The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2020
Published 16 December 2020
The Queen has approved the award of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2020 to David Constantine.
The Gold Medal for Poetry was established by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield, and is awarded annually for excellence in poetry. Each year’s recipient is from the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth Realm.
The Poetry Medal Committee recommended David Constantine as this year's recipient on the basis of his eleven books of poetry, in particular his Collected Poems, published in 2004, which spans three decades of his work. The committee is chaired by the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who received The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2018.
David Constantine has made significant contributions both to the European poetic tradition and to contemporary poetry, and the inspiration for his work ranges from the everyday, nature and our relationship with the planet, to the mythical world of Ancient Greece.
While poetry is at the heart of David Constantine’s prolific career, he is also a scholar, a novelist, and an award-winning short-story writer and translator, whose translations of Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin and Bertolt Brecht have been hailed by critics in the UK and internationally.
On hearing of the award, David Constantine said:
These past few days I have been thinking of the many people, living and dead, who have accompanied me in the writing of my poems. It has made me all the more grateful for this generous award.
The Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, said:
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’.
Biography: David Constantine
David Constantine was born in Salford in 1944 and read Modern Languages in Oxford, before lecturing in German at Durham and Oxford. During his career, he has published eleven books of poetry, including Belongings (2020) and Collected Poems (2004).
For many years he was a commissioning editor for Oxford Poets, and then co-editor of the journal Modern Poetry in Translation, and has judged several literary prizes, including the T.S. Eliot Prize. As well as a poet, David Constantine is a scholar, novelist, short story writer and translator. His body of work includes translations of poets and playwrights, such as Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin and Bertolt Brecht.
History of The Queen’s 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. 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 poet is from the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth realm, and the poems will have been published.
The front 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’. The latter part of this description is a quotation from John Keats's poem, "Ode on a Grecian Urn".
Previous recipients of The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry:
1934 Laurence Whistler
1936 W H Auden
1940 Michael Thwaites
1952 Andrew Young
1953 Arthur Waley
1954 Ralph Hodgson
1955 Ruth Pitter
1956 Edmund Blunden
1957 Siegfried Sassoon
1959 Frances Cornford
1960 John Betjeman
1962 Christopher Fry
1963 William Plomer
1964 R S Thomas
1965 Philip Larkin
1967 Charles Causley
1968 Robert Graves
1969 Stevie Smith
1970 Roy Fuller
1971 Stephen Spender
1973 John Heath-Stubbs
1974 Ted Hughes
1977 Norman Nicholson
1981 D J Enright
1986 Norman MacCaig
1988 Derek Walcott
1989 Allen Curnow
1990 Sorley Maclean
1991 Judith Wright
1992 Kathleen Raine
1996 Peter Redgrove
1998 Les Murray
2000 Edwin Morgan
2001 Michael Longley
2002 Peter Porter
2003 U A Fanthorpe
2004 Hugo Williams
2006 Fleur Adcock
2007 James Fenton
2009 Don Paterson
2010 Gillian Clarke
2011 Jo Shapcott
2012 John Agard
2013 Douglas Dunn
2014 Imtiaz Dharker
2015 Liz Lochhead
2016 Gillian Allnutt
2017 Paul Muldoon
2018 Simon Armitage
2019 Lorna Goodison
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