John Agard's ninth Bloodaxe collection, Border Zone, explores a far-reaching canvas of British/Caribbean transatlantic connections, sweeping across centuries and continents.
His border territory ranges from Love in a Sceptred Isle, a novella-like narrative poem of a romance between Barbados-born photographer, Victor, and Welsh librarian, Rhiannon, told with lyrical tenderness and thought-provoking wit, to Casanova the Philosopher, a sequence of sonnets in the voice of the legendary Venetian philosophically observing 18th-century English ways in a tongue-in-cheek memoir and travelogue.
John Agard has been broadening the canvas of British poetry for the past 40 years with his mischievous, satirical fables which overturn all our expectations. This is a diverse collection where the thought-provokingly mischievous, bawdy and elegaic rub shoulders alongside the sequence The Plants Are Staying Put – with the poet turning overnight lockdown gardener – as well as calypso poems, where the poet puts on his hat as ‘poetsonian’, a term he coined in the 80s in tribute to the inventive lyrics of the calypsonian.
"If Agard had not already been forged in the roller-coaster aftermath of empire, there would be an urgent need for society to invent someone like him." — William Wallis, Financial Times
"John Agard’s poetry is generous with its pleasures. His wit and playfulness are on full display in Border Zone, a title that could encompass the Guyanese-British poet’s five decades of writing about the margins of Englishness… Agard approaches all his subjects, and forms, with a keen awareness of history." — Matthew Gilley, New Statesman
"John Agard’s satirical poetry, driven by affection for his country rather than easy disdain, has always taken serious comic aim at prejudiced authority. Agard received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012, but he is nonetheless a poet of the people; or, better still, the nation’s jester, speaking truth to power in many registers. Border Zone, his most recent collection of poems, opens with eighty-six seven-line stanzas of varying rhyme schemes… about the Windrush generation… to read Agard is always to be reminded of the idea of poetry as song." – Fred D’Aguiar, Times Literary Supplement