Portrait of John Siddique

John Siddique is a spiritual teacher, poet, essayist and author. The Spectator describes him as ‘A Stellar British Poet,’ and The Times of India calls him 'Rebellious by nature, pure at heart.' He is the author of Full Blood, Recital – An Almanac, Poems From A Northern Soul, and The Prize. His poetry collection Don’t Wear It On Your Head is a perennial favourite with younger readers. He is the co-author of the story/memoir Four Fathers.

His poems, essays and articles have featured in Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review, The Rialto and on BBC Radio 3 & 4. Acclaimed novelist Bina Shah says he is 'One of the best poets of our generation.' Jackie Kay speaks of Siddique’s writing as being ‘A brilliant balancing act.’

The Times describes his book 'Full Blood' as 'Technically virtuosic, yet direct and sensual,’ and Dawn - Books & Authors says his work is as ‘Bold as love... Each word is to be savoured like a sip of forbidden wine,' and Professor Lauri Ramey of CSULA calls Recital ‘One of the most important British poetry books of the last twenty years.’

Siddique is well known for his authentic style, his captivating readings, and his infectious love of literature. He is the Honorary Creative Writing Fellow at Leicester University, and is a former Royal Literary Fund Fellow and British Council Writer-in-Residence at California State University - Los Angeles.


Honorary Fellow in Creative Writing - University of Leicester
Royal Literary Fund Fellow - York St. John University 2013/14
Hawthornden Fellowship
BBC Writer’s Award for ‘A Painter’s Sky’
Arts Council of England Writer’s Awards 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011
Shortlisted for CPLE Poetry Award 2007 for 'Don't Wear It On Your Head'
Forward Prize Nomination for Best First Collection 'The Prize' 2005
Forward Prize Nomination for Best Poem 'Variola' -2004


Our lives take us on so many paths, I could have been a physicist, a gardener or a monk; each of these possibilities was real at one time. Instead poetry and literature chose me as their own, as if in reality it was always meant to be that my life would be intertwined completely with theirs. Then I could have been happily following the typical role of the poet: writing, lecturing, and writing criticism of other poets in a mainly hermetic world, but the revolutionary act of bearing witness to the lives I come into contact with, through simply looking when I write, has shown me what a hard yet beautiful world it is that we live in. The simple meeting of life with one’s true gaze is the greatest act of humanity and dignity there is. To find a way every day to continue doing this, to keep reporting back in poems, stories and photographs, is my own small fight for a better world.

There are times when I drown in the politics of the world, things I have seen in my own life, in the very town and country I live in, as well as on my travels in the edge-lands of Northern Ireland, The Americas, Europe and India. There are things that are much worse than death. It is not true that words can never hurt us, human dignity can be destroyed with a single word, neighbour can be turned against neighbour, and war can shout its name in the guise of being for peace. In this whirling mess of emotion and division, the only thing that can restore us is that light within ourselves, this where art is at its most valuable. Not in argument or sentimentality, but in truth, in dreams, expression, and storytelling. Just as words can destroy us as readily as the gun, so it is that a true line written down can unlock a life that has not dared to breathe for years. It can bring empathy and dignity through the simple sharing of stories, through the medium of black ink on paper, or when spoken aloud in a room in another country. It can give life to those who have never had a chance at one, and it can lift us, though we may not even know how much we need this medicine.

Authenticity, bearing witness and taking action are more important than ever. We are always riding at the front edge of time, and there will always be those who desire that these are the worst of times. The artist, the dreamer, the worker and the scientist are necessary. Ask yourself, what real contributions do banking or politics make as they stand at this time. How do they help with understanding, evolution, and the true path of the human spirit? I for one will continue to transgress by travelling these roads with hope and love as best I can, erasing the borders that have been drawn on the map in order to divide us. For there are no borders, and there is no war between ordinary people when we truly see for ourselves that there is no separation.

John Siddique