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“How would Anansi deal with this cancer? What would Brer Rabbit say? Is there any way to dance our way out of this constriction? What are the physical, cultural, medical, historical and spiritual resources? This fight for life has been going on for centuries and is always, everywhere, intensely personal.”

A poet feeling with his mind to unravel the knots of trans-Atlantic history

What irks me and keeps me up at night and brings me back to my art and craft

I point my art at what I see that looks wrong and hurts to see.

The sense of an ending

We have reached a point of no return in our path and still head at full speed down that road.

On finding ideas

It takes a mind tied to a heart, a feel for a thought and no thought that is not felt as it is formed.

Fred D’Aguiar in conversation with Gabriel Gbadamosi

In front of a London audience, the poet discusses his most recent book and the challenges of living with and writing about cancer


Fred D’Aguiar is a British-Guyanese poet, novelist, and playwright. He trained as a psychiatric nurse before reading African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent. His first collections of poetry, Mama Dot (1985) and Airy Hall (1989), won the Guyana Poetry Prize in 1989. For these and later collections, including British Subjects (1993), the verse novel Bloodlines (2000) and Continental Shelf (2009), he was awarded the 2019 Cholmondeley Award for outstanding contributions to poetry. His first novel, The Longest Memory (1994), won the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread First Novel Award.

Subsequent novels include Dear Future (1996), Feeding the Ghosts (1997) and Children of Paradise (2014). His plays include High Life (1987), first produced at the Albany Empire, London, and A Jamaican Airman Foresees His Death (1991), performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London. His account of a year living with cancer, Covid-19 and the struggle to assert that Black Lives Matter was published as Year of Plagues (2021). He is currently Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.