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Lewes poet joins the greats with prestigious award
A Lewes man is following in the footsteps of poets including WH Auden, John Betjeman and Philip Larkin in receiving a prestigious honour.
John Agard said he was touched to receive The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2012.
He represented the country of his birth, British Guyana, at the Cultural Olympiad this summer and has lived in Lewes since the 1970s.
He has appeared at the Brighton Dome and regularly gives readings in the area.
Mr Agard said the news, which was delivered to him by the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, came out of the blue.
He said it was particularly pleasing to receive the award in the year which saw the launch of the Caribbean Poetry Project.
The three-year initiative encourages engagement with Caribbean poetry, and aims to improve the teaching and learning of poetry in British and Caribbean schools.
He said: “It’s touching to be recognised alongside the likes of Derek Walcott and Stevie Smith.
“I think over my lifetime Caribbean poetry has become more mainstream. It is good of course for children to know about poets like Kipling. But it’s healthy for them to know about the broader poetic landscape.”
Carol Ann Duffy 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 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.”