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 as a lecturer for the Commonwealth Institute, travelling all over Britain giving talks, performances and workshops. He has visited literally thousands of schools and enjoys the live contact and the joy of children responding although it can be hard work.
John Agard started writing poems when he was about 16 - some of these early efforts were published in his school magazine. Many of his poems now are composed while looking out of train windows.
"Try the best with what you have right now
If you don't have horse, then ride cow."
It is in his poetry that John Agard makes his greatest contribution to children's literature. Like the best authors, he brings something unique to children's experience - a view of the world tempered by his own childhood, a feeling for the rhythms and cadences of its language, and a sophisticated understanding of the advantages and limitations of several forms of English. That he can make the "standard" forms work superbly is evident from many of his poems for adults. For children, with whom he communicates more directly, the lyrical Guyanese forms serve his purposes to perfection.
Agard is not a literary poet but also a performing poet and has a strong sense of his audience. When he writes for children, he seems to see them sitting at his feet. He is more interested in the ideas and words he is delivering to them than in the creation of complex fictional characters with whom his readers might engage. He lives in Sussex and is married to Grace Nichols, a respected Caribbean poet and co-author of a collection of Caribbean nursery rhymes, NO HICKORY, NO DICKORY, NO DOCK.