Hello! I’m Liz Brownlee, National Poetry Day Ambassador! What’s on the poetry roundabout? There are quickie poetry writing ideas for children, teachers, parents and librarians, crafty poetry projects, all types of poems including funny poems, empathy poems, and of course, poem videos. Use the menus or search for them on the right. There are also interviews with poets, poetry book reviews and poetry competitions. Thank you so much to @mrs_darl teacher for the window to pop us in, and @chriswhitepoet for my little cartoon me and Lola! Welcome!
It’s empathy day today – so here is the fabulous poem by Kate Wakeling about Rosa Parks, in Shaping the World, 40 Historical Heroes in Verse.
Have a lovely Empathy Day everyone! Head over to https://www.empathylab.uk/ or @EmpathyLabUK for more information!
For our Book launch, we asked a few young people to read some of the poems from Being Me, which they did beautifully. Here is The Quiet Child, by me, read by Polly, from Being Me, Poems About Thoughts Worries and Feelings, Otter Barry Books.
Being Me, Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, wonderfully Illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler, and published by Otter Barry Books.
The launch for this book of mental health poems was last night – what a lovely event it was.
Mental health problems among primary children are at an all-time high – and no wonder with all the pressures they have nowadays on top of all the thoughts, feelings and worries youngsters experience anyway.
We have attempted to cover a wide range of issues, poems to reassure, poems to find yourself in, poems hoping to start thought processes that might lead to asking for help, poems to open discussions between guardians, teachers, parents and youngsters.
Very much looking forward to sharing this book!
Are you a teacher? Do you have a class you’d like to introduce to female and male historical heroes – via shape poems?
Are you free at 9:30 am on the 22nd of April?
Are you a shape poem fan?
If so. come and find out how penicillin was discovered (by being messy!), why Shakespeare is so loved, who invented the first sliced loaf of bread, or the system known as the Socratic method still used to solve crime today, and hear why Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on that bus!
There are 20 female and 20 male heroes in the book, and many of the poems will be read by their authors – me, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, John Dougherty, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Jan Dean, Cheryl Moskowitz, Chitra Soundar, Dom Conlon, Shauna Darling Robertson, Kate Wakeling, Laura Mucha, Myles McLeod, Suzy Levinson, and Penny Kent – all hosted by Gaby Morgan, Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books
At the same time as the readings, you will also see the wonderful shape poems themselves!
Opportunities to ask the poets questions included, FREE!
In fact the whole event is free, get your tickets here:
Yes, today is the day this book arrives in the shops!
I can’t thank the poets who sent poems and shapes and ideas for shapes enough – or Gaby Morgan at Macmillan who is always so brilliantly helpful.
I’m really pleased with the resulting book – it has a fabulous, shiny cover, and 40 hero poems inside, twenty women and twenty men who helped shape the world, in a variety of voices and all the poems are shaped to represent the people, an aspect of their lives or life’s work.
Here’s an example from the book – Penny Kent’s fabulous poem about Ravi Shankar. Each poem has a mini-biography alongside the shape:
Shaping the World is available at all good bookstores of course!
Eight year old Maison recently won a competition at his school with this fabulous poem – congratulations, Maison!
I thought I’d post some poems about books – this one is inspired by Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay. I hope it makes you want to read it and then recommend it to others!
Stephanie Barnes, the PE & EAL Teacher at the International School of Leuven wrote to me the other day and included a lovely poem her English Language learners wrote, after using this website – they had fun writing their own tribbles, too!
Lovely writing, and incredible considering they are using a second language!
This is a book of James’ most popular and most requested poems (along with a few new ones), and you can certainly see why they are requested over and over!
It contains the cream of James’ ability to write charmingly pitched-perfect poems on any subject under the sun (or the moon), in the dark (or light), about the big (or little), and it covers deeply important subjects such as how to paint an elephant or play air guitar.
Excellent stuff, beautifully illustrated by Neal Layton. Recommended.
Here’s one of my favourites:
Step out of your daily grind and into Shauna’s imaginarium – where humdrum is injected with colour, feelings and emotions with clarity, and empathy is just how and where you need it to be. You know those somethings you catch out of the corner of your eye but which disappear when you try to look them in the face? Here they are pinned down and given names.
This book is brimful of fantastical reality, a universe of exploration into worlds of words; words that float and sink and climb and swing, beckon, entice, challenge and sing. Exciting words, gentling words, lit along their paths with Shauna’s delightful sense of humour.
This is a fantastic work in every conceivable way, and what is more inside its covers I have found what is in my opinion THE PERFECT POEM (below) – but you can count on finding your own perfect poem there, too.
Published by Troika and beautifully illustrated by Jude Wisdom, this is definitely a winner for the classroom and home – HIGHLY recommended!
The old man gave me
this weird looking thing.
A stringy, beady
A dreamcatcher, he whispered.
Still, I did as he said,
hung it over my bed
and that very night
I caught my first one
with treasures –
gold, silver, rubies, rings.
Nice and all,
but I’m not what you’d call
huge on jewels
so I held out for another
and sure enough, on night two
I was blessed with adventures –
castles and dragons,
galloping stallions, damsels
in varying degrees of distress.
Come night three, I confess
I was hooked
and from that moment on
I spent most of my days
killing time till day’s end
and then sinking to sleep
and waking at dawn to check my net
for a freshly-snared dream.
Six months in, I’m now the proud owner
Some creepy, some soothing
some crazy, some straight.
But lately my dreams feel hemmed in,
suspended up there
in my stringy, beady, feathery thing
so I’ve hatched a plan for their urgent release
and tonight’s the night I’ll let my dreams fly.
Thing is, I’m thinking I might go with them.
So please keep this quiet.
Ruby’s mum has sent me her hamster poem – well done, Ruby!
How do I start writing a poem?
In many different ways! Often, I have already researched around the subject and thought about it for a while. Sometimes an idea just lands in my head – but that is because I am always looking out for things to write about. If you carry a notebook with you, you can jot down sounds and sights and words and ideas as they come to you.
Sometimes I have an end line. Having an end line and writing towards it is very helpful. By the time you get to the end, the end may have changed – but just having that goal, the rhythm, gives you a structure. Having the ‘feel’ of the poem stops you wallowing on an empty piece of paper.
In fact having an empty piece of paper is not a good idea when you start to write anything. You need to start writing straight away, jotting down ideas and sounds and feelings and colours and emotions and facts and anything else that might be helpful while you are writing your poem.
Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. I needed an animal poem beginning with ‘Y’. And I knew I wanted to play with the saying ‘yackety yak’, which is used to describe people chattering, probably quite loudly and uninterruptedly. I’d been thinking about it for a while and decided a simple poem would be best. It was going to be for a shape poem book.
I scribbled words down – I didn’t worry about punctuation or grammar or being tidy! Creativity is not tidy. It lands in a pile in your head or on the paper and you arrange it afterwards. It’s like a building – you start with what you need to put into it, and then put each part where it needs to be – and if it is not needed, you leave it out.
You can see that I have written down other animals that live in the Himalayas, along with yaks and the mythical yeti, and also written out words that belong in the mountains, and a list of rhyming words, before starting the poem. I have changed several parts of the poem as I have written it out again.
The poet Coleridge said that prose is ‘words in their best order’, but that ‘poetry is the best words, in the best order’. Choose words that are precise.
When you are writing your poem, you could write down words that are to do with your subject that rhyme, or that alliterate, which could be useful – but it is better sometimes to write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. If you have a rhyming scheme there is a temptation to write lines that are ’empty’. An empty line is one that is just there to supply a rhyme.
Poetry is very personal. Every person writes and finds ways to write differently. The poet Robert Frost said: ”I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.” So he did not write towards an end he already knew!
Nothing is wrong, in poetry. You can write about anything! It is YOUR poem, coming from YOUR heart.
But it will be a better poem if you think about some of these things:
If you don’t use rhymes just for the rhyme’s sake
If you use precise words
If you speak the truth
If you describe something as if the reader has never seen it before
If you are original
If you think of sounds, colours, smells, emotions, texture, feel
If you are surprising
If you use alliteration, metaphors and similes
If you have fun writing it!
Here is the yak poem in the final book – you can see that even though it is a very short poem, in between writing it and getting it in the book, I have changed one of the words:
Below in other posts are two competitions you can enter your poem in – one is for poems about anything, the other is for poems about bird song.
If you enter the bird song competition, don’t forget to listen to birds singing! You could go for a walk, or listen to files of bird song by type of bird on the internet. This website has the songs of 257 British birds, so you have plenty of choice!
Here is my shape poem about the blackbird’s song:
© Liz Brownlee
TORCH SciPo 2021 junior science poetry competition’s subject this year is ‘Bird Song’.
The judge will be David Morley.
The prizes are book tokens – yay! If you’d like to enter, the details are here.
The Magdalena Young Poets’ Prize (poems on any subject) is open to young people 16-25.
First prize of £100!
Over the last few weeks the team at The Children’s Bookshow have been thinking a lot about the joy of poetry. One of the Directors, Siân Williams, has been pulling poetry collections down from her shelves and revisiting all of the marvellous poets they have worked with over the years, and some with whom they hope to work in the near future. Throughout November they are focusing on a different poet every week, giving you an overview of their life and work as well as some videos of them reading and performing their poetry.
They’ve announced three poets of the week – John Agard, Michael Rosen and Grace Nichols – with Kit Wright and Kwame Alexander to follow.
You can see the posts and more videos here!