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Posted in Introduction

Welcome to Poetry Roundabout!

Hello! I’m Liz Brownlee, and I’ve set up Poetry Roundabout to be the go-to place to find anything and everything about poetry for young people. Here you will find interviews with the best children’s poets, poetry news, how to write poems, poems of course, and poetry book reviews… and more besides! For teachers, young people’s poets, and poets who are young people!

Teachers, Editors, Publishers, people who wish to employ a poet – at the top in the tabs you will find an A-Z of poets and their poems from the UK, US and round the world, and a tab for poets who do free 15 minute Skype visits.

Posted in World Poetry Day

World Poetry Day!

It’s World Poetry Day! What a fabulous thing as the day turns round the world to know that thousands and thousands of people will be Tweeting, blogging, reading, writing and trying poetic words on their palate!

Poetry has been said to be like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. But most people turn to poetry on occasions of emotional highs and lows, to express those thoughts with words that are hard to find at those times.

Here’s my fun marmite poem to celebrate the fact that we are all different, but all have a place, on World Poetry Day, and any other day.

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My Mite

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I like my mite,

my mite’s my mate,

it gets my vote

and not my hate,

I like my mite,

but others won’t,

you either like it

or you don’t.

.

© Liz Brownlee

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Mites help decompose leaf litter in the woods. Without decomposers to break down all the dead material such as leaves, twigs, animal bodies, and waste materials that animals produce (poo!), there would be no soil. Without soil, nothing would grow. We would starve as there would be nothing to grow our food in, there would be no grass-eating creatures such as cattle, there would be no birds or anything that lives in trees because there would be nothing for trees to live in and no trees, no insects, no flowers… in fact the whole web of life would break down. Decomposers are creatures like bacteria, mites, earwigs, beetles, slugs, wasps, flies, and very importantly, worms.

 

Image by Heidi Elliot on Flikr by CC License.

Posted in Poems Needed!

What Are You Doing Today? #kids4climate

Image: Woodleywonderworks, Flikr, CC license.

Today our kids are striking to protest our inaction to address the state of the planet. I’m Tweeting today from @poets4climate and welcome any poems you have about endangered animals, poverty, hunger, gender inequality, importance of education, sustainability, new technology, water, desertifcation, tree felling, palm oil… anything to do with climate sustainability, for TODAY, to show our support.

Posted in Poet's Piece

Starting with Firsts, by Cheryl Moskowitz

Cheryl Moskowitz writes for adults and children. She loves going in to schools to get pupils, teachers and parents writing their own poems – a film of her poetry residency at Highfield Primary School is wonderful viewing on her website. Her popular collection of poems about home, school and everything in between, Can It Be About Me?, illustrated by Ros Asquith, is published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books. Her website is here.

Here is a wonderful piece by Cheryl about poetic inspiration.

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Starting with Firsts

 

Remember all your firsts? Of course you do. First taste of a mushroom, first sight of snow, first pet dying, first hold of a new born baby, first poem you ever wrote? Maybe you don’t remember these things exactly, but there is something about the first time we do or experience anything that goes inside us and stays there, not just as a memory but as a feeling, a sense, a quality, a je ne sais quois. That is because our first encounter with people, things, places and experiences is usually more heightened than similar ones that come after.  These internalised moments, these ‘firsts’ let’s call them, are what shape us from the very moment we’re born and keep on shaping us – they are also what make up the well that poets draw from when writing their poetry.

Life deals its fair share of firsts, some will be awe-inspiring (the first time we see a rainbow) some wonderful (the first time you win a prize) and some desperately sad and difficult (the first time you have to move away from a home, a school or a country that you love). In truth, almost every day, each of us will experience at least one new thing we have never experienced before. Even if it is only the fact of being one day older than the day before.

Not every first experience will inspire a poem but the ones that really matter, might. I would encourage any budding poet to take note of those moments as they happen. Write down what you notice, and how it makes you feel, even if the feelings are a little bit sad. I love this poem by the Canadian poet Alden Nowlan, in which a father expresses his pride at how his son has managed his first real experience of loss by writing a poem.

 

JOHNNY’S POEM

 

Look! I’ve written a poem!

Johnny says

and hands it to me

and it’s about

his grandfather dying

last summer, and me

in the hospital

and I want to cry,

don’t you see, because it doesn’t matter

if it’s not very good:

what matters is he knows

and it was me, his father, who told him

you write poems about what

you feel deepest and hardest.

 

© Alden Nowlan

 

Article © Cheryl Mokowitz

 

Posted in International Womens Day

A Poem from Jan Dean on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

Jan Dean’s latests books are The Penguin in Lost Property, illustrated by Nathan Reed (written with Roger Stevens) and Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, illustrated by Steph Says Hello, and written with Liz Brownlee and Michaela Morgan.

This is one of her wonderful poems from Reaching the Stars.

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Advice to Rapunzel

 

Sort yourself out.

Don’t hang around

for someone else to rescue you.

 

Give yourself a trim.

Pick up the scissors,

it’s not rocket science.

 

Make a rope ladder.

Twist one. Plait one. Improvise.

Use your head for more than growing hair.

 

Escape.

Secure the ladder

Shimmy down and leg it.

 

Don’t look back.

Get clean away

Vamoose.  Stay loose.

 

And learn your lesson.

Staying put beneath a tyrant’s thumb

is dumb.

.

© Jan Dean

 

Reaching the stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, can be bought here.

Posted in World Book Day

Happy World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day – here is a tiger poem to celebrate!

Tiger

You who
are meant as
part of
the forest,
marked in each
sleek stretch
of soft-pawed pace
bold black
like the living trees
against the sun,
no matter
how deep
you go,
as each tree falls,
your stripes,
your bones
will also.

 

© Poem and Illustration, Liz Brownlee

Posted in Poetry News

It’s Book Week!

A Chinese dragon on a wall at the Haikou Yazhou Gu Cheng, Hainan, China, by Anna Frodesiak.

I started off Book Week in St Cuthbert’s Infant School Wells, where we had great fun writing some dragon poems.

Here’s a dragon poem from me, for Tuesday of Book Week!

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How to paint a Chinese dragon

.

Use a bamboo brush

held lightly in three fingers

at the back

 

Flow the movement

from your shoulder; use Chinese ink

in red or black

 

Paint a twining

river for the body of your dragon

needs to wind

 

Then its head, snake

teeth bared, and its crest on the wind

waving behind

 

Sweep whiskers

like antennae, add a demon eye

round and wide

 

Armour your dragon;

curve overlapping scales along

its side

 

Hook eagle

claws on tiger paws, make it dance

upon the air

 

Paint a pearl

within its mouth, so its magic

takes it where

 

it can breathe

in clouds, conjure wind and rain

in sky

 

Give your

dragon life, take your brush, and

dot its eye.

.

© Liz Brownlee

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In Chinese, 画龙点睛 (huà lóng diǎn jīng) “Paint the dragon, dot the eyes” is a saying meaning adding the finishing touch to something.

I hope you all have a fabulous Book Week, and enjoy every minute of it!

 

Posted in Lego Poem

Teachers, Young Poets; Lego Poem Challenge

Here is my quick spider poem and Lego spider. Send me a Lego animal photo and I might write your animal a poem! If you send me a Lego animal poem you might see it here, too!

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Spidery Ways

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I’m a red-footed spider

with spidery fangs,

spider means spinner –

from spun silk I hang.

 

Related to scorpions

I’ve a poisonous bite,

but it’s not true I crawl

into mouths in the night.

 

Only females spin webs

and lay spiderling eggs,

and I taste and I hear

with the hairs on my legs.

 

I know that my scuttle

is scary to some

but I run in small bursts

for I’ve only one lung.

 

I have multiple eyes

but don’t have good sight

my eyes just spot motion

or darkness and light,

 

but my cousins, the hunters,

when hunting a snack

can see frontwards and sideways

and right round their back.

 

Despite being poisonous

I’m harmless, it’s true

for my jaws are too tiny

to take bites of you!

.

© Liz Brownlee

The 2019 New Poets Prize, for Poets 17-24

The Poetry Business has announced that the 4th New Poets Prize is now open for entry, this year judged by Mary Jean Chan.

The New Poets Prize is a short collection competition for writers between the ages of 17 and 24 (inclusive). This prize is run alongside the renowned International Book & Pamphlet Competition organised by The Poetry Business, which has now been established for 33 years.

You have five weeks to get your entries in! Details here.

Young Poets Network Tree Poetry Competition!

This poetry challenge by The Poetry Society’s Young Poets’ Network is for young poets everywhere to write about trees! It is for writers aged up to 25 based anywhere in the world. The deadline is midnight, Sunday 20 January 2019. So you need to get writing now – you can send as many poems as you like, written down, or a recording as a video, or as an audio file.

Selected poets will be published on Young Poets Network and sent an exclusive Young Poets Network notebook as well as poetry goodies. The Woodland Trust have also kindly contributed a special print of Robert Macfarlane’s poem ‘Heartwood’ for the top three winners.

There are 7 prompts on the website, details here.

Posted in Endangered Animal, Lego Poem

Whale Poems Wanted!

Here’s my Lego blue whale – please read the information after the poem about the danger they are in. Send me you Lego animal photo and maybe I’ll write a poem about it! Here is my blue whale poem:

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Lone Blue Whale

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Far out at sea

where waves clash and toss

and the wide sky holds

just one albatross,

where light surrounds

and the winds blow long,

this is where you hear

the lone whale’s song,

 

horizon to horizon

winding on and on,

 

the air’s too weak

to carry the sound

of the pulses and cries

in the water around,

the beat of its heart’s song

has oceans to cross,

under a wide sky

and albatross,

 

and only the lone whale

that swims wild and free

has a love song as large

as the wide green sea.

.

© Liz Brownlee

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The Japanese Government has indicated that they are going to allow commercial killing of whales to start again. Many whales are still endangered, and all sea life is battling against plastic in the water.

Fabulous author, poet and animal lover Nicola Davies asks: “Calling all uk children and their teachers. Please send your best whale pictures and poems to The Japanese Embassy to protest against the decision to start hunting whales again”.

If you would like to do this, please tweet, blog and also send the poems to:

Ambassador Koji Tsuri

Embassy of Japan

101-104 Piccadilly

Mayfair

London W1J 7JF

Posted in Lego Poem

Lego Poetry Challenge

This year I will be making Lego models of animals and writing a poem for them, or adding an already written poem to them.

Send me a picture of your Lego or building block animal and perhaps I’ll show it or write a poem to go with it!

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Christmas Robin

.

The spirit of joy

is a bird,

 

bright eyes,

star feet,

 

the colours

of wild things,

free,

 

its song

the art

of giving,

 

its red breast

a heart

.

© Liz Brownlee

Posted in Poet's Piece

Matt Goodfellow: What Poetry Offers in the Classroom

Matt is a good friend who, following one career as a primary school teacher in Manchester, England, is now a fellow full time children’s poet. He’s also a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation. His acclaimed debut collection, Carry Me Away, illustrated by Sue Hardy-Dawson, was released in 2016 and his most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), written with me and Roger Stevens, and Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. His website is here.

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Matt Goodfellow: Poetry in the Classroom

As a poet who spends much of his time working in schools to raise the profile of poetry, I’m often asked many different versions of the same sort of question: ‘What can poetry offer in my classroom whilst I’m under extreme pressure to get children to achieve ‘age related expectations?’

Well, to put it simply: freedom. And the ability to engender children who WANT to write. A space away from the pressure. Speaking as a former primary teacher who worked in a Manchester school for over 10 years (5 of them as a Y6 teacher), I’m acutely aware of the current curriculum and, in my opinion, its damaging constrictions.

The pressures put on schools by the government to get an increasing percentage of children writing at a standard dictated by them, regardless of children’s starting points, year on year, can often mean that stressed out teachers and classes write extended piece of writing after extended piece of writing desperately trying to satisfy the curriculum’s insatiable appetite  for clean, cold grammatical features that someone has decided demonstrates ‘good writing.’

Now, I’m not saying this happens in all schools, but I have seen classrooms where creativity and freedom have pretty much disappeared by Year 6. But, boy, do the kids have thick writing portfolios to show the Local Authority moderator.  It’s a difficult balancing act.

Ok, so poetry. Due to its mercurial nature, nobody is able to pin-down what poetry actually is – because it is a million and one different things and more – and for this reason, all of those government-imposed ideas of what a ‘good’ piece of writing looks like come crashing down. There is no ‘check-list’ for things a poem must contain. It can’t be forced into a box. Good news, eh?

Well, not in some schools, I’m afraid. For this very reason, lots of schools will marginalise it, knowing it won’t hold much sway in the end-of-Year 6 writing portfolios – again, I’d like to reiterate that I’m not saying all schools are like this, and nor am I assigning blame to beleaguered teachers trying to meet targets in order to move up the pay-scale. I’ve been there.

So, how can poetry provide freedom? Well, as well as being free from all of those horrible grammatical constraints, it’s actually a space where children can write about thoughts, feelings and ideas about their lives in their own words. To steal a phrase from Michael Rosen, children can ‘talk with their pen.’ They can use their playground voice, the one they can’t use in other bits of writing; the voice they talk to their mates and their families with; the voice that they think with. And they can tell the truth. Or they can lie. Or they can do a bit of both! Find a poem you like, talk about it, perform it, act it out (so much drama has disappeared from some schools) – expose them to all different kinds of poems – let them know some are funny, some are sad, some are strange, some aren’t clear, some are nonsense – just like us! Make poetry visible in class. Have poetry books around.

A great starting point for me is what I call ‘tag-line’ poems (I may have nicked that name from someone!). Start off with a phrase and then ‘tag-on’ the rest of the line – and always try to allow the class to tell the truth. Those of you working regularly in schools will know how intimidating it can be for some children to be told to ‘use your imagination’. Here are a few verses of a ‘first-go’ at a poem that a Y4 child I worked last year came up with. We’d used one of Michael Rosen’s ideas, creating ‘what if’ poems – and this child had gone out at lunchtime and innovated, creating a brand new one. Telling her truths – in her own voice:

.

only I

know how nervous

I get before a test

 

only I

get to hold

hands with my

dad

 

only I

imagine being

a shooting star

.

Fancy that, not a fronted adverbial in sight!

 

Matt Goodfellow

 

PoetryZone Competition – get your entries in!

Roger Stevens is asking for Christmas poems on PoetryZone – “It can be a funny poem about reindeer on the roof, Grandad hanging up his socks for Santa or Mum dropping the Christmas pud. It can be sad. (Not everyone has a happy Christmas. Think about the homeless or refugees.) Or it could be serious. How about writing a prayer for peace? Your poem might be religious – Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus – or about other aspects of the festive season. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, send us a poem about the holidays or all about winter.”

For young people between the ages of 3-18. Details on how to enter here.