Over the last few weeks we have been thinking a lot about the joy of poetry. One of our Directors, Siân Williams, has been pulling poetry collections down from her shelves and revisiting all of the marvellous poets we have worked with over the years, and some with whom we hope to work in the near future. Over the next month we are going to focus on a different poet every week, giving you an overview of their life and work as well as some videos of them reading and performing their poetry. As our patron Michael Rosen said:
“Poetry is the sound of words in your ears, it’s the look of poets in motion and that can be you. Make your poems sing, whisper, shout and float. Let the words make the rhythm and give the viewers a buzz to see you.”
John Agard is one of the most thrilling, arresting 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. He 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. His latest collection of poetry The Rainmaker Danced was shortlisted for the CLiPPA 2018.
Here is one of our favourites from that anthology:
By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them
If humans and animals can be compared:
say a hairy grandpa to a cuddly panda
say a limbo dancer to a wriggly cobra
say a full-o-beans toddler to a frisky hare
then why can’t people and fruits be paired
(no pun intended)? So those I find easy
to get along with, I’ll call banana-breezy.
Not like those who are pineapple-pricklies.
Yes, the world is full of all fruit-types.
Some are green yet act like they’re ripe.
And some look downright rotten outside -
Until you discover their inside.
Then of course you have those who show
the world a tough coconut exterior -
never wanting to appear a softie.
coconuts with a deep down heart of strawberry.
The Rainmaker Danced
These poems take us face to face with a praying mantis in the grass, up into the sky where thunder speaks its own language, and into the land of Hairyboos and Smoothyboos. Accompanied by Satoshi Kitamura's nimble illustrations, this book is thoughtful, truthful and witty, written in language that is full of detail and passion.
Watch John read some of his poems below.