From reviews of Ethiopia Boy: 

Steven Waling on Elsewhere, A Review of Contemporary Poetry (26 Feb 2014):  "A different sound world": It’s not often that one reads a book of poetry which brings a different music into English poetry; but Ethiopia Boy does just that. The African praise poem is not much appreciated in England; but Chris Beckett, who spent his formative years in Ethiopia, has managed to make use of it in a very supple, subtle way to talk of his childhood and the country he knew then. Sometimes, for instance, he uses a song-like refrain: “wanzey wanzey” in ‘The Goodbye Tree’ for instance, and there is about the whole collection a different sound world from most English poetry….I’d recommend it to all those looking for a way out of the usual English anxieties about form, because this is neither formalist nor is it particularly ‘experimental’. Its eyes are directed at the world around it, a world full of African music and people dancing to old-new musics across an ancient and beautiful continent.

Full review on Elsewhere:

Julian Stannard
in the autumn 2013 issue of Poetry Review:    Ethiopia Boy by Chris Beckett is a delight. For a moment I thought of Orlando, that mischievous, nevertheless generous, love letter by Virginia Woolf for Vita Sackville-West. Like Orlando, Beckett’s collection travels through time as we are given dazzling vignettes which, without any pedagogic insistence, teach us through poetry about a country which has too often been mired in journalistic accounts of political catastrophe and terrible famine. Not that the country’s troubled history is ignored – see ‘To the Man with a Guzzler Wife’, whose epigraph is taken from Unheard Voices: Drought, Famine and God in Ethiopian Oral Poetry by Fekade Azese: “You who have a guzzler wife / divorce her and wait for me.”
    Ethiopia Boy is, in fact, a love letter. The nostalgia for for Haile Selassie’s “glamorous barefoot empire, home of black-maned lions and [...] blazing young singers of Ethio-Jazz”, where the young Beckett lived in the 1960s, is reinforced by the poet’s continuing engagement with, and translation of, Ethiopian poetry. It is a love letter to Abebe, the cook’s son (the object of the English boy’s affections), and the opening piece – an extended apostrophe, a type of litany, unabashed – is emblematic....

Read the rest of the review in Poetry Review 103.3 Autumn 2013

Karen McCarthy Woolf  in the Autumn 2013 issue of Poetry London: Beckett wrote poetry as a teenager, but it wasn't until he began to translate Amharic verse that he felt able to capture the spirit of the rich oral culture that surrounded him as a boy. The result is a warm and affectionate depiction of a country, a culture and its people in a book that evokes a keenly felt nostalgia in its best, and orginal, sense of the word.....Abebe's story is a narrative thread that runs through the book and which culminates in the elegiac 'Cupboards and a guitar'. his story is both a poignant account of the author's urge to rediscover a childhood friendship and also emblematic of the book's larger quest to reconstruct the country of his (and Abebe's) boyhood....

Read the rest of the review in Poetry London Autumn 2013. 

Beth McDonough on the University of Dundee arts website DURA:  Beckett wears his learning lightly. He offers an apology for being insufficiently expert in the many, many languages and poetic traditions of Ethiopia, suggesting that he merely “imitate[s]”. Beckett is a harsh judge of his achievements, both in his translation and in his own verse. Despite his protestations, few readers will be more knowledgeable about these areas. In any case, these poems all stand firmly and require no apology. His footnotes, like his introduction, betray a light, well-judged hand with sufficient, illuminating explanations which neither patronise nor overweigh the lines. Fine typesetting contributes fittingly. That typography is showcased wonderfully in the expansive shape poem “Sticks” – the most ordinary of subject-matter made extraordinary. There are so many poetic forms and devices in this collection: list poems and laments, curses and praises, descriptive verse and some very funny poetry indeed. Politicians, local buses and flies are all fair game. Untranslated words charm with their sounds throughout. The word play, wit and rhythms of “Lion buses”, and the listed images of “Motorcar!” delight, just as “Dirge for Mrs Ethiopia” haunts. “Wondrossen, the prayer child” dreams another, lyrical world. There is so much to challenge and to amaze.

Read the full review at:

Helena Nelson in Ambit: These poems are not translations; they were conceived and written in English.  But they have the feeling of translation - their success at capturing another country infects the language, form and phrasing.  It works, it really does. 

Read the rest of Helena's review at:

Hama Tuma in The Anglo-Ethiopian Society News File, summer 2013Chris Beckett...grew up in the Ethiopia of the 1960s when I and many others were making our way into the university and to protest and rebel against Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule. Ethiopia was then, as it is today, a land of contradictions, of sumptuous feasts...and as Beckett notes in his poem The banquet, where “daytime beggars show us sores and stumps/ stick hungry babies under our noses”, a land of famine and injustice, of oppressed people stubbornly clinging to their pride and tattered clothes. Beckett has captured the spirit and soul of the land, the fatalism (“I am bad days coming and days that are worse than that”, To the man with a guzzler wife), and, yes, the romanticism and hope eternal of the ordinary Ethiopian....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. 

Ian McMillan
on The Verb : Chris Beckett is a poet whose childhood in 1960s Ethiopia has been the inspiration for a remarkable body of work collected in his book Ethiopia Boy. In it, you find praise poems, imitations of laments, boasts, a dirge, and visual and linguistic representations of varieties of sticks. In their willingness to cross languages and cultures and expectations of what a poem can be, I've not read anything like them before. (BBC Radio 3, 5th April 2013)

Listen to the program by downloading from this link (Chris' part starts after 32 minutes):

Mark Sanderson, The best recent poetry: 24 February 2013(The Telegraph online): Chris Beckett relives his exotic Sixties childhood in Ethiopia Boy (Carcanet, £9.95). Colourful incantations evoke the sights and sounds and above all the food of the East African nation: “Staring eggs, long stick- / tooth shreds of goat, gooey / angel peas and half-bean kikwot” (“Wot?”). Wot, a stew, makes up part of the national dish. 

Daljit Nagra
: Chris Beckett’s poetry is highly original in the way it simultaneously 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 about the legacy of empire and class differences and how these complicate relationships. Above all it is the enervated energy that rises from these problems that gives the reader a thrilling experience.
Fred D’AguiarThere 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. (And about the poem, Wondwossen, the prayer child) What a tour de force! I felt propelled to the end of the poem and found the content mesmerizing along with the rhetoric of repetition and a sense of foreboding as well, this poem has everything in it.

From Londongrip's review of In Search of Fat: The Poetry Parnassus gathering at London’s South Bank achieved a notable success at its very first event – a lunchtime reading on the QEH roof garden – by introducing the Ethiopian poet Bewketu Seyoum.  Along with his co-translator, the British poet Chris Beckett, he performed a remarkable set of poems, mainly chosen from his first English chapbook In Search of Fat....This chapbook is itself like a small glinting piece of gold and Flipped Eye are to be congratulated on producing it.  Bewketu Seyoum is well known as both a poet and a novelist in his own country; but until now his appearances in English-language publications have been limited to magazines.  It is to be hoped that In Search of Fat will prove to be the first of many British book publications.

Read the rest of the review at

From reviews of The Dog Who Thinks He's A Fish:

These poems move from the commonplace to the revelatory by sleight of hand. There's a rightness of tone, a deftness and true authority. 
Pascale Petit

Each poem creates its lucid, slightly off-beat world. Chris Beckett's first collection is a rare delight.
Moniza Alvi

This is wonderful - the best book of poetry I've read in years. The poems opened my eyes to another place - they are beautiful, moving and humane, as well as skillfully wrought. The world is a better place for having these poems and this poet in it.  Shazea Quraishi