The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2012

Published 20 December 2012


The Queen has approved the award of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2012 to John Agard.

Background and Biography

The Poetry Medal Committee met at Windsor on 23rd November and was in agreement that Mr Agard should be nominated for this year’s award, on the basis of his body of work over several years. In particular, the Committee considered Mr Agard’s most recent published volume, Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (2009), as well as his book of children’s poems Goldilocks on CCTV (2011).

Mr Agard grew up in Georgetown, Guyana, in the 1950s. In 1977 he moved to the UK where he has lived ever since: in London working – as a touring speaker – for the Commonwealth Institute, and for the National Maritime Museum); and now in Lewes (East Sussex). His first books were published before his move to the UK. He has produced numerous volumes of prose and verse, winning the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry in 1997 and the Cholmondeley Award in 2004.

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has said:

‘John Agard has always made people sit up and listen. He has done this with intelligence, humour and generosity. He has the ability to temper anger with wit and difficult truths with kindness. He levels the ground beneath all our feet, whether he is presenting Dante to children or introducing his own (Guyanan) culture to someone who hasn't encountered it before. In performance he is electrifying - compelling, funny, moving and thought-provoking. His work in Education over years has changed the way that readers, writers and teachers think about poetry.’

History of the Gold Medal for Poetry

The Gold Medal for Poetry was instituted by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield. Recommendations for the award of the Medal are made by a committee of eminent men and women of letters, selected by the Poet Laureate (Carol Ann Duffy).

The Medal is awarded for excellence in poetry, on the basis either of a body of work over several years, or for an outstanding poetry collection issued during the year of the award. The poems will have been published. The poet will be from the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth realm. The obverse of the medal bears the crowned effigy of The Queen. The idea of the reverse, which was designed by the late Edmund Dulac, is “Truth is emerging from her well and holding in her right hand the divine flame of inspiration – Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty”.