Posted in Poetry Celebration/Anniversary

National Poetry Day 2017

National Poetry Day this year is on Thursday 28 September 2017. It’s fast approaching! 

National Poetry Day is organised by the Forward Arts Foundation, and is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. Everyone is invited to join in. This year’s theme is “Freedom”.

Go to the NPD website to get details of how to join in, posters, bookmarks, and other resources; if you’re celebrating in school, take a look at their Toolkit for Schools or free teaching resources for inspiration.

Under Poetry Resources on this site you will find details about the National Poetry Ambassadors if you’d like one to visit your school or event.

Here is a poem that celebrates Freedom to be getting on with!

The Darkling Thrush
Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Young Poets’ Competition Reminder!

Art Speaks – the competiton.

13 – 24 year olds – Art UK and National Poetry Day want you to look at the nation’s art in an entirely different way – find a painting on Art UK that inspires you to create a brand new poem.

Then upload a film of yourself to YouTube, reciting your original poem – it doesn’t need to be a high quality film: phone or laptop will be fine.

Details here: Art Speaks.

Posted in Poetry Illustration

Colin West – Children’s Poetry and Illustration

I was introduced into the witty world of Colin West when my children were little and we all enjoyed Pardon said the Giraffe and Not Me said the Monkey. We soon found Colin’s own charming, ridiculous and funny poems, illustrated in his unmistakably colourful and delightful style. I’ve never read anything or seen anything by Colin that hasn’t made me smile. Poetry illustration is a real skill – so I’m delighted he has sent this exploration of the history of poetry illustrators he loves.

Thanks, Liz, for inviting me to contribute to your blog. Where to start? Well, I’ve enjoyed making up rhymes since I was about ten (an excellent age to be!) and I’ve enjoyed drawing for even longer, so maybe it was natural for me to combine the two interests.

I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of poem and image. Let’s go back to when I was ten years old. There was a radio programme we listened to at school called Singing Together. The booklets that we sang from had wonderful illustrations accompanying the songs we sang. I studied the pictures (by top artists such as David Gentleman and Shirley Hughes) as much as I delighted in the words and music of those old folk songs.

Brian Wildsmith illustrates one of my favourite folk songs from Singing Together:


As a teenager, many of the poetry books I was beginning to collect had, at least, eye-catching, well-designed covers, if lacking in illustrations inside. I couldn’t resist these groovy covers!

A few, such as Ogden Nash’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself had illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and Stevie Smith added her own inimitable drawings to her books.

The unique talent of Stevie Smith:

Here, all round genius Mervyn Peake illustrates his own nonsense poem:

American phenomenon Shel Silverstein shows how it can be done …

Inimitable Milligan of course:

And Ogden Nash’s witty lines find a friend in Quentin Blake’s witty lines:

At art college, I hand-lettered my own little collection of  nonsense verse, Tomorrow I’ve Given up Hope:


As my interest in poetry broadened, I collected books from earlier times.

John Glashan lends his distinctive drawings to Alistair Sampson’s verse in the 1950s:

E. H. Shepard illustrated other poets than A. A. Milne. This book is by Jan Struther from 1932:

Overlooked illustrator Christopher Brooker charmingly illustrates poems by John Walsh:

A marriage made in Heaven: Ardizzone’s drawings grace the pages of a book by Robert Graves:

Back in the 1930s, during the heyday of humorous verse, many books by rhyming geniuses such as Harry Graham were appropriately illustrated. It wasn’t something exclusively for children.

Maurice Sendak for an adult collection by Ogden Nash:

Harold Jones delightfully decorates Shakespeare:

Sadly Gerard Hoffnung‘s final project, illustrating for Guinness in one of their poetic booklets for doctors. He died soon after at only 34:

Recently, the last years of the twentieth century gave us many well-illustrated children’s poetry books.

Satoshi Kitamura‘s thoughtful drawings suit Roger McGough’s funny and punny poems:

Like many of my generation of children’s writers, I was fortunate in having many of my poems anthologised and illustrated by a range of great illustrators.

This early illustration by Nick Sharratt from 1990 really captures (and adds to) the fun of my little rhyme:

The tradition continues to a lesser extent today.

Cobbling together a new book!

It would be interesting in schools if children illustrated each other’s poems. Or of course, do your own. You don’t have to be the greatest artist. No one could illustrate Spike Milligan’s madcap verse better than himself. And Roger McGough and John Hegley have both added their own quirky drawings to charming effect. So I’d say if you enjoy writing poems, try adding a drawing. And if you enjoy drawing, try adding a poem!

Colin’s book, published by Walker, can be bought here: Never Nudge a Budgie, and his latest book is available here: The Funniest Stuff.

Young Poets’ Competition

This Young Poets Network competition, The Timothy Corsellis Poetry Prize, asks you to respond to the life and/or work of a small selection of Second World War poets.

They are also running a Young Critics Prize, for short essays of 500-1,500 words exploring which three poets (out of Keith Douglas, Sidney Keyes, Alun Lewis, John Jarmain, Henry Reed, Anna Akhmatova, Gertrud Kolmar or Timothy Corsellis) are most likely to be read in twenty years’ time, and why.

Details here: Young Poets Network

 

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Gerard Benson – does W trouble you?

Yesterday it was #favechildrenspoetry day on Twitter, organised by the wonderful Brian Moses – the results of which will be on his blog, soon. His own favourite children’s poetry books are already there.

I tweeted some of my own favourites – but most of my children’s poetry books have poems in that I love.

A few of the books I tweeted yesterday were written by Gerard Benson. Gerard Benson was an excellent poet, story-teller, singer and teacher (and friend) who died in 2014. I have all his poetry books, but the two following books which he edited I would particularly recommend to any children who like writing, and anyone writing for children.

I take these out again and again – they are entertaining and useful, but they also contain a little slice of Gerardness which I miss.

‘this poem doesn’t rhyme’ won the Signal Poetry Award (and, incidentally, contains one of my favourite poems, What For, by Noel Petty). It was written because Gerard noticed children felt poems must rhyme, and added it to their own poems, even if the resulting rhymes meant their poems made no sense. So he chose a number of poems, accessible to children, that they enjoyed, that don’t rhyme. The poems chosen include work from all ages, cultures and countries. The book is packed with alliterative poems, concrete poems, imagist poems, sound poems, riddles and more. Published by Puffin, you can still buy it here.

‘does W trouble you?’ is the sister book of rhyming poems – it contains a riot of rhyming forms all explained with Gerard’s witty and engaging commentary. In the introduction Gerard talks to a ‘A. Poetry-Lover’ about the book. This is one of things he said:

Dear A Poetry-Lover,

The poets care how poems are made. What the poem is saying is, of course, important. But with poetry, the sound it makes can be just as important. Rhythm is even more telling than rhyme.  Many readers read with their ears as well as their eyes. In fact, it’s a good idea to read poetry aloud, whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Benson”

‘does W trouble you?’ is also published by Puffin, and available on Amazon, here.

If you’d like to hear some of Gerard’s poems read by himself, he is on the poetry archive here.

Posted in Poet's Piece

Sue Hardy-Dawson – Language Rules!

The first guest poster on Poetry Roundabout is the excellent poet and illustrator, Sue Hardy-Dawson. Sue’s wonderful book, Where Zebra’s Go, is published by Otter-Barry Books.

I wrote this poem when I was feeling very sad and angry. I often find that writing is a really good way of exploring my feelings. I remember thinking that nowadays children spend a long time being reminded of what they should or shouldn’t do before they write. Of course there are lots of rules to remember.

Yet I don’t recall being asked to think much about them when I was a child.

I have always loved learning new words even though I have dyslexia, and struggle to spell most of them. Only in secondary school did anyone attempt to teach me what nouns, verbs and adjectives were. Later on I vaguely remember rhyme, similes and metaphors being mentioned and that was as much as I knew until long after I started writing poetry. Yet I had no difficulties in having ideas, in using language. I knew where words went and how to use them. How? Because I, just as you are, was surrounded by people who talked. Also my parents read to me and when I too learnt to read, I read everything I could get my hands on. I still believe reading well is the very best way to learn how to write well.

Just think for a minute how amazing our brains are. Did you know we actually begin to learn the rhythms of our native language listening through the walls of our mothers’ wombs? In fact, in the first seven years of our lives, the language part of our brains develops rapidly. This is why talking, reading and sharing poetry and stories is so important, even for the smallest of children.

So without even trying, you, like me, have been collecting words all of your life. Spoken language changes all the time and I still get excited when I find a new word. There are lots of really interesting things to learn about language. So should we be learning and worrying about the rules of grammar? Of course sometimes, when we need to. But not when we are writing creatively, then it should be something we only think about afterwards.

I know if I stopped to consider carefully every word I put on the page I would struggle to write at all or to enjoy it. When getting my ideas down I rarely pause to check anything other than that I can read what I have written. ‘Fine tuning’ (spellings, punctuation, even if it makes sense) is my very last step. Why? Because although there are lots of rules about writing; ideas ignore them. Ideas just want to get out and onto the page. Of course if you don’t listen carefully they will disappear. Ideas are tricky like that and later you will struggle to remember exactly what they were.

So remember what an amazing brain you have. Read everything you can and write for fun, write for yourself. Just have a go without worrying about it. Then perhaps, one day soon, I will pick up a book and find myself reading a poem or a story that you wrote.