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Chris Beckett

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  • Chris Beckett was born in London, but grew up in Ethiopia where his father worked in the British Embassy. He received a first class degree in modern languages from Oxford University. His poems have been widely published in magazines, and he won first prize in the Poetry London competition 2001. He has also translated Amharic poems by well-known contemporary Ethiopian poets such as Fekade Azeze and Bewketu Seyoum (Modern Poetry in Translation, 2008 and 2012; and a pamphlet, In Search of Fat (Flipped Eye, 2012). He is currently working on translations of later poems by Aimé Césaire, the great French Martinican author of Cahier d’un retour au pays natal.

    Since publishing Ethiopia Boy with Carcanet/Oxford poets in 2013 and receiving great reviews in Poetry Review, Poetry London, Ambit, on Ian McMillan’s The Verb (BBC Radio 3) and online, he has been busy translating Ethiopian poets such as Alemu Tebeje, Gemoraw, Zewdu Milikit and Bedilu Waqjira (eg Modern Poetry in Translation, spring 2016 and upcoming summer 2016), as well as writing an editorial on Ethiopian poetry for The Missing Slate (http://themissingslate.com/2016/03/28/the-secret-world-of-ethiopian-poetry/), hosting Ethiopian poetry readings in London and appearing on Resonance FM to talk about Ethiopian poetry and music (Resonance FM). He has also written reviews of inter alia Aime Césaire (MPT), Maitreyabandhu (PN Review), and Shuntarō Tanikawa (Poetry London). In addition, he has been working with his partner, the Japanese painter and sculptor Isao Miura, on his project to “translate” Matsuo Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North into contemporary visual and textual images. Their book to accompany a show of drawings at the Poetry Café in 2015, Sketches from the Poem Road (Hagi Press), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award this year and they have just finished a much larger multi-media exhibition at the Glass Tank gallery in Oxford Brookes University, sponsored by the OBU Poetry Centre (more details on: Glass Tank and OBU Poetry Centre).



    'These poems are utterly distinctive, there is something at once proud and sad in them, as the reader senses that Tenderfoot loves but stands outside what he loves.'
    Sasha Dugdale
    'This wide-ranging anthology is a pleasure to read. It opens a long overdue window into the way Ethiopians approach the craft of poetry.'
    Malika Booker
     'There is a drive to these poems, a quality of song, a fresh simplicity that neatly sidesteps sentimentality though replete with longing, a feel for the past.'
    Fred D'Aguiar
    'Chris Beckett's poetry is highly original in the way it works with two sharply distinctive traditions in a uniquely engaging style. The language is always fresh and surprising and the sentiments are always heartfelt but in a subtly complex way that raises serious political questions.'
    Daljit Nagra
    'Beckett's poems [...] are full of nostalgia, direct and honest without being overly sentimental. [...] Anyone who reads these poems and is not very aware of Ethiopia and its realities can still enjoy them, since they transcend boundaries and also call for more than one reading to get the wax, the real message.

    Langston Hughes lamented in his Afro-American Fragment: "So long, so far away, is Africa". For Beckett, Ethiopia is here and now, in his memory, alive in his versatile poems, not far away and distant but near and vibrant.'
    Hama Tuma, Anglo-Ethiopian Society
    Awards won by Chris Beckett Short-listed, 2021 The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry
    (Songs We Learn from Trees)
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