Number 19 in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Dom Conlon, known for his ‘out of this world’ space poems! He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Dom launched onto the children’s poetry scene with Astro Poetica, illustrated by Jools Wilson, a lovely collection of poems inspired by space. Since then he has been published in magazines and anthologies whilst performing and teaching in schools and libraries around the North West. His new collection of poems about the moon, This Rock, That Rock, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, Pub. Troika, is out in March. Some of Dom’s work can be read here.
All of the books for children I’ve selected are from my own childhood. Without exception they helped guide me towards the imagination as surely as any books about Narnia, Middle Earth or The Foundation did but more than a novel did, they gave me the tools to understand my heart. They continue to in one way or another but are now helped by the many amazing poets who write today and who I’ve come to call friends.
Ted Hughes was a major influence on me, along with Plath, Larkin, Eliot and Cummings, back when I was studying for my A Levels but this collection for children remains a touchstone for my writing. I keep the edition illustrated by Chris Riddell close by. Moon Whales is a sweeping exploration of imagination and emotion. Funny, horrific, melancholic and strange, it shows the power of poetry.
Rhymes Without Reason
Mervyn Peake’s writing, art and life captivated me in my teens and never let go. Rhymes Without Reason is a beautifully produced collection in every sense. The number of poems is kept to a minimum (no filler here) and each one is a gateway to wonder, helped in no small part by the paintings Peake made.
The Hunting of the Snark
Epic poems for children delight me (allow me to briefly point you towards Dr Seuss and Robert Paul Weston) and here Lewis Carroll channels all his Alice and Jabberwocky magic. The edition I own is illustrated by Mervyn Peake and the partnership delivers something rich and ancient.
The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear
Over the years I’ve lost sight of Lear and his undisputed contribution to children’s poetry. His limericks don’t sing to me as they once did. And yet I’m choosing this book for three vital reasons: the first is The Owl and the Pussycat, the second is The Pobble, and the third is the most compelling reason of them all—the illustrations. John Vernon Lord’s edition is an explosion of inspiration.
The Republic of Motherhood
Pick any collection by Liz Berry and you’re in for a treat but I’m going to settle on this slim pamphlet. I pressed it into poet Matt Goodfellow’s sweaty palms recently and his reaction proved I will never regret recommending it. Berry’s ability is extraordinary, her love of words delightful. She focuses place and memory through the lens of dialect and always leaves a mark.
This Rock That Rock
Viviane Schwarz and I have worked hard on putting together this collection and making sure the words and pictures are as inseparable as the Earth and the Moon. It contains fifty poems about the once and future moon, drawing upon personal history and scientific curiosity whilst never forgetting the fun and wonder. And because (as my teachers always told my parents) Dom Can Never Stop Talking… there are chapters where I talk about poetry and art too.