The lecture hall is filled with students, and they are chattering. But suddenly there is silence as Zephaniah enters the room. "Just call me Benjy," he says, and the ice is broken. Students laugh and they seem comfortable again.
Zephaniah begins with an enthusiastic rap performance. His poems are simple, funny and highly energetic. The entire hall is enthralled as he recites about his first date in the library. Everyone is laughing and clapping.
He then changes track to comment on politics, sensationalism and consumerism. The poetry still has a lilting, ebullient feel but its tone is much darker. The ease with which he approaches serious issues and relates them to the audience is truly commendable.
Poetry is "so democratic", he says. "Anyone can do it, and yet it is so simple, so powerful." He left school at the age of 13, unable to read or write. His struggle is inspiring. His big break came in 1980, when he performed an anti-racism poem on TV. "I wanted to change poetry," he says. And it is evident that he has.
Compiled by Joyee Chan