David Constantine to receive Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

David Constantine to receive Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

David Constantine is to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, for his "humane" work spanning 11 collections.

He will be the 51st recipient of the award, which was started by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then-Poet Laureate, John Masefield. The award is made for "excellence in poetry". Constantine's award will be presented in 2021. 

The Poetry Medal Committee recommended Constantine as this year’s recipient on the basis of his 11 books of poetry, in particular his 2004 Collected Poems, which spans three decades of his work. The committee is chaired by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who himself received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2018.

Constantine has been published by Bloodaxe Books since his debut collection A Brightness to Cast Shadows (1980). His Collected Poems (2004) spans three decades, with work from seven previous Bloodaxe titles, as well as a whole collection of new poems. He has since published Nine Fathom Deep (2009), Elder (2014), and his 11th collection Belongings (2020). His critical works include A Living Language: Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures (2004) and his monograph, "Poetry" (2013) in Oxford University Press’ series The Literary Agenda.

Constantine joins five other Bloodaxe poets who have received the award: Gillian Allnutt (2016), Imtiaz Dharker (2014), John Agard (2012), Fleur Adcock (2006) and the late R S Thomas (1964). 

Commenting on the award, he 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."

Armitage added: "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 40 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'."

Constantine has also published five translations with Bloodaxe, two of which have won European translation awards, including his Selected Poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin (2018). Other poets he has translated include Philippe Jaccottet, Henri Michaux and Hans Magnus Enzensberger (all from Bloodaxe), along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Penguin) and Bertolt Brecht (Norton).

Constantine has published six collections of short stories with Comma Press, and he won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2013 for his collection Tea at the Midland—making him the first English writer to win the international fiction award. His story "In Another Country" was adapted into "45 Years", a major film starring Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling.