Andrew Motion

Professor Andrew Motion (b. 1952) was born in London but grew up in rural Essex, a background which gave him an abiding love for the English countryside. These early years were formative in other ways: he was introduced to poetry by a supportive school teacher, while the early loss of his mother through a riding accident shadows much of his work. Motion read English at University College, Oxford where he was taught by W.H. Auden. He went on to teach English at the University of Hull (1976–81) where he met the poet Philip Larkin, another abiding influence. He was editor of Poetry Review (1981–83) and was poetry editor and editorial director at London publishers Chatto & Windus (1983–89). He has been professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia and at Royal Holloway, University of London. An acclaimed poet (and champion of poetry), critic, biographer and lecturer, Motion succeeded Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate in 1999.

His work has been recognised by many awards including The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Dangerous Play: Poems 1974–1984 (Salamander Press, 1984), the Dylan Thomas Award for Natural Causes (Chatto & Windus, 1987), and the Somerset Maughan Award and the Whitbread Biography Award for Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life (Faber and Faber, 1993). Other key collections include The Price of Everything (Faber and Faber, 1994); Salt Water (Faber and Faber, 1997) and Public Property, a collection of poems he wrote as Poet Laureate (Faber and Faber, 2002). His latest collection of poems is The Customs House (Faber and Faber 2012), and his sequence of poems based on interviews with British soldiers returning from Afghanistan won the 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.

His poetry is characterised by an interest in narrative and an understated, meditative style which links him to an English tradition that can be traced through Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy and back to Wordsworth. He often uses fictionalised narrators and historical events to explore his themes. While possessing an accessible clarity, his poems are powerful for what they omit as much as for what they contain, suggesting undercurrents of emotion that his narrators are either unaware of or unwilling to disclose.