John Agard


Born in Guyana in 1949, John Agard is a playwright, poet and children’s writer. He has won numerous awards for his works, including the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry and the Cholmondeley Award, as well as having held the position of Poet-in-Residence at both the National Maritime Museum and the BBC. His recent poetry collection The Young Inferno was shortlisted for the Carnegie Award. His poetry has been featured in the AQA English GCSE anthology since 2002 and has helped him to become a firm favourite amongst children and adults alike.


“We surround ourselves with objects, whether functional, aesthetic, or both. And while our rational side would like to think of objects as having no soul, it doesn’t take much for our primeval mindset to start imbuing a familiar object with otherworldly powers. Yes, we’re all closet animists at heart. A voiceless object can call to us the way a stone held in the hand, according to Native Indian tradition, can give off vibes of friendly or unfriendly territory. In responding to the objects in the exhibition, I hadn’t a clue which would call to me. The three I ended up choosing, or the three that chose me – Hand of Good, Hand of God; The Wobbly Dress; The Budgie Teapot – I later realised were all familiar items associated with basic creature comforts. But the titles, with their unexpected juxtaposition, suggested a certain quirkiness. As if behind these objects there was an inner imp.”

The Wobbly Dress

The Wobbly Dress

Beware all you who dare enter the wobbly dress
for there’s no telling what it does to flesh.

To you the wobbly dress might sound like fun-
a whimsical trip to the land of nylon-
you wait till it wraps you in oblivion.

The wobbly dress is of vintage design.
It shrouds you in wobbles till you feel divine.
You won’t find it on the high street or online.

No need to adorn it with accessories.
Eurydice, they say, got lost in its sleeves
on her one-way ticket down to Hades.

Whether this be true or just catwalk gossip,
how can you billow in perfect slumber
without that wobbly white number?

John Agard reading ‘The Wobbly Dress’, 2011, London.

The Budgie Teapot

The Budgie Teapot

Let Cuckoo chime the time with metronome beak.
Let Robin rule the yule with ruddy breast.
Let Pigeon boost the roost with a chorus of coos.

Let Canary warn the mine of the death-charged air.
Let Peacock preen in its own eye-dazzle.
Let Owl preach in hoots its night-time gospel.

So what if Swallow be summer’s ambassador
and Swan reign over a lake’s mirror?
Long may these pursue their lot.

For you, Budgerigar, I bring this good news.
You, little Budgie, by yellow begot,
you shall be the star over the teapot.

John Agard reading ‘The Budgie Teapot’, 2011, London.

The Gloves Of God

The Gloves Of God

These gloves are not
a pair embroidered
with royal fur
or the likes of pearls.

Not a falcon’s
branch of leather
or a token won
with chivalry’s wounds.

Not a bishop’s
liturgical silk
or a surgeon’s
probing latex.

No, these are gloves
belonging to one
who never ceases
to perplex.

For when even fingers
considered almighty
must clothe themselves
against the world’s briars

then blessed be the yarn
of Shetland fleece
and conscience haunt the lips
that utter Finders Keepers.

John Agard reading ‘Gloves of God’, 2011, London.