Poet, performer, anthologist, John Agard was born in Guyana and came to Britain in 1977. His many books include nine from Bloodaxe, From the Devil’s Pulpit (1997), Weblines (2000), We Brits (2006), Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (2009), Clever Backbone (2009), Travel Light Travel Dark (2013), Playing the Ghost of Maimonides (2016), The Coming of the Little Green Man (2018) and Border Zone (2022). He publishes four books in 2022, the other three being Inspector Dreadlock Holmes & Other Stories (Small Axes), a collection of children’s poetry, Follow that Word (Hachette), and a children's picture book Windrush Child (Walker Books, illustrated by Sophie Bass). He was awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2012, and in 2021 became the first poet to win the Book Trust's Lifetime Achievement Award in children's literature.
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. The Coming of the Little Green Man was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.
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 first non-fiction work, Book (Walker Books, 2016), tells the history of books in the voice of the Book itself, and was longlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal. In 2016 John Agard was presented with the 50th Eleanor Farjeon Award for his exceptional contribution to children’s books.
He lives with the poet Grace Nichols and family in Sussex; they received the CLPE Poetry Award 2003 for their children’s anthology Under the Moon and Over the Sea (Walker Books).
Author photo: Sara Roque Peres
Books by John Agard