Hello! I’m Liz Brownlee, National Poetry Day Ambassador! What’s on the poetry roundabout? Quickie poetry writing ideas for children, teachers, parents and librarians, crafty poetry projects, all types of poems including animal poems, funny poems, empathy poems, and of course, poetry 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 @chriswhitepoet for my little cartoon me and Lola and @mrs_darl teacher for the window to pop us in! Welcome!
A few weeks ago I went up to the Centre for Learning in Primary Education library, a very wonderful and special place, to be filmed reading some of the poems from Being Me, and to answer some questions. Here is one of those questions – how I go about writing my poetry.
Being Me, Poems About Thoughts, Feelings and Worries, by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, Otter-Barry Books, has been shortlisted for CLiPPA 2022 (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award). This is a huge honour and we are thrilled.
Being Me was written in consultation with leading developmental psychologist Karen Goodall, and is illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler. This is what CLPE has to say about it:
“A collaborative anthology between three poets and an artist, singing together in harmony. Concern for the child and quality of the word is absolutely at the forefront here: these well-crafted poems articulate with skill and care a wide breadth of complex emotions and situations that may well be familiar to children, but they may not yet have the language to describe.
This timely collection strikes balance between difficult issues and hope, without the latter ever feeling forced or patronising. It is now more important than ever for children to be in touch with their emotions and to share with them the tools to help express and navigate them, which this collection performs brilliantly. Articulate, empathetic, and invites profound connection between poet and reader.”
Also shortlisted was the wonderful Val Bloom, with Stars With Flaming Tails, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, also published by Otter-Barry Books, in a hat trick for Otter-Barry Books, Matt Goodfellow was shortlisted again with his lovely poetry book for younger readers, Caterpillar Cake, illustrated by Krin Patel-Sage, Kate Wakeling for Cloud Soup, illustrated by Elina Braslina, published by The Emma Press, and Manjeet Mann with her verse novel The Crossing, published by Penguin, beautifully and poetically interweaving the lives of two teenagers, one a boy refugee from Eritrea, and the other a girl in Britain struggling to come to terms with the loss of her mother.
Good luck to everyone at the award ceremony, which will be on July 8th at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall!
Charles Causley Trust’s 2022 Young People’s Poetry Competition is open for entries!
This year, the Causley Trust launched their competition at their Mother’s Boy launch weekend, in partnership with Sunday Times bestselling author Patrick Gale. A Trust Patron for several years and the ultimate Charles Causley enthusiast, they are thrilled to announce that Patrick Gale is this year’s head judge!
This year’s theme is home, reflecting the influences of Charles Causley’s hometown of Launceston in his work. The annual poetry competition is open to aspiring writers aged 5-18 years, who can submit one poem under this theme. The deadline for submissions is midnight on the 31st of May 2022.
Today would have been Gerard Benson’s birthday, and as usual we like to recall him, his wonderful poems, his charismatic performances, his general wonderfulness. Here is his River Song:
And here is another favourite, The Cat and the Pig:
It’s World Book Day, but along with many others, I’m sure, my thoughts and heart lie with the people of Ukraine today.
Therefore the poems I will share will all be peace poems.
in lilting flight,
as cold as stars,
the soundless white
of drifting feathers
to sing the songs
that snowflakes sing,
of how small gifts
of peace and light
can change the world
in just one night.
© Liz Brownlee
Be The Change, Poems to Help You Save the World, Macmillan.
What do poems of nutty nonsense and children’s literature festivals have in common? They both entertain, amuse and inspire children to read, of course!
Christina Gabbitas is the amazing founder of Children’s Literature Festivals – she says: “We organise children’s literature festivals for children and families from all backgrounds, cultures and abilities in less privileged areas FREE”.
There can be no doubt that listening to or watching a real, live author perform is truly inspirational for children. There is information about the events and fund-raising to enable this important work on this Facebook page: Children’s Literature Festivals
Colin West is an exceptionally talented poet and illustrator, who has entertained children and parents for many years with his absurd wordplay and nonsense. All profits from Colin’s new book are to be donated to this excellent cause.
You will not be disappointed – the book is not only packed to the gills with daft, clever and giggle-provoking poems, it is also chock-a-block full of Colin’s charming and hilarious illustrations.
Here’s a sample I photographed from the book – you can read more about Colin West here.
Thought I’d take a moment to say how thrilled we are that this book has been chosen to be in the EmpathyLabUK 2022 primary collection, as it reflects so many issues around empathy and emotions.
Being Me, Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, is by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, wonderfully Illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler, and published by Otter Barry Books.
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.
You can buy it signed from me – tell me who to mention via email :
A ground-breaking collection offering understanding, support and encouragement, and advice from a leading developmental psychologist.
Razzmatazz! The Poetry World of Roger Stevens, Illustrated by Mike Smith, Otter-Barry Books.
Roger Stevens has done a lot to light the poetry world, and his poems always brighten an anthology – he is a funny person to be with, a hilarious person as a compère of any poetry event, and it is obvious that any book full of his own poems will be fabulous fun as well. And this is – plus inventive and offbeat and quirky.
This book gives poetry writing and performance tips along the way – but the biggest tip ever on how to get poetry inspiration is to do what Roger ALWAYS does, and that is take a notebook with you everywhere. I have never seen Roger without his. Spend a day with him and there will loads of poems you might hear along the way or later, or notes for poems that will emerge, polished and edited one day.
These pages are full of Roger’s voice and I love his poems – and I also like the fact they might be hilarious or sad, thoughtful or silly – full of razzmatazz and jazz and music and laughter, but whatever they are about, they are always kind, like him.
Very much recommended, wittily illustrated by Mike Smith. Five stars – and it’s out on Wednesday 12th January.
100 Best Christmas Poems for Children, Edited by Roger McGough, Illustrated by Beatriz Castro, Macmillan.
When you are fed up with Christmas fare, you can fill up with Christmas spirit by cracking open this little book packed with festive poems. There are lovely poems in here – beautiful poems, humorous poems, gentle poems, and poems to lift the hairs on the back of your neck with their evocation of Christmassy wonder. It’s a perfect selection, charmingly illustrated by Beatriz Castro.
Here is one I love:
Very much recommended. Five Stars.
Wonder, The Natural History Museum Poetry Book, Ana Sampson, Macmillan.
This is a truly delicious book of poems on the delights you can find within the cavernous chambers of The Natural History Museum, occasionally illustrated with prints from the pages of old books.
I found many poems (poems that have been given space to breathe) I have not read before. I read a lot of nature poems. Excellent poems, poems to make your mouth water, your breath seize, your mind soar, your thoughts fill with wonder. I love the choices Ana Sampson has made.
I have one poem in there and I am very proud of this. Here it is:
Definitely a book to buy – I would give it more than 5 stars if could!
When Poems Fall From the Sky, Zaro Weil, Illustrated by Junli Song, ZaZa Kids Books in association with Troika, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
What do you do if you want to submerge yourself in poems about nature? Diving into a copy of this book would be a good start, and letting them rain upon you from the pages.
Water, seeds, shoots and trees, fins, feathers and fur, colours, clouds, dreams, and moonbeams, all the delights of Mother Earth wind their own words into poems, raps and plays, growing through the delightful, playful illustrations by Junli Song.
Another lovely feast for the eyes book from Zaro Weil, ZaZa Kids Books, and Troika.
The Best Ever Book of Funny Poems, collected by Brian Moses, Macmillan.
Humour is subjective – what doubles me up (I am afraid) is anything involving an unfortunate end for the subject of the poem, but I also love it when the poem turns on its head at the end with an absurdity so surprising it makes me really laugh. There are plenty of those slipped inside the banana skin cover of this anthology collected by Brian Moses – along with clever wordplay and ridiculous poems from most of the poets you know and love. Including me.
I’m glad to say as soon as I unpeeled this book it did hit my funny bone, as that is not always the case with anthologies of funny poems.
Here’s a sample from the wonderful rhyme-master, Colin West:
We thought a lively pet to keep
Might be a hippopotamus.
Now see him sitting in a heap,
And notice at the bottom – us.
Definitely one to buy if you hanker after non-stop humour! Brilliant fun.
How Many Points for a Panda, Poems for Everyone, Hilda Offen, Troika Books.
This tackles subjects such as what to do if you are swallowed by a whale, and other tricky subjects that must be solved by young and old alike. The book’s poems are beautifully illustrated by the poet herself.
My favourite poem in this is The Naming of Clouds:
A lovely book to read with young children.
Hey, Girl! Poems by Rachel Rooney, Illustrated by Milo Hartnell, Otter-Barry Books
This is a remarkably honest and tender look at awakening, awareness and acceptance of self as a young girl enters adolescence. Rachel’s poems often directly confront and embrace truths – and this book is a portrait of the poet herself.
The poems also explore navigating these tumultuous and confusing times as someone with autism, which will have added to the feelings of vulnerability, isolation and difference, although Rachel didn’t know of her diagnosis at the time. But the poems that touch on autism give both sides of the coin, and the whole collection also relates shadows and songs along the journey to the future.
Rachel is a stunning, exacting poet – her poems are illustrated by her equally talented son, Milo Hartnell. It adds up to a book worth getting with its message of courage to be yourself.
Your mouth moves in synchronicity
with sounds I can hear,
some of which are recognisable,
like partyinvite and latestgossip.
And somewhere deep inside you,
invisible strings are being pulled
that make your eyes swivel,
shoulders rise, palms jerk upwards.
But even though I am holding
what I hope is an understanding half-smile
and feel satisfied with the tilt of my head,
I am thinking about that wasp in the window,
trapped amongst the stationery.
The way it alternates between
resigned torpor and active despair,
the tap of its wing against the glass.
Highly recommended. Five stars.
*Rachel Rooney’s former CLiPPA award-winning book, The Language of Cat has also recently been republished by Otter-Barry Books – excellent for key stage 1 and 2.