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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 Favourite Children's Poetry

Liz Brownlee: Favourite Poetry Books

 

Sixth in the series where I ask people to choose their favourite poetry books. I realised last week that I have a list of poets to ask, but I am not on it. So I have added myself, today! Like everyone else, I can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be my own. I may cheat. It’s easier for me than everyone else. 

Here are my choices! These are my sticky poetry books. The ones that have have poetry glue in their pages that keep me reading. The ones I go back to again and again. At least, some of them, the ones not by my close poetry friends whose books are impossible for me to choose between!

One. This is the oldest! The Birds and the Beasts Were There, Animal Poems Selected by William Cole, 1963, The World Publishing Company. William Cole was an American poet and anthologist. The illustrations are fabulous wood cuts by Helen Siegl. The poems have great variety, many I had not heard before, lots to love in here, by poets such as E. V. Rieu. The whole book is delightful.

Two. My second choice is the next oldest; the first book of poems and illustrations by Colin West, Out of the Blue From Nowhere, 1976, Dobson Books Ltd. I don’t think there is another edition of this, so feel very blessed to have this book. I suspect that publishers immediately realised his talent for charming absurdity and humour in both words and illustrations and snapped him up immediately. These are no early, naive beginnings. Colin West clearly sprang out of the blue from nowhere himself and has remained somewhere ever since. Still producing wonderfulness which you can enjoy on Twitter.

Three. In 1999 I went to Canada for a couple of months while my husband was editing a film about grizzly bears, in the mountains. We were in the mountains, as well as the grizzly bears for 6 weeks but then we went to Vancouver for a holiday. I was taken to Vancouver children’s books store. It had an excellent collection of children’s books, and this was one of them. Here I learned to love Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems, and her choices for this collection. The voices in this book are so redolent with the language and culture of the poets, it’s like stepping into a new world and life with each poem. Up with the best, ever. This Same Sky, A collection of Poems from Around the World, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1992, Aladdin Paperbacks.

Four. Gerard Benson. An actor, speech lecturer at the Central School for Speech and Drama, Barrow Poet, Quaker… and as I knew him, children’s poet. We met more than yearly for many years for a week’s poetry retreat in the country. Gerard’s poems are perfect. They speak plainly but sing, and every one is rounded for me with his rich and resonant voice. Thank goodness he is still here, in these books. Evidence of Elephants, Poems by Gerard Benson, 1995, Viking.

Five. Tony Mitton. Tony’s poems are a dreamy journey that surround you with a story and bring you along, much like the title of this lovely book. Atmospheric and full of word play and fun. Come into this Poem, Poems by Tony Mitton, 2011, Otter-Barry.

Six. I’m not sure if this book is for adults or children, but it is certainly accessible to both, which I like. The title of this book is the title of my all-time favourite poem – Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Munro. Read as a child, it sent goosebumps up my arms then and still does – and I still don’t really know why. The strangeness of the situation, the speakers, the desire, the danger, the atmosphere? It is a poem that does not leave you. A poem I’m sure every poet would like to write. Overheard on a Saltmarsh, Poets’ Favourite Poems, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, 2003, Picador.

Seven. My last choice of other people’s books. This book is also American but is my favourite anthology of all time. These poems are delicious. The illustrations are perfect, hard to achieve with poetry. They fill each page with excitement, delicacy, place, life and the character of each animal, whilst still leaving space for and enhancing the poems. This is my PERFECT anthology. The Beauty of the Beast, Poems from the Animal Kingdom, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So, Alfred A Knopf. 

Eight. Serendipitously, today I received my latest book. This is my heart book, the book I’ve always wanted to do. Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, Macmillan. Sustainability poems, with ‘how to help’ tips for young people to feel empowered. It’s out on September 5th.

That’s my lot! There are so many more… but they’ll have to wait until next time. Perhaps a series of choices on particular subjects?

Liz

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Brian Moses’ Favourite Poetry Books

Fifth in the series where I ask children’s poets for their favourite poetry books! They can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be their own. This week it’s thank you to wonderful, percussionist and poet and big supporter of all children’s poets and poetry, Brian Moses. Brian published my first ever poem.

A Desert Island Discs invitation from Liz Brownlee but children’s poetry books, not discs. Where to begin? What to select from the vast collection I’ve built up over the years. Well, this is how it stands at the moment.

Late Home by Brian Lee (Kestrel Books imprint of Penguin in 1976)… It’s an evocation of childhood, the sort of childhood that I had. The title poem looks at how time flies when you’re deeply involved in some childhood activity and then suddenly, you’re late, two hours late home.

I wondered just what had happened

To Time, for three hours in June:

If all my life is as happy –

Will it all be over as soon?

Walking On Air by Berlie Doherty (Lions Poetry, 1993) Berlie’s first (& only I think) collection of poetry and like Brian Lee’s book, it looks at childhood. Some classic first lines ‘Playgrounds are such gobby places’, ‘I went to school a day too soon.’ ‘Fishes are stars’. These are lines that intrigue and the poems that follow are wonderful observations. No filler here! A gem of a book.

Please Mrs Butler by Alan Ahlberg (Puffin 1983) Should be required reading for anyone starting to write poetry. The poems are a master class in how to use rhyme effectively & unexpectedly. ‘Dog in the Playground’ is a perfect read aloud.

The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East. selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, (Aladdin paperbacks, 1998). Couldn’t put it better than Karen Hesse in her introduction: ‘Under the ancient cadences, under the vibrant imagery lies a contemporary tension that flashes to the surface, bringing a strong, Middle Eastern light to shine upon the rubble wrought by today’s conflicts.” One I return to again and again.

Rabbiting On by Kit Wright (Lions, 1978). One of the first poetry books I used in the classroom. ‘Dad, the Cat & the Tree’ & ‘The Party’ (Dave Dirt’s poem) were requested over and over again.

Morning Break & Other Poems by Wes Magee (Cambridge University Press, 1989). Pie Corbett and I were big fans of Wes’s adult poetry collections and were excited when his first two collections for children were published. This is the one for older readers. Some wonderfully spooky stuff and also more sensitive material such as ‘Until Gran Died’ and ‘Tracey’s Tree’.

The Journal of Danny Chaucer (Poet) by Roger Stevens (Dolphin Paperbacks 2002). Must have been one of the first verse novels for children/young adults. Danny’s dreams of girls, guitars and rock ’n’ roll. Was also a radio play for BBC Radio 4 I believe. Great fun.

I was going to choose If I Were In Charge of the World by Judith Viorst too, but Eric Ode bagged that one first.

And I’m supposed to mention one of mine. Think it has to be Lost MagicThe poems that I consider to be the best ones I’ve written over the past 25 years. Published by Macmillan 2016. Believe in what you write, it’s advice I’m always handing out.

Thanks Liz, for making me think.

Brian Moses

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Eric Ode; My Favourite Poetry Books

Today is the fourth in the series where I ask children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they choose 5-8 books, one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. A big British welcome to Eric Ode, American poet and musician and a lovely person as well. 

List some of my favorite (or “favourite”) poetry books? What a fun invitation! Thanks so much, Liz. As Sue Hardy-Dawson did last week, I’m also going to shy away from including any collections from poet friends. Once you start, where do you stop?

1) Small Poems by Valerie Worth is easily my first choice. These are poems I love sharing with students. The observations enter the room quietly. The metaphors are flawless, unexpected, and always good for “Of course!” moments.

2) Is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson too obvious? Well, so be it. I still remember my mother reading from this collection to me. Poems about haylofts and swings and little toy sailboats written with perfect meter, perfect rhyme, and always with a child’s heart.

3) Sing a Song of Popcorn, selected by Mary Michaels White, Eva Moore, Beatrice Schenk De Regniers, and Jan Carr is a beautiful, wide-ranging anthology. The poems are grouped by theme, each section wonderfully illustrated by such notables as Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel.

I first came upon this collection while teaching elementary school. My copy is dog-eared and page-worn.

4) Judith Viorst’s If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries is a slim collection packed with the sly wit and heartstrings-tugging thoughts for which Viorst is so well known. An especially fun collection for that ages 8 to 11 group.

5) And I suppose Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends is another obvious choice (at least on this side of the pond), but can it be topped? From the opening “Invitation” to the closing “The Search,” I’ve always appreciated how Silverstein could move from the goofiest of themes to the most tender while never letting his collections lose cohesion.

6) The truth is, I don’t often read poetry written for adults. I’ll pick up a collection with optimistic energy from time to time only to wind up feeling beaten and frustrated—like a poet imposter—as I realize I am missing too much of what the poet is sharing. (That says far more about me than the poets, by the way.) And so I am thankful for poets like Billy Collins and titles like Sailing Alone Around the Room, a collection written with the inviting, conversational language that has me curling up into the pages.

7) And I still need to choose one of my own? Then let’s go with my newest collection, Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails, published by Kane Miller Books and beautifully illustrated by Ruth Harper. I love a walk in a healthy wetland ecosystem and hope this collection helps others find magic there as well.

Peace and joy,

Eric Ode

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Sue Hardy-Dawson; My Favourite Poetry Books

My Favourite Books of Poems

Here is the third in a series where I ask children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they must choose 5-8 books, one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. Welcome this week to lovely Sue Hardy-Dawson!

My house is full of books, far more than my long suffering family think anyone should have. Of those I suspect roughly two thirds are poetry. I thought I would enjoy doing this and I did, but oh dear choosing eight, that was agony. I have many talented poet friends, far more than eight. So I elected not to choose from them, an impossible choice. Instead I’ve gone with poets either dear and departed, or books that had a profound effect on me.

I’m going to start at the very beginning with A A Milne, I’m cheating a bit because I have a book with both When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six in. I might as well because a friend stole my individual copies so I feel exonerated in this. My dad at bedtime used to act out The Dormouse and the Doctor and The King’s Breakfast. I could go on. I loved them the whole experience was so sensory, so loved and cuddly. Definitely the beginning of my lifelong love of poetry.

My next choice is 4 O’CLOCK on Friday. John Foster just somehow put together a wonderful anthology. I could write a whole article on John’s anthologies. I give mention to the First Book, 2nd Book etc series. I love them so.

Manifold Manor, Philip Gross, is my next choice. I love everything about it. Again sensory and there’s something wonderful about Chris Riddell’s understated yet mystical ravens.

My next choice is The Best of Ted Hughes, I fell in love with his Thought Fox when I was fourteen. It’s an indelible memory of a sticky hot June class room from which I escaped into a midnight snowy garden and the hot stink of fox. I confess my copy is stained and has loose pages. It has traveled with me on almost every holiday I’ve ever been on.

My next choice is The Oldest Girl in the World, Carol Anne Duffy. Again wonderfully synaesthetic poetry. It encapsulates myths and fairytales, one I often return to.

My next is a book that I think deserved much more recognition than it got, The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poetry. This is just gorgeous, the full stunning illustrations alone are enough to merit its inclusion. But Celia Warren has created a beautifully balanced collection here. One for all the family to enjoy for years.

My next is To Catch an Elephant, by the late great Bradford Laureate, Gerard Benson. What can I say about these beautiful, fun and poignant poems. I hear his river voice in all of them. If you haven’t come across him it’s well worth a look. His poetry for both adults and children is just joyous.

So these are just a few of the books that I keep by my bed, that I often dip into. I count myself very lucky to do what I do, my child self would never have thought it possible. Where Zebras Go, my first collection, was published by Otter-Barry Books in 2017. But I’m conscious I owe almost all of this to the wonderful legacy of poets I was introduced to by my father, by enthusiastic teachers and by wonderful, kind and talented poet friends who also encouraged and championed me.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Coral Rumble; My Favourite Poetry Books

Here is the second in the series where I’m asking children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they must choose one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. This week, it’s Coral Rumble!

I could list so many books, so I’ve decided to avoid listing any by my personal friends, as I wouldn’t be able to stop! (Not just because they’re my friends, but because they’re all ridiculously talented.) Instead, I’ve thought further afield and back in time; it’s been quite a journey!

I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree (Nosy Crow) Ed Fiona Waters

Hooray, hooray! In 2018 something unusual happened. A publisher spent a lot of money on producing a poetry book that was beautiful and inviting. With full colour illustrations throughout, the richness of text is matched by the extravagance of visual interpretation. What a breath of fresh air! Bravo Nosy Crow!

The Magic Box (Macmillan) Kit Wright

Okay, this might seem a blast from the past, but we’re only travelling back to 2010. Are there many schools where children have not been inspired to write their own version of the famous title poem? Playful language, a light touch, totally delightful.

Grandad’s Tree (Barefoot Books) Ed. Jill Bennett

First published in 2003, this book is bold in its treatment of sad subjects that children need to talk about. With poems from the likes of Grace Nichols, Berlie Doherty and Carl Sandburg, you know you’re in for a treat. ‘Always Remembering Eloise’ by Lindsay MacRae renders me speechless.

The Utter Nutters (Puffin) Brian Patten

I’m going to take you back a little further in time. In 1994 this fantastic collection of Brian’s poems delighted more visual learners, who responded to text and illustration working together. I remain still as fond of this innovative book based on the various wacky neighbours all living on one imagined street.

Something Big Has Been Here (HarperCollins) Jack Prelutsky

We’re still time travelling, this time back to 1990. I love Jack Prelutsky! He’s such a master of scansion; there are no untidy ends to tie. I want to skip through the pages of this book, not in the sense of haste, but in the sense of spirit.

When We Were Very Young (Methuen) A.A. Milne

First published in 1924! I’m not just being sentimental, I just love this book, containing classics like ‘Halfway Down’ and ‘Buckingham Palace’. It’s where my love of words started. On top of that, it’s full of wonderful illustrations by E.H. Shepherd!

And my own book?

Riding a Lion (Troika Books) Coral Rumble

Well, it’s kind of back to the future now, because this book doesn’t yet exist! I think most poets feel that their latest work is their best, and I’m very excited about this collection. Anyway, you can never start marketing too early!

Posted in My Favourite Poetry Books

Roger Stevens; My Favourite Poetry Books

My Favourite Books of Poems

Here is the first in a series where I’ll be asking children’s poets what their favourite poetry books are – they must choose one of their own, and they can if they wish choose a book of poems for adults, too. First to go is Roger Stevens, who idea this was!

Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here (Puffin) Michael Rosen. Michael reminds us what it’s like to be a child. The poems are funny, clever and full of heart.

The World’s Greatest Space Cadet (Bloomsbury) James Carter. There are so many brilliant books around to choose from but, well, I just really like this one.

The Dictionary of Dads (Otter-Barry Books) Justin Coe. This book is full of funny, sad and very thoughtful poems, brilliantly written. Every class should have one.

Picnic, Lightning (Random House) Billy Collins (for grown-ups). If you don’t know Billy Collins check him out. He has a very natural style, and is easy to read. But the way he tackles both big themes and small themes, is so skilful, it almost makes you gasp.

Apes to Zebras: an A – Z of Shape Poems (Bloomsbury) Liz Brownlee, Sue-Hardy Dawson and Roger Stevens. A tricky book to put together, but it turned out well in the end. It won an award you know.

Thank you, Roger! There will be more poet’ choices to come. Do you have a favourite book of children’s poems? Let me know what it is in the comments!

Posted in CLiPPA

CLiPPA AWARD WINNER Steven Camden – The Book Review

Here is the review I did of the 2019 CLiPPA award-winner, Steven Camden’s book, Everything All at Once, in June last year! WELL DONE Steven, aka @homeofpolar on Twitter!

How FABULOUS to be able to review a young people’s poetry book written for above primary age.

These poems speak directly in an authentic teenage voice, with humour and insight, giving voice to the complex, anxious, insecure and serious feelings that face all teenagers. And the exciting ones, too! Steven Camden, AKA Polarbear is by reputation (I regret that I have not seen him!) an excellent spoken-word poet, but these poems live on the page as well as they would in the mouth.

Some of the poems are almost unbearably poignant. As I read it I could feel myself going hot and cold with remembered angst; but also sadness at many of the new challenges our young people face nowadays.

It also made me laugh out loud. This book and these poems are well overdue, there is so little that is pertinent and specifically for this age-group. Very much recommended, teachers.

Posted in Poetry News

Children’s Poetry Summit Launches Blog for Children’s Poetry Professionals

The Children’s Poetry Summit is a UK network of individuals and organisations actively interested in poetry for children. It provides a regular forum for discussion, information exchange, and sharing of ideas, and a pressure group which campaigns for children’s poetry. Members are children’s poets, publishers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, organisations and individuals interested in children’s poetry. It was founded by Chris Holifield, who was Poetry Book Society director, and is now director of the T S Eliot Prize, and Gaby Morgan, children’s editor and children’s poetry editor at Macmillan.

They meet a few times a year in London (I am a member), and exchange information and ideas about raising the profile of children’s poetry, creating opportunities on behalf of poetry for children through publishing, bookselling, schools etc.; and of course also support and promote the writing of poetry for children.

They have a new website where you will find fascinating blogs over the year, every Thursday- not just the poets, but publishers, librarians, Forward Arts (who organise National Poetry Day), and every conceivable organisation that helps promote poetry for children, that is also represented on the Summit. Occasionally there will also be guest blogs.

Why not have a look? At the moment there are blogs by Michael Rosen, Cheryl Moskowitz, Brian Moses, Roger Stevens, Laura Mucha, Teresa Cremin, Rachel Rooney, and this weeks blog by Janetta Otter-Barry (links are to blogs, performances or entries on the A-Z of Children’s Poets on this blog).

So – if you don’t follow Poetry Roundabout, please do so if you are interested in everything Children’s Poetry related, and whether you are an adult writer of poetry for children, a young writer of poetry, a fan of children’s poetry, teacher, or an industry professional, please also follow Children’s Poetry Summit which will have a blog every Thursday.

Thanks to Chris Riddell for his lovely artwork which is the Children’s Poetry Summit logo.

Posted in Famous children's poets

Moonstruck!

I have rather a backlog of books to review… but this is one I will be reviewing, the new anthology of moon poems, Moonstruck by Roger Stevens, published by Otter-Barry and wonderfully illustrated by Ed Boxall. I caught a glimpse when we saw each other a little while ago when we were performing for the Teachers’ Book Group Conference. It was beautiful. Out in hardback in the US, and in paperback here soon.

Here’s Ed with some of his illustrated books at a book fair we met at a little while ago.

YorkMix Poems For Children Competition!

Could you write a poem to amuse, excite or inspire children? That’s the challenge as YorkMix launches the YorkMix Poems For Children Competition!

The first prize is £250, with runner-up prizes of £100, £75 and £50, and the poems are judged by Carole Bromley.

If you want to write a children’s poem now is the time to try!

Details here.

Posted in Poetry News

Fun and Joy at the Federation Of Children’s Book Groups’ Conference

Because of the Feast of Children’s Poets and Poetry A-Z, I haven’t posted this!

Earlier in April a group of children’s poets were invited to perform at the FCBG’s Conference. It was such fun – we all did a set, and sang some songs… with an hour’s practise! But we are used to performing together so it wasn’t too hard.

The musical talents, guitars, and drums of strange and peculiar shapes and sizes, were provided by Roger Stevens, John Dougherty, Ed Boxall and Brian Moses – and we all sang, but me, Zaro Weil and Laura Mucha were the backing group, too. Thank you Roy Johnson of Troika for arranging it!

Apparently there were murmurings that they wanted us back next year. I’m not complaining, I’d do it every night if I could, so if anyone wants to employ a poet band, let us know!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Day 25th Anniversary!

Yes, National Poetry Day has been running for 25 years and this year there will be big, ongoing celebrations!

The National Poetry Day Ambassadors have received their National Poetry Day badges, and there’s no prizes for guessing which one I like best. I’ll give you a clue, it’s yellow and has a dog on.

National Poetry Day will be Thursday, October 3rd, and theme this year is Truth. 

If you have any poetry events happening in relation to NPD, you can post them on the NPD website for free. You can also send them your truth poems!

You can also send me your truth poems, and they might be posted here!

Posted in A to Z Challenge 2019

#AtoZ Challenge; Z is for Zaro Weil

Zaro Weil lives in an old farm on a little hill in southern France, and her poetry for children has appeared in many anthologies. She has written several books including a book of children’s poetry, Mud, Moon and Me, published by Orchard Books, UK and Houghton Mifflin, USA, which can be bought here. Her book Firecrackers, Troika, illustrated by Jo Riddellcan be bought here, and her lovely new book, Cherry Moon is just out and available here! Zaro’s website is here.

Zaro has sent this wonderful poem for the poetry feast:

.

HIDE AND SEEK

I decided to play a game with quiet

hide and seek

my turn

I slipped into the woods

looking for quiet

instead

a cacophony of forest-crackle

a hullabaloo of beast-babel

sprang towards me while

a tweedledum of pandemonium

circled above

it was a free-for-all

and even the sun

jangled copper

between the leaves

so much for the forest

I went to the sea

searching for quiet

but the waves trumpeted

a rumbling ruckus

a crash of crinkle-crests while

squarking gulls sky-dived into

wind-trembled sea and

tiny sea things zig-zagged

underfoot as a medley of

fat green seaweed

slapped the sand

non-stop non-stop

so much for the sea

but then I turned

and quiet tagged me

I stopped

forest stopped

sea stopped

I found quiet

it must have been hiding

the whole time

inside my words

inside of me

.

© Zaro Weil

.

If you would like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge post please follow this link.

Children’s Poets’ Climate Change Blog: Be the Change

Liz’s Blog: Liz Brownlee Poet

Liz’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizpoet

KidsPoets4Climate Twitter: https://twitter.com/poets4climate

Children’s Poetry Summit Twitter: https://twitter.com/kidspoetsummit