"Half-Caste" is one of the poems on the AQA GCSE English syllabus and thus studied by every student following this major syllabus. As a consequence it and its author are among the best-known in secondary schools. John Agard is also very active touring England with "GCSE Poetry Live", day-long events of poetry discussion and performance reaching some 80,000 students each year. "Half-Caste and Other Poems" is aimed directly at the audience for "GCSE Poety Live". Built around this seminal poem, it is a mixture of old and new poems that address core issues and experiences for young people. Race and cultural identity is a primary theme and shapes the book. But although he includes poems such as "Checking Out Me History" about the way the black perspective on history has been ignored, John is just as interested in celebrating the richness of human diversity in poems full of wit, compassion and hope. There are poems about violence, the environment, relationships, politics and grief, alongside poems full of fun, looking at everyday events from quirky, unexpected points of view. It's an accessible and inspiring book by a poet who knows and respects his audience.
This collection is as near a definitive summation of his talent as he's yet produced.
John Agard was born in Guyana and emigrated to Britain in 1977. He has worked as an actor and a performer with a jazz group and spent several years with the Commonwealth Institute, travelling all over Britain giving talks, performances and workshops. He has visited literally thousands of schools. His poem 'Half-caste' is on the AQA Englsih GCSE syllabus, and every year he tours the country performing with other top poets for GCSE students. His children's poetry includes WE ANIMALS WOULD LIKE A WORD WITH YOU, POINTS OF VIEW WITH PROFESSOR PEEKABOO, LAUGHTER IS AN EGG, and COME BACK TO ME MY BOOMERANG. He lives in Sussex and is married to Grace Nichols, herself a respected Caribbean poet. They have a daughter.