David Constantine named winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2020

The Queen has approved the award of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2020 to David Constantine. The announcement was made by Buckingham Palace today, Wednesday 16 December.


David Constantine will be the 51st recipient of a prestigious award instituted by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate John Masefield. The award is made for excellence in poetry and will be presented in 2021.  


The Poetry Medal Committee recommended David Constantine as this year’s recipient on the basis of his eleven 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. 


David Constantine was one of the first poets to be published by Bloodaxe Books, making his debut in 1980 with A Brightness to Cast Shadows, just two years after the press was founded. His eleventh collection, Belongings, was published in October.


On hearing of the award, David Constantine 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.’


Simon Armitage commented: 


‘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”.’


David Constantine joins five other Bloodaxe poets who have been honoured with the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry: Gillian Allnutt (2016), Imtiaz Dharker (2014), John Agard (2012), Fleur Adcock (2006) and the late R S Thomas (1964).  


David 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 eleventh collection Belongings (2020).  His critical works include A Living Language: Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures (2004) and his monograph Poetry(2013) in Oxford University Press’s series The Literary Agenda.


He has also published five translations with Bloodaxe, two of these winning 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 Goethe (Penguin) and Brecht (Norton).


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


Born in 1944 in Salford, Lancashire, he read Modern Languages at Wadham College, Oxford, and lectured in German at Durham from 1969 to 1981 and at Oxford from 1981 to 2000. He was co-editor of Modern Poetry in Translation from 2004 to 2013.


Read the announcement on The Royal Family website here.

And in The Guardian here.


For more information on David Constantine’s poetry books, see Bloodaxe Books.


David's award-winning short stories and two novels are published by Comma Press and can be found on our Books page.