Dan Splarn (Hackney Gazette) writes about Raymond Antrobus and his new book, The Perseverance. Splarn explains that The Perseverance is a collection of 29 works authored by Hackney-born Antrobus, who is quickly becoming an influential figure in the world of poetry.
Born in Hackney to an English mother and a Jamaican father, the 31-year-old’s candid work – which explores themes of race, loss, masculinity and his deafness – has earned plenty of plaudits.
Antrobus’ 2017 pamphlet To Sweeten Bitter, which was “written through the grief” of losing his dad, gave notice of an exceptional poetic talent. His latest release, The Perseverance, is even more eagerly anticipated.
The Perseverance is a collection of 29 poems authored by Antrobus and named after the Broadway Market pub his dad used to drink in. It was released earlier this month and has been selected as the Poetry Book Society’s Choice for Winter 2018.
“The Perseverance is a book I’d been trying to write since 2014,” says Antrobus. “To Sweeten Bitter was a book immersed in grief and love for my father, who came from Jamaica and lived on a council estate in Hackney where I grew up. The book was realised when I started working as a poet in resident at Deaf schools and started learning BSL so I could engage with young deaf people. As a student of a deaf school myself I realised my deafness was something I had spent most of my life running away from. The Perseverance forced me to run into it and embrace it.”
The book addresses the author’s personal experience as a deaf man while also channelling the stories of historical figures like Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell. Antrobus’ poems are kept flowing by illustrations in both British and American sign language.
“The book explores the ideas of being in different states of health, wealth and presence,” he adds. “So far I’m feeling lucky to have such thoughtful readers who have written to me after reading the book and shared some of their takes. Some have said it’s helped them to feel heard.”
Antrobus – in his own words “truly a Hackney boy” – presented his new book on a tour of the UK that kicked off with a launch party at The Book Club. The Australian leg of an overseas tour starts this Sunday, with further dates planned in New Zealand and The Gambia.
“It’s what I have dreamed of for a long time,” he says. “I’ve had many jobs, but lost a lot of them because of my deafness. Having the opportunities I have today to live and travel as a poet is a blessing, but also it has given me a way to give back to the community that raised me and that is what puts me in a good place.”
[Photo above: Raymond Antrobus by Caleb Femi.]