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John Agard Receives Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

Poet John Agard

Guyanese poet John Agard has joined the literary star spangled list of recipients of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Agard, who receives the 2012 prize on the basis of his body of work but with emphasis on his most recent collections Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems and Goldilocks on CCTV (a collection for children) is the second black poet to penetrate this bastion. The first, was St. Lucian Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, making this a double accolade for the Caribbean.

Agard, who currently resides in the UK, to which he migrated in 1977, is the author of several collections of poems for children and adults. His repertoire includes Laughter is an Egg, No Hickory, No Dickory, No Dock (with Grace Nichols), Eat a Poem, Wear a Poem, We Animals Would Like a Word With You, and Mangoes and Bullets: Selected and New Poems. His poem ‘Half Caste’ has been on the GCSE syllabus for numerous years.

The decision was made by the Poetry Medal Committed headed by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Previous recipients of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry include WH Auden, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes, Phillip Largin, Christopher Fry, Fleur Adcock, Kathleen Raine and Jo Shapcott, last year’s winner.

“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,” Agard said, as reported by The Telegraph. “I am delighted as well as touched to be in the company of such names as Charles Causley, Norman MacCaig, Gillian Clarke, Stevie Smith and Derek Walcott”.

“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 with and difficult truths with kindness,” said Duffy in a release issued by the Press Secretary to the Queen.

Agard’s previous awards include the Casa de las Americas Prize (1982), the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry (1997) and the Cholmondeley Award (2003).