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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 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!

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© 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.

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© 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

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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

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© 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:

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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

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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.

Young Poets Network New Poetry Competition!

Young Poets Network are challenging young poets everywhere to write about trees! They have seven exciting prompts to help inspire your tree-writing.

This challenge is for writers aged up to 25 based anywhere in the world. The deadline is midnight, Sunday 20 January 2019. You can send a poem written down, or a recording as a video or as an audio file, and you can send as many poems as you like.

Details here.

Posted in Poet's Piece

Chrissie Gittins asks, Are Children Ever Too Young for Poetry?

Chrissie Gittins is an award-winning poetry writer for children and adults, and also writes short stories and plays. Her poems have been widely anthologised and animated for Poetry Pie and CBeebies on TV. Not only has she been visiting schools as a poet for over 20 years, she has written 5 children’s poetry collections. Now You See Me, Now You…, illustrated by Gunnlavg Moen, and I Don’t Want an Avocado, illustrated by Kev Adamson, were shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award. Her latest book is Adder, Bluebell, Lobster, illustrated by Paul Bommer. Her website is here.

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Are Children Ever Too Young For Poetry?

 

I live next door to twins – Billie and Milo. When they were three years old I discovered that Billie called her dollies Baby Door and Baby Floor. This begged for a poem. I wrote ‘Billie’s Dollies’ and took a copy next door to show her. The family had visitors and I was asked to read/perform the poem to them all. There was much laughter.

Milo also wanted a poem. He is mad about leaf blowers and asked if I would write a poem about a leaf blower, which I did. Their parents framed both poems and hung them on the wall in their bedroom. Just before they got into bed they would say the poems together. Before they could read them they would run their fingers along the lines as they remembered them. They enjoyed the rhymes and could pick out their names and recognise repeated words. After their parents left the room they would say the lines to each other.

I’m so pleased that I contributed in a small way to the twins learning to read, and to their enjoyment of poetry.

‘Milo the Leaf Blower’ will appear in the anthology ‘Poems Out Loud’ published by Penguin in September 2019.

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Billie’s Dollies

 

Billie has two dollies,

Each dolly has a name,

One dolly is called Baby Door,

The other one’s called Baby Floor.

 

Billie throws Baby Floor to the ceiling,

Then she pushes Baby Door to the wall,

They all look out of the window,

Then Billie shouts ‘More! More! More!’

 

They all go into the garden,

Where the dollies are planted in soil,

Soon the two beautiful dollies,

Become Four! Four! Four!

 

© Chrissie Gittins

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Milo The Leaf Blower

 

Milo is a Leaf Blower,

He blows every single leaf,

They spin and twirl and hit the ground –

He catches three leaves in his teeth.

 

The golden leaves lie in a pile,

They cover Milo’s nose,

No matter how much Milo blows –

They pile up on his toes.

 

Milo blows and blows the leaves,

The orange and the red,

But if the wind blows North to West –

They pile up on his head!

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© Chrissie Gittins

 

Young Poets’ Network Poetry Challenge

Young Poets Network have set another poetry competition!

Could you be one of the Bletchley set? Poet So Mayer takes goes into the Bletchley Park archives and invites young poets everywhere to try a number of cleverly coded writing exercises. Write in response to one or more of these, or simply write a poem inspired by the work at Bletchley Park and email Young Poets Network with your work for the chance to be published in an anthology!

Details here.

Posted in Poetry Celebration/Anniversary

Poetry Zone – a Celebration of 20 years of Children’s Poetry!

Last night in London, in the setting of the CLPE‘s wonderful library, was the FABULOUS party to mark the 20th anniversary of PoetryZone, the website started by the wonderful poet Roger Stevens, and the publishing of the excellent book above by way of celebration.

PoetryZone has supported and encouraged many generations of children in their poetry by giving them arena to post their poems, see them published, and get feedback – it is a wonderful resource for young poets everywhere; it has had more than a MILLION visitors in its 20 years on the web!.

PoetryZone, a Celebration of 20 Years of Children’s Poetry, is published by Troika, and is chock-full of Roger’s favourite poems by a number of top children’s poets – and also some mind-blowing poems by some of the 30,000 children who have had their work published on the PoetryZone website.

The night was a happy mix of lovely children’s poets (a whole boatload of whom turned up to help celebrate and honour Roger) and poetry, with readings from the poets present, including me, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Laura Mucha, James Carter, Andrea Shavick, Trevor Parsons, Coral Rumble, Celia Warren, John Agard, and of course, Roger himself.

A very lovely evening indeed.

 

Young Northern Writer Award

This award of £200 is for a young writer aged 12–18. The young person can write in any creative form including prose, poetry, scriptwriting, blogging, songwriting and rap.

There is one award in this category, although up to two writers may also be highly commended.

Applications are accepted in two ways:

Through nomination from an adult working with the young person, or by application directly from the young person.

You can find out more, including submission guidelines and information on eligibility criteria, by visiting the Northern Writers’ Awards site, here.