Winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2012
John Agard has been broadening the canvas of British poetry for the past 35 years with his mischievous, satirical fables which overturn all our expectations. In this new collection, he puts on the mask of Moses Maimonides (aka the Rambam), the medieval Jewish rabbi and physician who wrote his Guide of the Perplexed in Arabic at a time when Judaism, Islam and Christianity cross-fertilised each other in Moorish Spain.
Now the ghost of Maimonides returns to the contemporary world, no less perplexed, and trailed by the figure of the Jester, whose wise fool musings shadow Maimonides' discourses on a range of subjects from sectarian fanaticism to God's incorporeal lack of taste buds. In Playing the Ghost of Maimonides, the rabbinical, the parabolical, the nonsensical, are symphonically interwoven in a thought-provoking romp of metaphysical shapeshifting that resonates with the current climate of extremism.
'Many of us know his poetry through its popularity in schools, with its delightful mixture of subversion and levity... but Playing the Ghost of Maimonides is far from a children's book... This is a complex, adult text that grapples with sectarian extremism, the Torah and Koran, humankind's perpetual "tribal Iliad"... But it is also an attempt to recalibrate spiritual poetry to contain our new reality' - Clare Pollard, The Poetry Review
‘…a forward-facing collection that tackles the big issues of war, religious intolerance, and how we relate to each other as neighbours inhabiting the same fragile planet.’ - Lisa Kelly, Magma [on Playing the Ghost of Maimonides]
'John Agard’s most ambitious book yet and a wholly original take on the endless wars of the 21st century… It’s a clever and entertaining book, with wisdom accompanying the perplexity.' – Andy Croft, Morning Star [on Playing the Ghost of Maimonides]
JOHN AGARD: Playing the Ghost of Maimonides
John Agard reads and introduces six poems from his new Bloodaxe collection Playing the Ghost of Maimonides: ‘The Return of Perplexed Maimonides’, ‘The Jester’s Postwar Reflection’, ‘The Jester’s Eureka Moment’, ‘The Jester Confronts the Almighty on Separating the Sheep from the Goat’, ‘A Senior Moment’ and ‘Maimonides Discourses on the Fifth of the Four Humours’. This video shows part of his performance at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 3 July 2016.
JOHN AGARD: Alternative Anthem
John Agard performs his 'Alternative Anthem' with the audience at London's Soho Theatre. 'Alternative Anthem' is also the title poem of Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (2009), a new DVD-book featuring Agard's performances at two different venues. This video is from the DVD John Agard Live! included in his Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems from Bloodaxe.
JOHN AGARD: Listen Mr Oxford don
John Agard reads his poem 'Listen Mr Oxford don', familiar to thousands of school students from the GCSE syllabus. This video is from the DVD John Agard Live! included in his Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems from Bloodaxe.
JOHN AGARD with Keith Waithe
A second excerpt from the Alternative Anthem DVD-book (2009). John Agard and fellow Guyanan Keith Waithe perform 'Flute Boy', a piece specially written by Agard for his flute maestro friend. Then Waithe accompanies Agard's performance of his poem 'Marriage of Opposites'. Finally, the third poem in this excerpt is Agard's much celebrated 'Half-caste', now on the syllabus in many English schools. This live performance by Agard and Waithe was filmed at Havant Arts Centre in 2008. This video is from the DVD John Agard Live! included in his Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems from Bloodaxe.