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

The Dog of the Light Brigade

Andrew Motion

Anne Frank Huis

Andrew Motion

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About Andrew Motion

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.

Additional material and useful links


Andrew Motion talks to Nick Patrick at the 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. In a reflective & open conversation Motion discusses the moment he 'got poetry', inspirational teaching and...

Aldeburgh Backchat 2010

Andrew Motion reads from In the Blood

A recording of Andrew Motion reading from his book 'In the Blood' on Intelligence Squared.


1987 Dylan Thomas Award, Natural Causes
1984 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Dangerous Play: Poems 1974-1984

Selected bibliography

The Customs House, Faber and Faber, 2012

Silver: Return to Treasure Island, Jonathan Cape, 2012

The Cinder Path, Faber and Faber 2009

The Invention of Dr Cake (fiction), Faber & Faber, 2003

Wainewright the Poisoner (biography), Faber & Faber, 2000

In the Blood: A Memoir of my Childhood, Faber...

First World War Poems (editor), Faber & Faber, 2003


101 Poems Against War (Afterword), Faber & Faber, 2003

Public Property, Faber & Faber, 2002


Here to Eternity: An Anthology of Poetry (editor), Faber...


John Keats: Poems Selected by Andrew Motion, Faber...


Selected Poems 1976-1997, Faber & Faber, 1998


Salt Water, Faber & Faber, 1997

Penguin Modern Poets: Volume 11 (contributor with...

Keats: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 1997


The Price of Everything, Faber & Faber, 1994


Selected Poems by Thomas Hardy (editor), London, Dent,...


New Writing 3 (editor with Candace Rodd), Minerva in...

New Writing 2 (editor with Malcolm Bradbury), London,...

Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life, Faber & Faber, 1993


Love in a Life, London, Faber & Faber, 1991


Two Poems, Child Okeford, Words, 1988

Natural Causes, Chatto & Windus, 1987

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit, London, Chatto...

Dangerous Play: Poems 1974-1984, Salamander Press /...

Secret Narratives, Salamander Press, 1983

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (editor...

Philip Larkin, London, Methuen, 1982

Independence, Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1981

The Poetry of Edward Thomas, London, Routledge...

The Pleasure Steamers, Manchester, Carcanet, 1978


Inland, Burford, Oxford, Cygnet Press, 1976

Goodnestone: A Sequence, London, Workshop Press, 1972

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