Raymond Antrobus

The Perseverance

Griffin Poetry Prize 2019
International Shortlist

Book: The Perseverance

Poet: Raymond Antrobus

Publisher: Penned in the Margins

Click here to read an excerpt.

Raymond Antrobus


Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, London, England to an English mother and a Jamaican father. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works III, and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London. Antrobus is a founding member of Chill Pill and the Keats House Poets Forum. He has had multiple residencies in deaf and hearing schools around London, as well as Pupil Referral Units. In 2018 he was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society. He lives in London, England.

Judges’ Citation

“’The truth is I’m not /a fist fighter,’ writes Raymond Antrobus, ‘I’m all heart, no technique.’ Readers who fall for this streetwise feint may miss out on the subtle technique – from the pantoum and sestina to dramatic monologue and erasure – of The Perseverance. But this literary debut is all heart, too. Heart plus technique. All delivered in a voice that resists over-simple categorization. As a poet of d/Deaf experience, his verse gestures toward a world beyond sound. As a Jamaican/British poet, he deconstructs the racialized empire of signs from within. Perhaps that slash between verses and signs is where the truth is.”

The Perseverance

‘Love is the man overstanding’

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.

From The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
Copyright © Raymond Antrobus 2018

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Photo credit:
Raymond Antrobus, by Tenee Attoh