Lemn Sissay MBE is associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of the Letterbox Club and the Reader Organisation, ambassador for the Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night and an honorary doctor of Letters. He has been a writer from birth and foremost he is a poet.
Lemn is author of a series of books of poetry alongside articles, records, broadcasts, public art, commissions and plays. Sissay was the first poet commissioned to write for the London Olympics. His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London. They can be seen in the Royal Festival Hall and the Olympic Park. His Landmark Poem, Guilt of Cain, was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Fen Court near Fenchurch St Station.
Sissay’s installation poem ‘what if’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy alongside Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley. It came from his Disko Bay Expedition to the Arctic alongside Jarvis Cocker, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Leslie Feist and KT Tunstall. His 21st century poem was released on multi-million award winning album Leftism by Leftfield. A violin concerto performed at the BBC by Viktoria Mullova was inspired by Lemn Sissay’s poem Advice For The Living.
Sissay’s award winning play Something Dark, directed by National Theatre of Wales artistic director John McGrath, has been performed throughout the world and his stage adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel Refugee Boy at West Yorkshire Playhouse toured Britain in 2014. A BBC TV documentary, Internal Flight, and a radio documentary, Child of the State, were both broadcast about his life and his TED talk has close to a million views. His documentary on the late Gil Scott Heron was the first public announcement of Scott-Heron’s comeback album.
Sissay describes dawn in one tweet every day. His Morning Tweets. One Morning Tweet became an award winning building MVMNT Cafe commissioned by Cathedral group designed and built by Supergroup’s Morag Myerscough. It is the only building in the world built below a tweet. Cathedral also commissioned a Landmark Poem, Shipping Good, which will be laid into the streets of Greenwich.
He was the first Black Writers development worker in the North of England. He created and established Cultureword (part of Commonword) where Sissay developed, supported and published many new writers who’ve gone on to a life of creativity. Sissay received an MBE from the Queen for services to literature and an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield, which runs the Sissay Scholarship for care leavers: it is the first of its kind in the UK.
The Guardian newspaper heralded the arrival of his first book Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist with “Lemn Sissay has Success written all over his forehead.” He was 21. Between the ages of 18 and 32 he tracked his family down across the world. His career as a writer happened in spite of his incredible life story not because of it.
He has made various BBC radio documentaries on or with writers such as Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets, JB Priestley, Edgar Allan Poe and poetry films broadcast to the nation. His head is in London where he’s based, his heart is in Manchester where he is not, his soul is in Addis and his vibe is inNew York where his mother lives. He blogs openly for personal reasons. Google Lemn Sissay and all the hits would be about him. There is only one Lemn Sissay in the world.