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Fred D'Aguiar - Poet, Novelist & Playwright

Fred D'Aguiar

Fred D'Aguiar - Poet, novelist and playwright Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960 to Guyanese parents. He lived in Guyana until he was 12, returning to England in 1972.

He trained as a psychiatric nurse before reading African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury, graduating in 1985. His first collection of poetry, Mama Dot (1985), was published to much acclaim and established his reputation as one of the finest British poets of his generation. Along with Airy Hall (1989), it won the Guyana Poetry Prize in 1989 and was followed by British Subjects (1993). His first novel, The Longest Memory (1994), tells the story of Whitechapel, a slave on an eighteenth-century Virginia plantation and won both the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread First Novel Award. It was adapted for television and televised by Channel 4 in the UK. His long poem 'Sweet Thames' was broadcast as part of the BBC 'Worlds on Film' series in 1992, winning the Commission for Racial Equality Race in the Media Award.

Fred D'Aguiar was Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Cambridge University (1989-90), Visiting Writer at Amherst College, Amherst, MA (1992-4), and was Assistant Professor of English at Bates College, Lewiston, ME (1994-5). More recently he was Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Miami.

His plays include High Life, which was first produced at the Albany Empire in London in 1987, and A Jamaican Airman Foresees His Death, performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1991.

He is also the author of the novels Dear Future (1996), set on a fictional Caribbean island, and Feeding the Ghosts (1997), inspired by a visit D'Aguiar made to the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool and based on the true story of a slave who survived being thrown overboard with 132 other men, women and children from a slave ship in the Atlantic. His fourth novel, Bethany Bettany (2003), is centred on a five-year-old Guyanese girl, Bethany, whose suffering symbolises that of a nation seeking to make itself whole again.

Fred D'Aguiar's poetry includes Bill of Rights (1998); a long narrative poem about the Jonestown massacre in Guyana in 1979; and a long narrative poem, Bloodlines, the story of a black slave and her white lover, published in 2000. His latest poetry collection is Continental Shelf (2009), shortlisted for the 2009 T. S. Eliot Prize.

Mama Dot Chatto & Windus, 1985
New British Poetry 1968-88 (editor with Gillian Allnut) Paladin, 1988
Airy Hall Chatto & Windus, 1989
British Subjects Bloodaxe, 1993
The Longest Memory Chatto & Windus, 1994
A Jamaican Airman Foresees His Death (play) Methuen, 1995
Dear Future Chatto & Windus, 1996
Feeding the Ghosts Chatto & Windus, 1997
Bill of Rights Chatto & Windus, 1998
Bloodlines Chatto & Windus, 2000
An English Sampler: New and Selected Poems Chatto & Windus, 2001
Bethany Bettany Chatto & Windus, 2003
Continental Shelf Carcanet, 2009

Prizes and awards
1983 Minority Rights Group Award
1984 T. S. Eliot Prize
1985 GLC Literature Award
1985 Malcolm X Prize for Poetry Mama Dot
1989 Guyana Poetry Prize Mama Dot and Airy Hall
1993 Commission for Racial Equality Race in the Media Award ('Sweet Thames')
1994 David Higham Prize for Fiction The Longest Memory
1994 Whitbread First Novel Award The Longest Memory
1996 Guyana Prize for Literature Dear Future
1997 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) (shortlist) Feeding the Ghosts
2009 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) Continental Shelf

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