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Photo, Charlotte Knee

Sir Andrew Motion (Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009) got the 2013 Festival off to a fabulous start on our opening evening.   Andrew’s poetry has received the Arvon/Observer Prize, the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize and the Dylan Thomas Prize. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and recently co-founded The Poetry Archive.  He is the newly appointed President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England. Andrew Motion was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. He is the author of many collections of poetry, a biographer of Keats and Larkin, and of prose works which include Silver, Return to Treasure Island. His latest work The Customs House is a stunning new collection in three sections, and opens with a sequence of war poems, “Laurels and Donkeys”, which draws on soldiers’ experiences from the First and Second World wars, through to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many poems are in the voices of combatants, others are based on memories of the poet’s father, who took part in the D-Day landings and fought in France and Germany.  They combine delicate understatement with a clear-eyed and unswerving candour. The Customs House also has poems mapping moments in a marriage and in family history.

“Motion’s creative documentary approach proves frighteningly efficient in highlighting numerous, unexpected – and unreported – details of warfare, from 1914 to the present day.” Alan Brownjohn, The Sunday Times.

 “Motion’s poetry has always possessed an affecting tonal vulnerability. It is a quality that draws a reader closer – as does his famously hushed presence when he reads in public.” David Morley, The Guardian.

Andrew read from and discussed his collection The Customs House on Friday 15 November 2013.