The First Time I Wore Hearing Aids’: A poet stands up to misunderstanding – Christian Science Monitor
• A Review of Raymond Antrobus’ All The Names Given – The Adroit Journal
• The best recent poetry: “love, marriage and brotherhood” – The Guardian
• Four Poets Write New Histories – New York Times
• The Hierarchy of Language in The Perseverance – Chicago Review of Books
• An Interview with Raymond Antrobus – Granta
• Raymond Antrobus: “In some ways, poetry is my first language” – The Guardian
• In Conversation: Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar – Publishers Weekly
Listen to Audio
• Q with Tom Power: Raymond Antrobus – CBC
• ‘Perseverance’ And Poetry Help A Writer Bridge Multiple Worlds – NPR
• Raymond Antrobus: All The Names Given & The Perseverance – Between The Covers Podcast
• Michael Rosen meets acclaimed poet Raymond Antrobus to discuss language, sign language and deafness – BBC Radio 4
“Love is the man overstanding” –Peter Tosh
I wait outside The Perseverance.
Just popping in here a minute.
I’d heard him say it many times before
like all kids with a drinking father,
watch him disappear
into smoke and laughter.
There is no such thing as too much laughter,
my father says, drinking in The Perseverance
until everything disappears—
I’m outside counting minutes,
waiting for the man, my father
to finish his shot and take me home before
it gets dark. We’ve been here before,
no such thing as too much laughter
unless you’re my mother without my father,
working weekends while The Perseverance
spits him out for a minute.
He gives me 50p to make me disappear.
50p in my hand, I disappear
like a coin in a parking meter before
the time runs out. How many minutes
will I lose listening to the laughter
spilling from The Perseverance
while strangers ask, where is your father?
I stare at the doors and say, my father
is working. Strangers who don’t disappear
but hug me for my perseverance.
Dad said this will be the last time before,
while the TV spilled canned laughter,
us, on the sofa in his council flat, knowing any minute
the yams will boil, any minute,
I will eat again with my father,
who cooks and serves laughter
good as any Jamaican who disappeared
from the Island I tasted before
overstanding our heat and perseverance.
I still hear popping in for a minute, see him disappear.
We lose our fathers before we know it.
I am still outside The Perseverance, listening for the laughter.