About John Agard
John is one of the most exciting, energetic and spellbinding readers you’ll hear, breathing passion and energy into each of his poems when he speaks them aloud. Born in Guyana in the Caribbean, John moved to Britain in the 1970s and has written lots about what it was like to leave home and the history of the Caribbean, as well as telling stories of his childhood and the myths and legends of Guyana.
John is fascinated with the world, and how everything works, taking inspiration from science and maths as well as legends and fairy tales – he’s able to apply this passion for learning to his writing, with poems about everything from big numbers like the ‘Googol’ to those in the voice of an alarm clock, in ‘Clockwise’, which sits “squat as a toad” ready to steal its owner’s sleep.
John’s readings are an enchantment, bringing his poems to life. He drops his voice into a whisper to make us lean in to hear him closely, while at other moments he can sound spooky and scary, he’s even been known to burst into song! Listen to how he draws out certain words and sounds to make us feel the energy and emotion of the speakers, whether describing the ancient Incas or Rumpelstiltskin.
John was born in Guyana and his love of cricket as a boy was partly behind his first attempts at writing – he used to make up his own commentary for matches and realised he loved to play with language! He started writing poems while he was still at school.
John worked as a journalist before moving to the UK in the 1970s and has won lots of big prizes for his work.
John uses a whole range of styles and forms in his work, sometimes making his poems rhyme but also writing in free verse, as well as drawing inspiration from fairy tales and other traditional forms.
John Agard has made two recordings for the Poetry Archive, the first recording was made on 26th November 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld. The second recording was made on 13th March 2019 at the Sound Designer Studio in Lewes, East Sussex.
Featured in the
The Rainmaker Danced, Hodder Children’s Books, 2017
Goldilocks on CCTV, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2014
Hello H20, Hodder Children’s Books, 2004
Clever Backbone, Bloodaxe, 2009
Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems , Bloodaxe, 2009
The Young Inferno, Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009
We Brits, Bloodaxe, 2006
Half-caste and other poems, Hodder Education, 2004
Weblines, Bloodaxe, 2000
From the Devil's Pulpit, Bloodaxe, 1997
Why is the Sky, Faber & Faber, 1996
The Heinemann Book of Carribean Poetry, Bloodaxe, 1992
2007 British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year for We Brits (shortlist)
2003 Cholmondeley Award
1997 Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry
1982 Casa de las Américas Prize
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