Posted in Famous children's poets

The Three Types of Poem by A. F. Harrold (and – How to Pass Poetry Exams)


How to describe A. F. Harrold? Well, he has a beard. His poems are brilliant and sometimes wonderfully weird. And he’s fun. Some of his poems, and his book, Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard, are illustrated by the amazingly talented Chris Riddell, who did the fabulous pirate illustration to go with the poem at the end of the article. Here A. F. describes the three types of poem – and how to pass a poetry exam! 


The Three Types of Poem


There’s an old story I just made up about a woman who goes for a walk in the woods and discovers, there on the ground in the middle of the path, a carrot.

It’s an odd place for there to be a carrot, she thinks.

Carrots normally appear on plates, or in saucepans, or places like that… not on paths.

So she picks the carrot up and looks at it.

And it turns out it’s not a carrot after all, but a wolf-in-disguise.

And the woman gets eaten by the wolf and learns an important lesson.


‘Now,’ I say, ‘a poem is like the character in the story.’

‘But which character?’ the imaginary voice in my head asks.

‘Let me explain,’ I say. And I do…

Some poems are like the woman: they wander into the woods and they pick things up and look at them.

Some poems, on the other hand, are like wolves-in-disguise: they look like they’re going to be one thing, but they turn out to be quite unexpected. (Sometimes you, the reader, escape them, sometimes you end up inside them.)

And some poems are like carrots.


So, if you’re ever set a test or exam or quiz about poems, just take your answer sheet and write: ‘woman,’ ‘wolf,’ or ‘carrot’ in nice big, neat, clear handwriting and you’re bound to get full marks. Guaranteed. For sure.

There’s no need to thank me.


A following example poem, by me, is a carrot.





            The vegetarian pirate

has a carrot instead of a parrot,

which doesn’t make much sense

but is handy if he ever needs

a nutritious snack halfway through the day.


(Poem and illustration (by Chris Riddell) from Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard:



Award-Wining Children's Poet, Author, Wildlife and Climate enthusiast, NPD Ambassador, blogger and owner of Lola the retired alert dog and Paddy the alert dog in training. Books include CLiPPA shortlisted Being Me, Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, Editor of Shaping the World, Author of Be the Change, Apes to Zebras, The Same Inside, Reaching the Stars and Animal Magic. I visit schools, libraries, literary festivals via Zoom and give lessons on writing poetry for children. @Lizpoet

6 thoughts on “The Three Types of Poem by A. F. Harrold (and – How to Pass Poetry Exams)

      1. I think I’ve been operating a pen without a license, which I read somewhere is more dangerous than a sharp-edged weapon.
        I submit to the mercy of the Court of Public Opinion.


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