Benjamin Zephaniah’s Imagine Nation

Benjamin Zephaniah. Wow, what an inspiration. Highly dyslexic, he left school at 13 being unable to read or write, had constant brushes with the law before turning his hand to poetry and making it accessible to all kinds of people in all kinds of places. His self-confessed mission is to fight the staid, academic image of poetry, thus turning his poetry readings into theatrical-style performances.

I can’t quite believe I didn’t know his poem, Imagine Nation, before. It is so powerful and a revolutionary call to fight the status quo and inspire young people everywhere. I worked with this poem with a group of ten and eleven year olds this week and I loved the way they responded to it and how it made them feel.

Here’s the poem. Enjoy 🙂

Imagine Nation

You cannot hold, force or control

The brave imagination,

From paintings that are bright and bold

To poetry creation,

You cannot legislate against ideas

For you will find,

You cannot stop young pioneers,

It’s all in the mind.


Teachers inspire students and

Students inspire teachers,

And if done write throughout the land

We’ll all become great readers,

There’s joy in mathematics

When a beauty is designed,

There’s even art in physics,

It’s all in the mind.


Bring thought police in uniforms

The music will not stop,

Excited brains will not conform

And nor will sweet Hip-Hop,

Now schools can become temples

Where the students bump and grind,

It’s all so experimental,

It’s all in the mind.


We beings need adventure

Just like we need a heart,

It’s more than lazy leisure

Life’s empty without art,

Ideas are like the universe

They cannot be confined,

And our ideas are so diverse

It’s all in the mind.


When you look at all the negative

It’s only black and white, But when you get creative

It’s all colour and light,

So why live in the darkness?

And why be colour-blind?

Our art brings love and brightness,

It’s all in the mind.


You cannot put a price upon

A dancer with great action,

Nor can you put a price upon

A teacher full of passion,

What’s possible is endless

When these talents are combined,

What’s possible is priceless,


It’s all in the mind.

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