© 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

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • Goodnestone: A Sequence, London, Workshop Press, 1972
  • Inland, Burford, Oxford, Cygnet Press, 1976
  • The Pleasure Steamers, Manchester, Carcanet, 1978
  • The Poetry of Edward Thomas, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980
  • Independence, Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1981
  • Philip Larkin, London, Methuen, 1982
  • The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (editor with Blake Morrison), London, Penguin, 1982
  • Secret Narratives, Salamander Press, 1983
  • Dangerous Play: Poems 1974-1984, Salamander Press / Penguin, 1984
  • The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit, London, Chatto & Windus, 1986
  • Natural Causes, Chatto & Windus, 1987
  • Two Poems, Child Okeford, Words, 1988
  • Love in a Life, London, Faber & Faber, 1991
  • Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life, Faber & Faber, 1993
  • New Writing 2 (editor with Malcolm Bradbury), London, Minerva in association with the British Council, 1994
  • New Writing 3 (editor with Candace Rodd), Minerva in association with the British Council, 1994
  • Selected Poems by Thomas Hardy (editor), London, Dent, 1994
  • The Price of Everything, Faber & Faber, 1994
  • Keats: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 1997
  • Penguin Modern Poets: Volume 11 (contributor with Michael Donaghy and Hugo Williams), Penguin, 1997
  • Salt Water, Faber & Faber, 1997
  • Selected Poems 1976-1997, Faber & Faber, 1998
  • John Keats: Poems Selected by Andrew Motion, Faber & Faber, 2000
  • Wainewright the Poisoner (biography), Faber & Faber, 2000
  • Here to Eternity: An Anthology of Poetry (editor), Faber & Faber, 2001
  • Public Property, Faber & Faber, 2002
  • 101 Poems Against War (Afterword), Faber & Faber, 2003
  • First World War Poems (editor), Faber & Faber, 2003
  • The Invention of Dr Cake (fiction), Faber & Faber, 2003
  • The Poetry Quartets 8, Audio Cassette, The British Council/Bloodaxe Books, 2004
  • Andrew Motion Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • In the Blood: A Memoir of my Childhood, Faber & Faber, 2006
  • The Cinder Path, Faber and Faber 2009
  • The Customs House, Faber and Faber, 2012
  • Silver: Return to Treasure Island, Jonathan Cape, 2012
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.


1975 Newdigate Prize, Inland

1976 Eric Gregory Award

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

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

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'

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