Winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2012
John Agard has been broadening the canvas of British poetry for the past 40 years with his mischievous, satirical fables which overturn all our expectations. And he has just received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry from Her Majesty the Queen. In this new symphonic collection, Travel Light Travel Dark, he casts his unique spin on the intermingling strands of British history, and leads us into metaphysical and political waters. Cross-cultural connections are played out in a variety of voices and cadences. Prospero and Caliban have a cricket match encounter, recounted in calypso-inspired rhythms, and in the long poem, Water Music of a Different Kind, the incantatory orchestration of the Atlantic's middle passage becomes a moving counterpoint to Handel's Water Music.
Travel Light Travel Dark brings a mythic dimension to the contemporary and opens with a meditation on the enigma of colour. Water often appears as a metaphoric riff within the fabric of the collection, as sugar cane tells its own story in 'Sugar Cane's Saga' and water speaks for itself in a witty debate with wine, inspired by the satirical tradition of the goliards, wandering clerics of the Middle Ages.
'John Agard's first book since he finally won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry is typically cosmopolitan, with one eye on the past and the other on the present...readers – especially schoolteachers and their pupils – tend to love his work... This thought-provoking, puckish, tender book will not disappoint them.' – Rory Waterman, Times Literary Supplement.
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.