John Agard

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to the published poetry works of John Agard.

Administrative / Biographical History

Poet, performer, anthologist, John Agard was born in Guyana and came to Britain in 1977. His many books include six collections from Bloodaxe, From the Devil’s Pulpit (1997), Weblines (2000), We Brits (2006), Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (2009), Clever Backbone (2009), and Travel Light Travel Dark (2013). He is the winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2012, presented to him by The Queen on 12 March 2013.

He won the Casa de las Américas Prize in 1982, a Paul Hamlyn Award in 1997, and a Cholmondeley Award in 2004. We Brits was shortlisted for the 2007 Decibel Writer of the Year Award, and he has won the Guyana Prize twice, for his From the Devil's Pulpit and Weblines.

As a touring speaker with the Commonwealth Institute, he visited nearly 2000 schools promoting Caribbean culture and poetry, and has performed on television and around the world. In 1989 he became the first Writer in Residence at London’s South Bank Centre, who published A Stone’s Throw from Embankment, a collection written during that residency. In 1998 he was writer-in-residence for the BBC with the Windrush project, and Bard at the Beeb, a selection of poems written during that residency, was published by BBC Learning Support. He was writer in residence at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in 2007.

He is popular writer for children and younger readers, with titles including Get Back Pimple (Viking), Laughter is an Egg (Puffin), Grandfather’s Old Bruk-a-down Car (Red Fox), I Din Do Nuttin (Red Fox), Points of View with Professor Peekaboo (Bodley Head) and We Animals Would Like a Word with You (Bodley Head), which won a Smarties Award. Einstein, The Girl Who Hated Maths, a collection inspired by mathematics, and Hello H2O, a collection inspired by science, were published by Hodder Children’s Books and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books published his recent titles The Young Inferno (2008), his retelling of Dante, also illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, which won the CLPE Poetry Award 2009, and Goldilocks on CCTV (2011). His anthology Hello New (2000), published by Orchard Books, was chosen by the Poetry Society as its Children’s Poetry Bookshelf Best Anthology.

He collaborated with Bob Cattell on Butter-Finger (Frances Lincoln, 2005) and Shine On, Butter-Finger (Frances Lincoln, 2007), two cricket novels for children to which he contributed calypso cricket poems. He has also written plays. He lives with the poet Grace Nichols and family in Lewes in East Sussex, and they received the CLPE Poetry Award 2003 for their children's anthology Under the Moon and Over the Sea (Walker Books).