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Lemn Sissay MBE is a British author. He is known for performances of his poetry and also with jazz fusion groups. He is a playwright, and has worked on radio and television. He appears on the award winning Leftfield album Leftism

At eighteen years old he moved from the villages of Lancashire to the city of Manchester. By the age of nineteen he was one of only two black literature development workers in Britain at Commonword, a community publishing cooperative in Manchester. A number of his poems adorn buildings throughout the Manchester area and have become landmarks.

By the age of 21 his first book of poetry was released in London. “Lemn Sissay has success written all over his forehead” said the Guardian Newspaper in 1988. He soon left his post and from the age of 24 until the present day he has been a full time writer. He has read his poetry on stages throughout the world. Some examples are Jo’Burg, Cape Town Pretoria in South Africa, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Singapore, Los Angeles, Berkley, Melbourne, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, France, Switzerland, Portugal, India, Holland, Ireland, and Italy.

In 1995 The BBC made a television documentary about his life called Internal Flight. His 2005 drama Something Dark deals with his search for his family. In 2006 Something Dark was adapted for BBC Radio 3 and won the RIMA award.

Television appearances range from The South Bank Show to BBC’s hit series Grumpy Old Men, where he remains the youngest contributor. As a radio broadcaster he makes documentaries for the BBC. They range in subject matter from The Last Poets in New York to WH Auden’s Night Mail; the last in March 2008 was a documentary about the source of pub signs all over Britain called The Black Boy. He is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Four’s Saturday Live which in 2008 is nominated for two Sony Awards. He also contributes to Simon Mayo’s Book Panel.

In 2008, as part of his Poems as Landmarks series, a commissioned poem "The Gilt of Cain" is to be placed inside a sculpture in The City of London. In 2007 he was appointed as artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre in London where he remains throughout 2008. In 2008 his award winning play was published by Oberon Books as part of Hidden Gems edited by Professor Deidre Osborne. Also in 2008 his next book of poetry Listener is to be published by award winning publishing house Canongate. The cover shot is a photograph taken by award winning photographer Rankin. Prior to the book launch and tour Lemn Sissay will be travelling to the Antarctic with Cape Farewell and a ship full of artists.

He was born in Billinge, near Wigan, Lancashire, of Ethiopian descent. He was fostered for eleven years. From eleven to seventeen he lived in various children's homes in Lancashire. Since then he spent most of his adult life searching for his family. By the age of thirty-two he had found them all. In his own words he “has now got a fully dysfunctional family just like everyone else”.

Sissay was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[1]


  • Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist 1987
  • Rebel Without Applause 1992 with Bloodaxe and 2000 with Canongate
  • Morning Breaks in the Elevator 1999
  • The Fire People 1999 Editor
  • Emperor’s Watchmaker 2000
  • Something Dark 2008
  • Listener 2008


Don't Look Down (1993) Chaos by Design (1994) Storm (2002) Something Dark (2006)

Recorded releases


External links



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