Guyana-born Lewes poet John Agard has been named as the recipient of The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2012.
The award is presented for excellence in poetry, with previous recipients including WH Auden, John Betjeman and Philip Larkin.
Agard, who writes for both adults and children, moved to the UK from Guyana in 1977.
He said he was “touched” to be the winner of an award which had been won by such illustrious names in the past.
He has been recognised for his most recent work Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems, as well as his book of children’s poems, Goldilocks on CCTV.
“When told the news out of the blue by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, I couldn’t believe my ears and it took a little time to sink in,” he said.
“I am delighted, as well as touched, to be in the company of such names as Charles Causley, Norman MacCaig, Gillian Clark, Stevie Smith, Derek Walcott.”
The Medal was first presented in 1933 by King George V.
Recommendations are put forward by the poet laureate and chosen by a committee.
Duffy said: “John Agard has always made people sit up and listen. He has done this with intelligence, humour and generosity.
“He has the ability to temper anger with wit, and difficult truths with kindness.”
She added: “In performance he is electrifying - compelling, funny, moving and thought-provoking. His work in education over the years has changed the way that readers, writers and teachers think about poetry,”
Agard was born in Georgetown, Guyana, moving to the UK in the 1970s where he worked in London as a touring speaker for the Commonwealth Institute, and for the National Maritime Museum.
He is understood to be only the second black poet to receive the award.