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David Constantine awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2020

15 January 2021

The Gold Medal for Poetry was established by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield, and is awarded annually for excellence in poetry. We were delighted to hear that Queen’s Fellow David Constantine is this year’s recipient, in recognition of his eleven books of poetry, and in particular his Collected Poems (published 2004), which spans three decades of his work.

David has made significant contributions both to the European poetic tradition and to contemporary poetry, and the inspiration for his work ranges from the everyday, nature and our relationship with the planet, to the mythical world of Ancient Greece. While poetry is at the heart of his prolific career, David is also a scholar, a novelist, and an award-winning short-story writer and translator, whose translations of Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin and Bertolt Brecht have been hailed by critics in the UK and internationally. 

After reading Modern Languages at Wadham College, David lectured in German at Durham University for several years, before becoming a Fellow at Queen’s in 1981 until 2000, when he was appointed to a Supernumerary Fellowship.

On hearing of 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.’

The selection committee is chaired by the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who received The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2018. He said: ‘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 forty 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”.’