Raymond Antrobus

Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney, to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of two other poetry collections, The Perseverance and All The Names Given. He is a recipient of the Ted Hughes Award, the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize, Griffin Prize and the Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize (judged by Ocean Vuong) for his poem Sound Machine. He has also published two children’s picture books, Can Bears Ski? and Terrible Horses and hosted a number of award-winning radio documentaries including “Inventions In Sound” (BBC Radio 4, 2021). He is a Cave Canem graduate in the US, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in the UK, and divides his time between England and New Orleans. 

Praise

  • Reading Raymond Antrobus’s Signs, Music, was an exhilarating (re)ride into the wonders and terrors of becoming a new parent. It’s hard to explain how much parenting can change a person, but Antrobus succeeds: “I broke up/with announcing my convictions and good news/on the internet I broke up with talking to myself/as if I’m not there I broke up with people-pleasing/and the trembling boundary between life and still life.” Here is a beautiful mapping of a journey of this life that becomes this life in all of its anaphoric radiance. Each letter in these poems is bursting at the seams.

    —Victoria Chang, author of With My Back to the World

  • “Raymond Antrobus’s Signs, Music is unlike any poetry about becoming a father I’ve read. A report from two different countries—the land before birth and afterwards—the strength of this book comes from what it lets stand: half-thoughts, snatched conversations, hard memories. Caffeinated anticipation gives way to exhaustion and wonder, and a darker strain of introspection. The transition from fatherlessness to fatherhood isn’t smoothed over, but the son’s birth allows for a reconfiguration of relationships—with Antrobus’s mother, with the city he grew up in. ‘They’ve always been here,’ he writes. ‘I’m just / moving slowly enough to see them.’ Here is a book of slow seeing which reaches a level of genuine intimacy.”

    —Will Harris, author of RENDANG and Brother Poem

  • “Signs, Music wades devotedly through weathers of joy, grief, wonderment and terror—all of which arise as fleetingly on the page as they do in the throes of new parenthood. Vulnerable and hopeful, though never expectant of certainty or utopia, Signs, Music is a prayer for a world that might yet look tenderly upon young black life.”

    —Victoria Adukwei Bulley, author of Quiet

  • “In this honest, witty and humane book, Antrobus brilliantly pins down the before and after of parenthood—and the uncrossable gap between the two. These poems manage to look both backwards and forwards: at who we were, who we are and who we hope to be.”

    —Joe Dunthorne, author of O Positive

  • Exquisite.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • Deeply personal, emotionally striking, with memorable turns of phrase.

    —Chicago Review of Books

  • Bold and tender. . . . These voice and narrative-driven poems bear
    witness to the gaps in language, speaking, and understanding—moving
    seamlessly through new poetic and visual forms in the pursuit of
    bridging and speaking to these gaps.

    —The Arkansas International

  • Antrobus never sits inside darkness. It’s not so much that he is overly sentimental or naively optimistic. Rather, Antrobus is able to juxtapose the most troubling moments with vignettes of wonder and wisdom. . . . Antrobus burst onto the scene with two incredible collections this year. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of both The Perseverance and All The Names Given. This is a poet you’re going to want to follow.

    —The Poetry Question

  • Intriguing and moving.

    —The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

  • In All The Names Given, the essential tension is knowledge. Knowledge of self, knowledge of others. These poems make the sublime leap or union of witness to ‘with-ness,’ so their knowledge is not speculative but holds together, beautiful and fraught, the broken burden of honesty: love. Antrobus is a phenomenal poet.

    —Ishion Hutchinson, author of House of Lords and Commons

  • [Antrobus] reckons with his own ancestry, conflicting racial and cultural identities, and chronicles the damages of colonialism.

    —CITY Magazine

  • This collection is a brave, tender and generous piece of music, where family is a cord forever troubled by the process of being named. With a knife-like precision, All the Names Given manages to caption the speaker’s dance with the ghosts of his bloodline, offering us a haunting study on 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, something constantly in conversation with the present. I can’t wait to see how this timely book ripples through our world.

    —Camoghne Felix, author of Build Yourself a Boat

  • What a beautiful book Raymond Antrobus has written! I love it. So much pain, so much tenderness, so much music and invention and passion in All The Names Given. Truly, it is terrific. Antrobus has a special gift of making music from stories and giving his lyrics gravity and urgency that’s inimitable.

    —Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

  • These poems are revelations. This collection is so obviously
    at the forefront of a new canon whose singular and evocative
    approach to lyricism and imagistic play demonstrates not only
    the necessity of our multilingual and multimodal realities,
    but ‘the volume of their power,’ too.

    —Meg Day, author of Last Psalm at Sea Level

  • A fluidly written understanding of self, history, and oppression from a fast-rising poet.

    —Library Journal, Starred Review

  • Deaf poet Raymond Antrobus’s powerful collection winds readers between text and image, sound and silence, while tackling questions about identity, family and trauma. . . . bold and direct, these poems are stunning in their generosity: two hands open, offering abundance.

    —Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

  • Powerful. . . . Antrobus beautifully pays witness to the legacy of colonialism while providing another gripping meditation on language and communication.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • Raymond Antrobus [has a] depth of awareness, originality, and empathy—all turned inside out and refracted into prism-like hues of insight.

    —Foreword Reviews

  • Intimate and searching.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • Raymond Antrobus’s compelling debut, The Perseverance, confronts deeply rooted prejudice against deaf people.

    —The Guardian

  • Remarkable. Antrobus, who was born deaf, writes about grief, race and violence in lines that are startlingly immediate and provocative.

    —The Washington Post

  • The Perseverance relates Antrobus’s experiences of being biracial and d/Deaf in sharp and beautiful poems. . . . These poems are expressive and beautiful and will leave readers thinking differently about sound and silence.

    —BuzzFeed

  • Stunning.

    —New York Public Library

  • Antrobus can be gentle, tactile, and pointed in this book—which collects into an affirmation, a pronouncement.

    —The Millions

  • Outstanding.

    —Chicago Review of Books

  • Emotionally textured and sonically charged. . . . the poem [‘Sound Machine’] gyrates through interrogations of grief and ancestry twinned with a brooded meditation on masculinity and selfhood.

    —Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

  • This book is a gift, for how it repurposes my understanding of treacherous feelings, and shapes them into something worth sticking around for.

    —Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Fortune For Your Disaster

  • The Perseverance is an insightful, frank and intimate rumination on language, identity, heritage, loss and the art of communication. . . . These are courageous autobiographical poems of praise, difficulties, testimony and love.

    —Malika Booker, author of Pepper Seed

  • Honest, raw and striking…. Antrobus captures the feeling of isolation that comes with navigating a world not made for everyone who exists within it.

    —Arkansas International

  • Clear, unflinching. . . . We expand our comprehension of humanness in encountering these poems, and recognize the limits of language that is only spoken and heard—The Perseverance is language embodied and utterly present.

    —Orion Magazine, Khadijah Queen Recommends

  • An extraordinary debut.

    —Entropy Magazine

  • An affecting, accessible, and astonishingly raw collection of poems.

    —October Hill Magazine

  • A memorable collection . . . Antrobus interlaces wit and pathos as he examines his identity as a deaf British Jamaican man in a world between sign language and speech.

    —The Sunday Times

  • Insightful.

    —Cool Hunting

  • A poet who traverses a diversity of worlds.

    —Colorlines

  • At every turn, Antrobus pushes back against flattening, against the tidy narrative—an invidious Ted Hughes poem gets radically revised, an aunt’s misheard utterance becomes ‘a faint fog horn, a lost river.’ 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.

    —Kaveh Akbar

  • It channels Danez Smith, Malika Booker and Caroline Bird, in formal poems, erasures, free verse, innovative use of Makaton symbols, translation, prose, and a blackout version of Ted Hughes’ ‘Deaf School’; probably the best poem I read all year, and it doesn’t even have any words in it.

    —Will Barrett, Poetry School

  • Antrobus’s evocative, musical honesty is unforgettable.

    —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • Innovative and urgent. . . . Deserves a wide readership.

    —BookPage