Winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2020
Like the work of the European poets who have nourished him, David Constantine’s poetry is informed by a profoundly humane vision of the world. Many of the poems in this collection spring from particular localities: Scilly, the North of England, Southern France, the Aegean, Wales; others from certain places (loci) in literature and mythology. Inspired by such ‘local habitations' and the people who live there, the poems of Elder express gratitude and loyalty, but also grief at every harm and death.
Published on his 70th birthday, David Constantine's tenth book of poetry sounds many personal elegiac notes as well as – in the story of Erysichthon, for example – anxiety at the abuse of Earth, but there is also much celebration of love, beauty and the hope and aspiration in human beings to live well in the time allowed.
‘Above all, David Constantine is a “humane” poet – a word often used in connection with his work, as if in noticing and detailing the ways of the world he is doing so on behalf of all that is best in us. For over forty years he has shaped a body of work that stands in comparison with that of any of his contemporaries, not just at home but internationally, navigating and negotiating that space between everyday events and their metaphysical or spiritual “otherness”.’ - Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, on behalf of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry Committee
'The publication of David Constantine's Elder marks the poet and translator's 70th birthday with a work of impressive range and scale. It manifests his lifelong devotion to the classics and to German, and enables us to see and hear more fully how they have contributed to his own inimitably passionate lyricism.' - Sean O'Brien, The Guardian
'David Constantine has just turned 70 and his new collection, Elder, has a beguiling archaic goddess on the cover and many dreams and adventures inside.' - Marina Warner, The Observer, Best Holiday Reads 2014
'Drawing on the sensibilities of the European poets - Goethe, Hölderlin, Brecht - whose work he knows so intimately, Constantine's humane and serious volume weighs the life of the individual against the crash and tumble of the wider world and finds in favour of the subtler forces and complexities of the former.' - Sarah Crown, The Guardian [on Nine Fathom Deep]
'Constantine's exact writing is elemental, sensual and often piercing…these poems are further proof that Constantine is one of the best exponents of free verse this country has produced.' – Stephen Knight, The Independent on Sunday [on Nine Fathom Deep]
David Constantine reads from Elder
David Constantine read five poems from Elder: ‘Old Town’, ‘Elder’, ‘How will they view us, the receiving angels?’, ‘The Rec’ and ‘Our Lady of the Blackthorn and the Snow’. Neil Astley filmed Constantine reading selections of his poems from his books at his home in Oxford in June 2018. There are separate videos for poems from each of his collections.