Raymond Antrobus

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Raymond Antrobus

Raymond Antrobus in Berlin, 2022, taken by Dirk Skiba
Raymond Antrobus in Berlin, 2022, taken by Dirk Skiba
BornHackney, London, England
GenrePoetry, Non-Fiction
Notable worksThe Perseverance (2018)
Notable awardsTed Hughes Award
Rathbones Folio Prize
Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award

Raymond Antrobus MBE FRSL is a British poet, educator and writer, who has been performing poetry since 2007.[1][2] In March 2019 he won the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry.[3] In May 2019 Antrobus became the first poet to win the Rathbones Folio Prize for his collection The Perseverance,[4] praised by chair of the judges as "an immensely moving book of poetry which uses his deaf experience, bereavement and Jamaican-British heritage to consider the ways we all communicate with each other."[5] Antrobus was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020.[6]


Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, East London, to an English mother and a Jamaican father who in the 1960s had emigrated to England to work.[7][8] As a young child Antrobus was thought to have learning difficulties until his deafness was discovered when he was six years old.[3] Speaking of his early years, he has said:

"My dad had a really deep voice, so I never struggled hearing him. His presence was a huge thing for me – being able to lie on his chest and feel his vibrations as he would read the story, there was a dimension of comfort and closeness in that. My parents would often read to me. My mum would read a William Blake poem and we'd talk about it. My dad would read poems to me by Linton Kwesi Johnson. He put a poem called The Song of the Banana Man by Evan Jones on my bedroom wall and my mum put William Blake’s London on my wall. They both had a passion for poetry."[9]

Antrobus became a teacher and was one of the first recipients of an MA degree in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths, University of London, and has had fellowships from Royal Society of Literature, Cave Canem, Complete Works 3 and Jerwood Compton.[7][3][10] In 2015 he was shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate of London.[11][12]

Interviewed in 2016, he said: "I've had many jobs working in removals, gyms, swimming pools, security, etc, but now I make my living off teaching and touring my poetry... and I've never felt more useful working in education as a Jamaican British poet."[8] Of his beginnings as a poet, he says: "When I realised that I wanted to pursue poetry as a career I started looking for a community. At first I came across the London Slam and Open Mic scene, which to me is more of a community than it is a genre. ... and once I found that community I felt very nurtured by it. So for me, certainly there were people like Karen McCarthy Woolfe, Jacob Sam-La Rose, and Roger Robinson who were doing a lot of mentoring at the time, but really my first poetry mentor was Malika Booker, which must have been when I was about 21."[13]

From 2010-218, Antrobus was a founding member of Chill Pill at The Albany in Deptford[14] and the Keats House Poets Forum,[15] Antrobus co-curated shows featuring such people as Kae Tempest, Sabrina Mahfouz, Inua Ellams, Kayo Chingyoni, Warsan Shire, Anthony Anaxagorou and Hannah Lowe.[13][16] Antrobus has read and performed at major UK festivals and internationally, including in South Africa, Kenya, North America, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Switzerland,[17] and has held multiple residencies in schools, as well as at Pupil Referral Units.[18]

His work has been widely published in many literary magazines, journals and other outlets, among them BBC 2, BBC Radio 4, Poetry Review, New Statesman, Poetry, The Deaf Poets Society, The Big Issue, The Jamaica Gleaner and The Guardian.[19][20] In 2019 he headlined the London Book Fair as "Poet of the Fair".[13][21][22]

In June 2022, Antrobus's poems "The Perseverance" and "Happy Birthday Moon" were added to the UK's OCR GCSE syllabus.

In April 2022, Rose Ayling-Ellis, deaf actress and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, made history by signing a BSL version of Antrobus's children's picture book Can Bears Ski? on CBeebies. It was the first time airing a story told entirely in British Sign Language. That same month Rose signed and performed Antrobus's poem "Dear Hearing World" at the BSL rally on Trafalgar Square in support of the BSL Act.


In 2012, Burning Eye Books published Shapes & Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus, about which one reviewer wrote: "Exploring themes of outsider introspection, family connections, love and tangential inspiration, bestriding the continents in search of the answers to the keys questions, it's a chapbook that summons a chest-swelling furore of emotions."[23] His second pamphlet, To Sweeten Bitter — "a very personal exploration of the father/son relationship"[24] — came out in 2017, the same year as his poem "Sound Machine", first published in The Poetry Review, won the Geoffrey Dearmer Award, judged by Ocean Vuong.[18]

Antrobus's debut book, The Perseverance, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2018, going on to many accolades and critical acclaim. Among those who gave positive reviews of The Perseverance, Kaveh Akbar said: "It’s magic, the way this poet is able to bring together so much — deafness, race, masculinity, a mother’s dementia, a father’s demise — with such dexterity. Raymond Antrobus is as searching a poet as you’re likely to find writing today.’"[25] Describing the book as "an insightful, frank and intimate rumination on language, identity, heritage, loss and the art of communication", Malika Booker writes: "These colloquial, historical and conversational poems plunder the space of missing, and absence in speech/ our conversations — between what we hear and what we do not say. ... Thought-provoking and eloquent monologues explore the poet’s Jamaican/ British heritage with such compassion, where the spirit and rhythm of each speaker dominates. These are courageous autobiographical poems of praise, difficulties, testimony and love.’"[25]

The collection was a Poetry Book Society Choice,[18] and won the Ted Hughes Award (judged by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mark Oakley and Clare Shaw) in March 2019,[3] followed in May 2019 by the Rathbones Folio Prize, awarded for the first time to a poet.[26] The Perseverance was also shortlisted for the Griffin Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award, and was chosen as Poetry Book of the Year by both The Guardian and The Sunday Times, and Book of the Year by the Poetry School.[25][3] Also in May 2019, Antrobus was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Poetry.[27][28] In December 2019, The Perseverance was awarded the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award.[29][30]

Antrobus was appointed an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours for services to literature.[31]

Selected works[edit]




  • 2012: Shapes & Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus – chapbook (Burning Eye Books)[32]
  • 2017: To Sweeten Bitter – chapbook, Foreword by Margaret Busby (Outspoken Press)[33]


  • 2018: The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins, ISBN 9781908058522)
  • 2020: Can Bears Ski? illus. Polly Dunbar (Walker Books, ISBN 9781406382624)
  • 2021: All The Names Given (Picador, ISBN 9781529059496)

Radio Docs

  • 2021: Inventions In Sound (BBC Radio 4, prod. Elenor Mcdowall)



  1. ^ "Deaf Poets Society", BBC, 26 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Ray Antrobus" at Write Angle.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Deaf poet Raymond Antrobus wins Ted Hughes award", BBC News, 28 March 2019.
  4. ^ Alison Flood, "Raymond Antrobus becomes first poet to win Rathbones Folio prize", The Guardian, 21 May 2019.
  5. ^ Press Association, "Poet Raymond Antrobus wins Rathbones Folio Prize", York Press, 20 May 2019.
  6. ^ Alison Flood (30 November 2020). "Royal Society of Literature reveals historic changes to improve diversity". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b Biography at Raymond Antrobus website.
  8. ^ a b Andre Poyser, "Large Abroad | London Poet Laureate Raymond Antrobus Staying True To Jamaican Roots", The Jamaica Gleaner, 13 June 2016.
  9. ^ Anita Sethi (28 December 2019). "Raymond Antrobus: 'In some ways, poetry is my first language'". The Guardian.
  10. ^ Andrea Photiou, "Deaf British Jamaican Poet Receives £15,000 Fellowship", The Voice, 3 July 2017.
  11. ^ Harriet Creelman, "BoxedIN".
  12. ^ StephanieK, "Jamaican-Born Poet, Raymond Antrobus, Competing to Be Poet Laureate for London", Jamaicans.com, 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Robert Greer, "Interview | Raymond Antrobus", The London Magazine, 20 February 2019.
  14. ^ "THE FRESHEST DOSE OF SPOKEN WORD POETRY" (curated by Mr. Gee, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, Simon Mole and Adam Kammerling), Chill Pill.
  15. ^ "Keats House Poets", Simon Mole website.
  16. ^ "Next Gen Poet, Hannah Lowe - 'Poetry Is The First Place I Claimed A Mixed Race Identity', Shapes And Disfigurements Of Raymond Antrobus, 16 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Prose Interviews London Poet Raymond Antrobus", Prose Matters, Medium, 30 March 2016.
  18. ^ a b c "Meet Raymond Antrobus: The PBS Winter Choice", Poetry Book Society, 12 October 2018.
  19. ^ "In Conversation with Raymond Antrobus", FourHubs, 2 October 2018.
  20. ^ "New Book: 'To Sweeten Bitter'", Repeating Islands, 12 April 2017.
  21. ^ Natasha Onwuemezi, "LBF Poet of the Fair: Raymond Antrobus", The Bookseller, 13 March 2019.
  22. ^ "The London Book Fair Unveils 2019 Seminar Line-Up", The London Book Fair, 25 February 2019.
  23. ^ James Mcloughlin, "Pamphlets: 'The Shapes & Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus' by Raymond Antrobus", Sabotage Reviews, 1 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Raymond Antrobus: To Sweeten Bitter (poetry review)", Finding Time To Write.
  25. ^ a b c The Perseverance at Penned in the Margins.
  26. ^ Heloise Wood, "Antrobus becomes first poet to win Rathbones Folio Prize", The Bookseller, 20 May 2019.
  27. ^ "2019 Forward Prizes", Forward Arts Foundation.
  28. ^ Katie Mansfield, "Antrobus makes Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlist", The Bookseller, 23 May 2019.
  29. ^ Heloise Wood, "Raymond Antrobus wins 2019 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award", The Bookseller, 5 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Poet Raymond Antrobus wins 2019 young writer of the year award", The Irish Times, 6 December 2019.
  31. ^ "No. 63218". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2020. p. N15.
  32. ^ "Shapes And Disfigurements Of Raymond Antrobus".
  33. ^ "To Sweeten Bitter, Chapbook from Outspoken Press", Raymond Antrobus website, 10 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England select three creatively ambitious poets for new £45,000 poetry Fellowships", Press release, Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships, 21 June 2017.
  35. ^ "£100,000 'night of riches' – announcing the 2019 Society of Authors' Awards winners", The Society of Authors, 17 June 2019.

External links[edit]