Bloodaxe poet John Agard awarded Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2012

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Congratulations to John Agard, who is to be awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2012. The Medal is awarded for excellence in poetry, and will be presented to John by The Queen in 2013. John is published by Northumberland’s Bloodaxe Books, who have brought out his last five collections, with another forthcoming on 27 June 2013. He is the second Bloodaxe writer to be awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry after Fleur Adcock received the award in 2006 for her retrospective, Poems 1960-2000.

Guyana-born John Agard is only the second black writer to receive the Gold Medal for Poetry since the award was instituted by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of Poet Laureate John Masefield. Its scope was widened in 1985 to include writers from across the Commonwealth, with Derek Walcott winning in 1988. Other distinguished holders of the medal include WH Auden, John Betjeman, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Les Murray, Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Spender and RS Thomas.

The decision was made by the Poetry Medal Committee headed by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and was made on the basis of John Agard’s most recently published books, Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2009), as well as his book of children’s poems Goldilocks on CCTV (Frances Lincoln, 2011).

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, said: “John Agard has always made people sit up and listen. He has done this with intelligence, humour and generosity. He has the ability to temper anger with wit and difficult truths with kindness. He levels the ground beneath all our feet, whether he is presenting Dante to children or introducing his own (Guyanan) culture to someone who hasn’t encountered it before. In performance he is electrifying – compelling, funny, moving and thought-provoking. His work in education over years has changed the way that readers, writers and teachers think about poetry.”

John Agard said: “When told the news out of the blue on the phone by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, I couldn’t believe my ears and it took a little time to sink in. I am delighted as well as touched to be in the company of such names as Charles Causley, Norman MacCaig, Gillian Clarke, Stevie Smith, Derek Walcott. I am deeply thankful to the Poetry Medal Committee who supported my nomination for this honour and to all who supported my work over the years.”