About Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion (b.1952) read English at Oxford University where he won the Newdigate Prize and studied the work of Edward Thomas, an abiding influence. At Hull University he taught English and worked alongside 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 as well as Founder/Director of The Poetry Archive.

His deep, campaigning interest in protecting the landscape and the environment form important themes in his poems, and have also been given voice in his work for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, where he served as President from 2008 – 2016.

Questions of time, the erosion of places and the workings of memory are encoded in Motion’s sparse, unflinching poems, which bring quotidian moments to vivid emotional life. His most writing grapples often with grief; where earlier work has dealt with his mother’s riding accident, subsequent illness and death, new work focuses on his relationship with his father. He remembers a man and a soldier, who was ‘an expert with silence,’ as the extraordinary poem Passing On attests, and also proves Motion himself to be. Several of the poems 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."

The figure of the soldier appears in many poems; Motion has spent time with those who have served in wars from WWII to more recently in Afghanistan, and with their loved ones, bearing witness in his writing to their experiences of death and survival. Other poems touch on lives 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’. Motion’s poems question whether any meaning can be gleaned from life's random events and question whether we, like his mother’s horse in ‘Serenade’ or the fox terrier in ‘The Dog of the Light Brigade’, are simply “waiting for something important to happen, only nothing ever did,/beyond the next day and the next,”?

Alongside Motion’s own writing stands his commitment to education and to making poetry accessible to all. ‘Poetry by Heart,’ the national competition he co-founded as part of the Archive has inspired hundreds of school-aged young people across the UK to learn and recite poetry. Motion is also the author of two novels for young adults, Silver and The New World, both riffs on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

His awards for poetry include The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Award, the Somerset Maughan Award and the Whitbread Biography Award. He was knighted for his services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2009. That same year, his biography of John Keats became the basis for the Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or nominated film ‘Bright Star’, directed by Jane Campion.

Andrew Motion now lives in Baltimore, U.S.A., where he is currently Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University. His second recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 23 April 2015. The first was made on 2 December 2004 at the Audio Workshop, London. Both were produced by Richard Carrington.

 

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

Aldeburgh

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.

http://www.intelligencesquared.com/talks/andrew-motion-reads-from-in-the-blood

Andrew Motion on Desert Island Disks, BBC Radio 4, 1998

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00943h0

Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life, Faber and Faber,...

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Keats, (biography), Faber & Faber, 1998

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Wainewright the Poisoner (biography), Faber & Faber...

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

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

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The Cinder Path, Faber & Faber, 2009 

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The Customs House, Faber and Faber, 2012 

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Silver: Return to Treasure Island, Jonathan Cape, 2012...

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The New World, Jonathan Cape, 2014

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Prizes

1975 Newdigate Prize

Prize website

1976 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1984 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize

Prize website

1987 Somerset Maugham Award

Prize website

1987 Dylan Thomas Award

1981 Arvon Foundation/Observer International Poetry Competition

Prize website

1993 Whitbread Biography Award

Prize website

2014 The Ted Hughes Award

Prize website

Recordings

Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion Downloads

1In the Attic

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2Anne Frank Huis

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3The Letter

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4A Blow to the Head

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5The Spoilt Child

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6To Whom It May Concern

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7Goethe in the Park

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8On the Table

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9Fresh Water

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10Serenade

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11The Dog of the Light Brigade

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12Mythology

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13A Glass of Wine

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14The Fox Provides for Himself

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15Closing the Curtains

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16Red Gloves

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17Veteran

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18Twitching

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19Passing On

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20The Mower

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21The Life of Harry Patch

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22The Death of Harry Patch

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23Now Then

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24A Pine Cone

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25The Gardener

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26Holy Island

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27The Discoveries of Geography

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28Audrey

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29Swim

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30The Fish in Australia

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31The Mill

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32Laying the Fire

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33Through the Lych Gate

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Guided tours

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...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Andrew Motion