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!
Many creatures show amazing discernment choosing nesting sites for safety, or choosing between food sources for superior protein content, or choosing their mate for health, according to their brighter feathers and louder song.
This is the Vogelkop Bowerbird – from Indonesia. He is an unremarkable male, with his plain, brown feathers. A female might disregard him entirely for his attire. But he attracts his mate by dazzling her. He builds the most remarkable bower of all – and decorates by choosing adornments by colour, and shine. He places them just so – stands back and re-adjusts, tries another arrangement and starts all over again until he is satisfied. He is an artist.
Before his bower,
a pyramid of orchid stems
supported by pillars,
blue and plum berries
plucked with delicate precision
and displayed precisely
of pink blossom,
a shiny pile pf
purple-grey beetle wings
and one perfect
the plainest bowerbird
This poem is in Animal Magic, IRON PRESS, 2012
I Choose Puppy
The shiniest, sparkly, jewel glitzes
champagne bubbles’ tickly fizzes
all the fireworks’ bangs and hisses –
I’ve got the best of all the wishes
‘cos nothing’s like a puppy’s kisses
This is Paddy – if he passes all his exams he will, one day, take over Lola’s role as my assistance dog. He’s doing ok at the minute!
And he is very loving and cuddly.
It’s National Poetry Day today – the most exciting day in the poetry calendar, and I’m so proud to be a National Poetry Day ambassador, to let everyone possible in on the secrets of poetry. This is the poem I have given NPD this year on the theme of ‘CHOICE’.
I Choose Poetry
The softness of the lemon in a primrose
the nodding of a bluebell from a bee
the silence in the gaps of a bird’s song
the library of the creatures in a tree
the plumping of a plum in the sunshine
the crazy path an ant left in the grass
the fleeting blue-pink-orange evening
the moment when the sky darks for the stars
the tingle in the thrill of the music
the bounce of the branch as bird flies free
the smell of the earth rise in the rainfall
the things I keep by choosing poetry
Sometimes we don’t have a choice – we have to get up and go to school or work to learn or earn money, we have to eat each day to stay healthy, and we need to clean our teeth every day to keep our smiles in working order.
And sometimes it feels as if we don’t have any choice – perhaps we feel we need to say we like something we don’t because most people do like that thing, or we must behave in a certain way because we will be thought uncool if we don’t.
This poem is about choosing to be you – are there things about yourself that you feel others might not approve of? Do you care? Do you worry about it? How does that make you feel?
Here’s the poem in words instead of the shape of the nightingale:
hidden in the heart
of darkling leaves
he doesn’t care
as all the
he sings to the sky
song of them all
How do you choose your books?
Do you read the back, and choose something that sounds exciting, soothing, or interesting?
Do you look for books on a certain genre you enjoy, such as mystery, humour, adventure, detective, or horror?
Do you go by the cover, and choose a book which you want to pick up, which makes you glad or excited just by the illustration or design?
Do you open books at the first page and see if they grab you?
There are as many ways to choose a book as there are types of book to read, and no way is incorrect. But perhaps one day you could try a different way of choosing – take a recommendation from someone, pick up the first book you see with a cover you love, even if it isn’t one you’d normally read, or try a mystery if you mainly pick romance.
Here’s my poem about what you might find in a book – can you think of any books you have read that fit one of the verses?
In the Heart of a Book
I found myself a story
with a place in me to store it
I found myself a wide, new world
so set off to explore it
I found a scary monster
plus the way to banish it
I found a pool of sadness
and the strength to manage it
I found the dragon in my soul
learned the way to tame it
I found a new ambition
a path to take and aim it
I found a way to rest my head
while my worries all unplug
I found a curl of comfort
where each word was a hug
I found a web of wonders
things I dream about at night
I found a pair of magic wings
and flew into the light
From Being Me, Poems Abut Poems About Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, May 2021
National Poetry Day is on Thursday this week – the theme is CHOICE. Today I have a poem about choosing words!
How do you choose just the right word for a poem? Do you use the one you first think of? Sometimes that IS the correct word – poem lines should be easy to read and use direct language.
But if you read the poem as a whole, and notice a repeat, or realise a word doesn’t express precisely what you were trying to say – or think of another word that is alliterative and makes the poem more interesting to say out loud – then it can be changed.
Here’s my poem about choosing words for a poem!
Place to match the pattern with no seams
Or to clash with a dissonance that pleases
Use no jam that sits stickily on the tongue
Slice them with a scalpel, make them bleed
Hurl them, leave an outline on the paper
Breathe them gently into being to goose-bump skin
Keep some grounded but pin others to the sky
Feather all so together they form wings
Then read your poem out, and let it fly
New Songs for Old! Re-inventing Nursery Rhymes.
Nursery rhymes – we all know and love them. Who didn’t grow up with ditties like Hey Diddle Diddle, Mary Mary, Quite Contrary, or Humpty Dumpty? They’re part of the furniture of the nursery of childhood.
What is less well known is that many of these rhymes – some hundreds of years old – have themes and subject matter of a decidedly adult nature. One theory about Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, for example, is that the rhyme refers to Queen Mary I of England, the “silver bells and cockle shells” referencing the instruments of torture that she used to convert recalcitrant Protestants to Catholicism. Other rhymes have somewhat dubious content – like the Old Woman who lived in a shoe, with her multitude of children who could only be dealt with by a sound smacking and sending off to bed. As a child growing up in Kolkata, India, I remember being mildly frightened by rhymes such as this, as well as bemused by the very English world they created: Dr Foster getting drenched in Gloucester, the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down the hill.
These rhymes are known and loved by generations of children. They form part of our collective childhood memory. But memory is a living thing, not a mausoleum. It should be added to, if we’re to have dynamic and not fossilized childhoods. Modern nursery rhymes are diverse and inclusive: Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie, which gave Canadian children a whole body of nursery rhymes referencing their own landscape; or Jane Newberry’s gorgeously illustrated, interactive book of rhymes for young children, Big Green Crocodile, shortlisted for the 2021 CLiPPA award.
For older children, fractured and re-worked nursery rhymes provide a rich source for honing critical and analytical skills, for questioning clichés and exploring history. In my poem What Are Little Girls Made Of?, for example, gender stereotypes are turned on their heads in a joyous mish-mash, encouraging children to think critically about them, and to explore their individual identity:
What Are Little Girls Made Of?
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Swords and roars and dinosaurs
pirates, Death Stars, dragons’ claws
castles, pistols, ragged shirts
bows and arrows, finger-dirt
grubby knees and paint-stained faces
every lack of social graces.
That’s what little girls are made of.
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Ribbons, bows, curly locks
Lady Gaga, sparkly socks
fluffy diaries, friendship bracelets
secret notes in hidden places
cupcakes topped with chocolate sprinkles
fairy wands that wink and twinkle.
That’s what little boys are made of.
But, you say, hang on a mo –
I am a pirate with a bow.
Or actually, I’d rather be
making cupcakes up a tree.
No, I’m a princess with a patch –
Don’t stress, it’s fine to mix and match.
By far the best is to be true
to the bestest person: YOU.
©Piu DasGupta. First published in The Dirigible Balloon, August 2021
Activities for KS3 pupils based on this poem could include: looking through newspaper and/or magazine articles and cutting out clichéd or recurring descriptions of men and women; are some adjectives considered “male” (handsome, strong) and some “female” (pretty, sweet) – what could be used instead? Or the children could create their own “fractured” nursery rhymes, replacing key words to turn stereotypes on their heads –
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and did mistreat her
She waved a wand and winked and eye,
And turned him into pumpkin pie.
Older children and teenagers would enjoy more grown-up nursery rhyme parodies, such as that of This Little Piggy Went to Market in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (William Morrow, 2006). For a sample Year 7 lesson plan based on examining gender stereotypes in nursery rhymes and modern media, see the end of this article.
It’s also fascinating to unearth the hidden significance of nursery rhymes, the historical and political roots from which they have been cut loose to float free over the years. One theory about the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice is that, like Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, it may refer to the martyrs, the Anglican bishops Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs (and therefore “blind”):
Three blind mice
Paid a high price
The Queen’s beliefs they all three spurned
So at the stake she had them burned,
Those three blind mice.
For many years, the nursery rhyme Ring a Ring of Roses was believed to have its roots in the Great Plague, the “ring” of roses referring to the rosy rash that was one of the symptoms of the Black Death, the “pocketful of posies” the nosegay that was carried to defend against infection, “Atishoo, Atisshoo, we all fall down” referring to a final death. Although this explanation is now generally disputed by scholars, it does give the rhyme a dark relevance in the context of these pandemic days.
“A nursery rhyme shapes your bones and nerves, and it shapes your mind. They are powerful, nursery rhymes, and immensely old, and not toys, even though they are for children.” So says a character in Katherine Catmull’s exploration of myth, fable and nursery rhyme, Summer and Bird (Puffin, 2012). We who read, write and teach nursery rhymes must tread carefully in the magical forest, mindful of their power.
Piu DasGupta is a British/French/Indian writer based in Paris, France. Although poetry has been a lifelong passion, she turned to writing it quite recently. Her children’s poems have been published to date in magazines such as The Caterpillar, Northern Gravy, and The Dirigible Balloon. She is on Twitter as @PiuDasGupta1.
‘Blow Wind Blow’ a celebration. For librarians, teachers, parents and children – Thursday 29th July, 2021. 7pm.
‘Blow Wind Blow’ is a poetic and visual introduction to the many wonders of wind, the third in the ‘Wild Wanderers’ series for younger readers. Join poet Dom Conlon and illustrator Anastasia Izlesou for this celebration, hosted by the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and the Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Met University. Dom and Anastasia will be in conversation with CLPE’s Charlotte Hacking and Plymouth Grove Primary teacher Sarah Thompson, to discuss how this beautiful book can have an impact in classrooms.
Children also welcome; there will be a reading of the book and we will also be sharing some creative responses from Plymouth Grove pupils, who have been working with the book. And we will be laying down a summer writing/drawing challenge for children to respond from home. To join this free online event please register on Eventbrite.
HUGE congratulations to all the CLiPPA (CLPE) shortlisted poets, who were announced today!
The fabulous books are:
Slam! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, chosen by Nikita Gill, Macmillan
Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann, Penguin
Big Green Crocodile Rhymes to Say and Play, by Jane Newberry, illustrated by Carolina Rabei, Otter-Barry Books
On the Move, Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Walker Books
…and my favourite, because it’s by my poet friend (and because it’s stupendous):
A Bright Burst of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, Bloomsbury Education.
Congratulations to all the shortlisters, and good luck for 11th October at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, when the winner is announced!
As part of the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival Coventry 2021, Coventry Libraries and Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 are recruiting for this exciting role:
- Coventry Young Poet Laureate – 13 years or older and under 18 years old on 31 August 2021.
The Coventry Young Poet Laureate is an honorary post appointed by Coventry Library Service and the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. The post will be run until 5 October 2023 at which date a new Young Poet Laureate will be appointed. Applicants must be able to work in English but having knowledge of other languages is welcomed.
When applying you will be asked to upload short poems, one of which should be about Coventry and a short statement about your interest in the post and what you think you can bring to the role. The deadline for applications is Monday 19 July 2021 at 12:00 BST
All children worry about all manner of things – some children more than others. They may have a store of big and little worries that they carry around, which just gets bigger if not attended to. One day a little worry added to the top may cause them to have what seems to be an out-of-proportion reaction. Talking about worries, writing them down, solving the ones that can be solved and recognising the ones that cannot, and putting them to one side can help. Here’s a little poem about worries, read by Sophia.
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: