Andrew Motion

Image by Caroline Forbes

Andrew Motion

b. 1952

My poems are the product of a relationship between a side of my mind which is conscious, alert, educated and manipulative, and a side which is as murky as a primaeval swamp. - Andrew Motion

The Dog of the Light Brigade

Andrew Motion

Anne Frank Huis

Andrew Motion

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About Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion (b. 1952) read English at Oxford where he won the Newdigate Prize and spent two years studying the work of Edward Thomas, an abiding influence. This was followed by a stint teaching English at Hull University where he got to know Philip Larkin, another acknowledged mentor, whose official biographer he later became. He edited the Poetry Review, before becoming Poetry Editor at Chatto and Windus and, from 1996, Chairman of the Arts Council of England's Literature Panel. In 1999 he was appointed UK Poet Laureate, serving until 2009 as a high-profile champion of poetry. His work has been recognised by many awards including The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Award, the Somerset Maughan Award and the Whitbread Biography Award. He lives in London where he is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also a Director of The Poetry Archive. He was knighted for his services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2009.

In Motion's characteristically reticent poems lives are often "shockingly interrupted" (Peter Forbes). His own mother's early death and the manner of it - a riding accident followed by ten years of intermittent coma - shadows many of his poems. Some deal directly with this trauma, whilst others touch on lives similarly curtailed by accident or war - Ann Frank, Princess Diana, and personal friends like Ruth Haddon whose death in the Marchioness disaster is commemorated in his beautiful elegy 'Fresh Water'. His poems question whether any meaning can be gleaned from life's random events. Or are we, like his mother's horse in 'Serenade' or the fox terrier in 'The Dog of the Light Brigade', "waiting for something important to happen, only nothing ever did,/beyond the next day and the next,"? The imagery of his poems echoes this lack of conclusion; several take place in the hiatus of twilight like the meeting of father and son in 'Veteran' in which the true nature of the former's war experiences remains "hidden in his words."

Motion has said "I want my writing to be as clear as water" and certainly both his language and delivery can be calm and reflective. However, this quote ends "I want readers to see all the way through its surfaces into the swamp" - the darkness this implies is also present in the sometimes surprising fierceness of his tone.

His recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 2 December 2004 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Guided tours

Andrew Motion

A tour of the Archive with Andrew Motion

My short tour of the Poetry Archive is designed to show its range, as well as the strength-in-depth of its holdings. And also to demonstrate how the pleasures and meanings of poetry depend as much...

Additional material and useful links


Andrew Motion talks to Nick Patrick at the 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. In a reflective & open conversation Motion discusses the moment he 'got poetry', inspirational teaching and...

Aldeburgh Backchat 2010

Andrew Motion reads from In the Blood

A recording of Andrew Motion reading from his book 'In the Blood' on Intelligence Squared.

Selected bibliography

John Keats: Selected by Andrew Motion (Faber & Faber...

The Customs House, Faber and Faber, 2012

Silver: Return to Treasure Island, Jonathan Cape, 2012

The Cinder Path, Faber and Faber 2009

The Invention of Dr Cake (fiction), Faber & Faber, 2003

Wainewright the Poisoner (biography), Faber...

In the Blood: A Memoir of my Childhood, Faber...

First World War Poems (editor), Faber & Faber, 2003


101 Poems Against War (Afterword), Faber & Faber, 2003


1975 Newdigate Prize, Inland

Prize website

1976 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1993 Whitbread Biography Award, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life

Prize website

1987 Somerset Maugham Award, The Lamberts: George, Constance and Kit

Prize website

1987 Dylan Thomas Award, Natural Causes

1984 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Dangerous Play: Poems 1974-1984

1981 Arvon Foundation/Observer International Poetry Competition, 'The Letter'

Prize website

A tour of the Archive with Sherrie Talgeri

Poetry is life with line-breaks – a personal matter – and I hope that this six poem mixtape I’ve chosen will...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Andrew Motion