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Posted in Introduction

Welcome to poetry roundabout!

This is the place to be for poetry fun – watch this space for interviews with the best children’s poets, poetry news, poems of course, drawings, and all round poetry fun! Here’s a hippo poem to be getting on with:

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Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Here Come the Superheroes, by Neal Zetter, illustrated by Chris White

Neal Zetter is a London-based comedy performance poet, author and entertainer who uses poetry writing and performance to develop literacy, confidence, self-expression, creativity and presentation skills in 3 to 103 year olds.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m certain any young person will as well. The illustrations by Chris White, writer, illustrator and performer, match the fun and energetic raps and rhymes perfectly.

Each poem comes with additional secret data about each Superhero character.

In fact I was moved to write my review as a poem straight after reading it, which must also be a sign that it will inspire youngsters to try a superhero poem of their own. Here is my pale imitation of a superhero poem…

Here Come the Superheroes

the name is very apt,

superhero girls and boys

read and you’ll be rapt

I tried to tear my eyes away

but I was truly trapped

read all through the book and then

rapped till my eyeballs snapped

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Yes, well, I am not a rapper. But Neal is… here’s an example snippet from the first verse of Here Comes Sister Speed:

 

Here Comes Sister Speed

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Faster than a flash

She’s a raging rocket

She’s a white-hot wire

An electric socket

She’s a lightning bolt

She’s a rampant cheetah

plot and plan a crime

and she will defeat you

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Whizzing to the rescue

in your hour of need

Here comes sister Speed!

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© Neal Zetter

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I read all the poems out loud and they are real performance poems – I suspect they make a wonderful set in schools.  The whole book is beautifully produced with lovely quality paper and printing. Recommended for Superhero fans everywhere.

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Published by Troika Books, available here.

 

 

Posted in Poetry News

Do you like Children’s Poetry News, Poems, Writing Advice, Teaching Advice? Follow @kidspoetsummit!

If you do, then follow the Children’s Poetry Summit on Twitter at @kidspoetsummit.

The Children’s Poetry Summit tweets news and poems and fun anything to do with children’s poetry every day of the year.

If you’d like to know what else they do, this is their mission statement:

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Children’s Poetry Summit

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The Children’s Poetry Summit is a UK network of individuals and organisations actively interested in poetry for children. It provides a regular forum for discussion, information exchange, sharing of ideas and good practice, and a pressure group which campaigns for children’s poetry.

Members are children’s poets, publishers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, organisations and individuals interested in children’s poetry

Our principle aims are to:

  • exchange information and ideas, keep up to date with what is currently happening and generally raise the profile of children’s poetry
  • create opportunities and campaign on behalf of  poetry for children and teens through publishing, bookselling, in schools, teacher training colleges and literature organisations
  • support and promote the writing of poetry by children

In pursuance of these aims we undertake to:

  • encourage wide participation in the group, to include poets, teachers, librarians, publishers, literature organisations and booksellers
  • exploit potential of social media – maintain a regular presence on Facebook and Twitter and consider setting up a Blog where opinions and activities relating to the Summit can be expressed
  • make use of all opportunities to promote Poetry Summit – IBBY UK Newsletter, YLG E-Newsletter, BooksforKeeps, Conferences, The Poetry Library, The Poetry Society, TES, The Guardian and other media outlets.
  • follow up on opportunities to provide platforms for and promote each other’s work

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In other words if you are a parent, teacher, librarian, bookseller or anyone else interested in children’s poetry news, this is the Twitter account to follow!

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

#Suffragette100 Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls

Poems from the collection by Michaela Morgan and Liz Brownlee.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of SOME women getting the right to vote in the UK. Although things are much improved, amazingly, the struggle for equality (notably, and recently in the press, wage equality) is still going on.

Written to mark the suffragette anniversaries in the past year and this, Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls has proved extremely popular, particularly with teachers, in fact it recently won the N. Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards for poetry.

It celebrates the lives of women through history who have made a difference to humanity in a myriad of ways – not just those women we have all heard of (From Boudica, through Anne Bonny the pirate, to Frida Khalo, Marie Curie, and Helen Keller to Malala Yousafzai and Hilary Clinton) but those that are much less known, or overlooked, or written out of history, or who will never be known… such as the ‘Unknown Worriers’, who kept the home fires burning. It also includes poems about feminism, and some modern young women who have made a difference in their communities.

Of course, there are a poems about the suffragettes – but, perhaps not surprisingly, many of women in the book (whilst they weren’t and were fighting the system to become doctors, scientists, fashion-reformers) also supported women’s suffrage.

Each poem is proceeded by a short biography of the person in the poem.

It seems the right day for sharing part of Jan Dean’s poem, Suffragette.

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Part of ‘Suffragette’

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I want to make my own choice.

I need to use my own voice

I won’t be silent, won’t ignore important things –

the world has queens as well as kings.

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And so I march, protest and claim my right

to take part in my country’s life.

I want what’s fair – to have my say

on who makes laws and who holds sway.

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© Jan Dean

Prometheus Unplugged by Alan Murphy

 

Alan Murphy originally trained as a fine artist, but now describes himself as a ‘wacky rhymester’. He  lives in Ireland and has given many public readings at the Electric Picnic, the West Cork Literary Festival, the Mountains To Sea Festival, Poetry Now, Ireland’s Children’s Book Festival (2010, 2011 and 2012), Waterford Writers Weekend, Lismore’s Immrama festival and Phizzfest.

Prometheus Unplugged was published in 2014, but poetry books written for older teenagers are few and far between.

In children’s poetry I’ve never read anything quite like this before and suspect for this reason alone it will appeal to teenagers from 14 on.

Music is the theme… and the poems, from those incorporating thinly-disguised, heavy metal hero Ozzie Osborne or Greek Gods in a stadium in an Elysium field to cows fed up with cud watching rooks, parrots and robins at the hottest thicket in town are hip hopping with energy and surrealism.

It’s a beautifully produced book with Alan’s own artwork the perfect foil – which perhaps explains why its a bit pricey for a teenage budget at £11. However – there is much to enjoy for those of older than that!

It’s available here.

Here’s a taster:

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MOBIUS AND HIS BAND

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The coolest cats in the land?

Mathematicians you understand,

And the hippest of all

At the geometry ball

Was Mobius and his band.

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Those dudes sure had real flair,

Their sum was not a square

And they did insist

That you dance the twist

To their looped groove wild and rare!

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© Alan Murphy

Posted in Poet's Piece

Kick Start by Jan Dean

Jan Dean is the author of Wallpapering the Cat, Macmillan, A Penguin in Lost Property, Macmillan, (with Roger Stevens) and Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls Macmillan, (with me and Michaela Morgan).

She has also written two fiction books for children, but describes herself as “a poet who sometimes writes fiction, not a fictioneer who knocks of the occasional poem.”

Jan is great fun and a brilliant poet who works in schools – her projects have also included working with groups from Covent Garden’s innovative music theatre education programme in the Purcell School for gifted young musicians and writing in the environment with Northumberland schools. She has led workshops for both adults and children in Manchester, Liverpool and Chester Cathedrals, and has also run workshops at major festivals. 

Jan’s blog is here and her Twitter account is @glitterpoems

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Kick Start

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I hate grey weather. It makes me miserable. Sometimes I wonder if the weather has seeped inside my head and filled me up with fog… and when I feel like this I find it hard to write. So I have to kick-start the process. These are some of the things I do:

• Look out of a window and write down the first three/four things you notice, then go to another window and do the same. (You can do this for every window in the house if you like.)

• Say the words out loud to hear if there are any interesting sound patterns going on in the lists

• Visualise the things in the list to see if there are any striking colours/pictures.

• Write six or seven opening lines based on the list. (You don’t have to use everything and you can mix the lists up. Or you can write one verse about your room and one about a better/worse room.)

• Work up the best four into draft poems – be sure to weave your mood and any changes of feeling into the drafts. Remember that once you start writing you don’t have to stick to the ‘truth’ of what you saw. Making the words work is what counts.

I did this one from the list of stuff from my window. It might be finished. I won’t know for sure until I’ve put it away for a few weeks and then come back and re- read it.

Outside
Wren in the hedge. Hopping
like a brown ball. Stopping
for a second on the red brick wall.
I wish I had just an ounce
of your bounce…

Slug on the step. Sliding
smooth as oil. Gliding
by milk bottles then back to black soil.
Writing your route in slime
while I write mine in rhyme.

I did see a bird in the hedge – but it wasn’t a wren. And I did see a slug – but it wasn’t on the step. I changed what I saw to improve the sounds and rhythms in the poem. (My actual list was: Blue tit in hedge bouncing on branch. Bright blue car in road. Slug on ivy root. Recycling bag on gate.)

I’ve got a couple of other drafts to work on too – one about how sinister ivy is – the way it creeps and clings and takes over; and one about matching your day to the first thing you see when you open the curtains that might begin like this:

‘Today is a tin can day
a clattering day
a rolling away day

Today I am going to bang about
slam doors
howl under beds
and throw stuff….’

Or it might not. I’ll have to see how it goes.

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Jan Dean

Posted in Poet's Piece

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? By Brian Moses

Brian Moses is, as Poetry Archive says, “One of the nation’s favourite children’s poets.” He taught in schools for 13 years and has been a professional writer in schools, libraries, theatres and festivals for 30 years. In that time 3,000 schools across the country have been the thrilled recipients of his poetry and percussion shows (‘The Alternative 3Rs – Rap, Rhythm & Rhyme’) and his expertise as an inspired poetry teacher in workshops, where he uses a variety of percussion instruments to both underpin the rhythm of his words and to add atmosphere. 

He has also published over 200 books from publishers such as Macmillan, Hachette, Puffin, OUP, Collins, Longman,  Heinemann and  Frances Lincoln, and over a million of his poetry books have been sold by Macmillan Children’s books alone.

Brian is a generous and unfailing supporter of new poets, and he published my very first poem back in 2000, in A Sea Creature Ate My Teacher (Macmillan).

His first children’s fiction book Python has just been published by Candy Jar Books. His latest poetry books are The Waggiest Tails (Otter-Barry Books), written with Roger Stevens, and Lost Magic, The Very Best of Brian Moses (Macmillan), where you can read all his favourite own poems!

You can visit Brian’s website here, and his blog, where he writes about reading, writing and performing poetry here. You can follow him on Twitter @moses_brian.

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

“Where do you get your ideas from,” is the question I’m most asked when I visit schools. Occasionally a curve ball comes in like – “Have you ever been arrested’ from a 6 year old in Southend, or ‘Have you ever used a ouija board?’ – but more often than not it’s the way ideas are born that fascinates children. They look at me as if I have a secret to impart, and that if they could share it they’d never struggle to find ideas for their own writing again. I toy with the notion of telling them that I purchase my ideas from an ideas super- market or discover them in some online catalogue, but mostly I try to satisfy their curiosity.

I tell them that all writers are ideas detectives, that we’re always on the look out for something strange or different that might lead to a poem. There are, of course, very few new ideas, but there is always the possibility of taking an old idea and looking at it from a different angle. Think of fireworks, for example, and avoid the whizz, bang, whooshes. Write instead about the charred and blackened treasures pulled from the bonfire ashes next morning.

An idea, of course, is like a knock on the door. Ignore the knocking and whoever it is gives up and goes away. So with poetry, when an idea calls, I need to be ready to act on it. Whatever I’m doing, wherever I am, I need to capture that idea, to scribble it down on a scrap of paper, file it away in a notebook, talk it into a voice recorder. My family became used to me suddenly getting up from where we were sitting to hastily find something to scribble on. Quite often too , they fed me ideas, and it still goes on. My older daughter’s partner is training to be a stuntman and on a family holiday this year he told us that he still hadn’t fallen from the saddle of a horse. I was onto that straightaway – Still haven’t found a rainbow’s pot of gold/still haven’t discovered a cure for growing old. Still haven’t painted a new Mona Lisa/still haven’t straightened the Leaning Tower of Pisa.’

Often it is the things people say that get me thinking. I was in a school staffroom once where I discovered that six teachers were all telling each other what they wore in bed. It was an absolute gift and I made notes as they spoke which later developed into my poem ‘What Teachers Wear in Bed. Another time I heard a young boy ask his Mum, ‘Did pirates wear make up?’ I ended up with a poem all about a topsy-turvy world of pirates.

Perhaps the poem I’m most associated with, and the one that seems to be the most listened to poem on the Poetry Archive for much of the time, is ‘Walking With My Iguana’ – a performance poem involving drumming which seems to inspire children to perform their own versions. (Take a look on YouTube.) The idea behind this came from a meeting with a man and an iguana on a very hot day on Bexhill beach. The creature was called Ziggy and only came out for a stroll during summer heatwaves. I love finding out about things that sound as if they shouldn’t be true, but actually are. I wrote the poem very quickly and premiered it a few weeks later at the Edinburgh Festival.

Signs that I see in the street or glimpse by the roadside as I’m driving are often a source of inspiration. In Nottingham once, a department store were holding a ‘Monster Sale’ . Well, obviously that meant there was to be a huge clear out of unwanted stock but looking at it another way, it might just have easily have been ‘Buy one monster, get one free’. A poem and a book resulted from that. On another occasion I saw a sign for ‘Carpet Warehouse’.

Not a terribly interesting subject for children, but split ‘Carpet’ in two and it becomes something quite different – ‘car pet’. What would we find in a ‘Car Pet Warehouse?’ Maybe earwigs to keep in ashtrays or a hamster for the glove compartment. Perhaps a snake on the back seat to deter would be car thieves. The possibilities are huge.

In any book that I write there are poems that I hope will make children smile or laugh, but poetry, of course, touches every emotion and I always make sure that in my books there are poems to make children shiver, or think, or wonder, or maybe a little sad at times. I always include a selection of these in any performance I give along with the humorous ones.

Friends ask how do I keep coming up with fresh ideas. Surely, they say, you’ll run out of ideas one day? But it’s what I’ve done all my life, as a teacher for 13 years with year 6 in the days when you opened them up rather than closed them down, and then as a professional writer for the past 30 years. I’ve searched out ideas, both for my own writing and ideas to inspire children in the writing workshops I run on my school visits. A cat called Elvis moved in next door, Laika, the space dog, troubled me till I finally found the right words and the right mood, turtles in captivity, a white feather (from an angel?), stars, unicorns, snakes. Recently too, I’ve written to order, writing 30 poems in six months about space, sport, war, scary stuff, pre 1066 history and most recently dogs. That’s a real challenge, the final poems often wrung out of me in pure desperation as the deadlines loomed.

There’s another question I’m asked too by children who see themselves as writers of the future. ‘What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write?’ First of all, I reply, if you want to write, then write. Don’t talk about it, do it. So many people talk about writing a book one day but never do.

Secondly, keep a writer’s notebook. Write down what you see, hear, jokes people tell you, thoughts about strange situations, odd signs. It will, as time goes on, become a treasure chest of ideas to refer to again and again. I have notebooks going back many years and they still prove useful. Finally, train yourself to be an observer. Look, listen, note it down. Be receptive to anything and interested in everything. Spot possibilities. Be that ideas detective.

Brian Moses

The Caterpillar Poetry Prize – for a Children’s Poem by an Adult

The Caterpillar Poetry Prize is for a single unpublished poem written by an adult for children. Anyone can enter the competition, from anywhere in the world, as long as the poem is original.

Chrissie Gittins will judge The 2018 Caterpillar Poetry Prize.

The winning poem will feature in the summer 2018 issue of The Caterpillar and the author receives £1,000.