Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Day Lie Poem by Gerard Benson

Gerard Benson was one very beloved poet and was also a lovely friend to have. He was an actor, poet, raconteur, book reviewer, editor and co-founder of the ‘Poems on the Undergound’ project, former Barrow poet, former teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Sadly he died in 2014, and is much missed.

He was an immensely talented poet – and any poem read in his wonderfully resonant tones was a joy to listen to. Here is one of his poems read by Hannah Evans.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Gerard Benson – does W trouble you?

Yesterday it was #favechildrenspoetry day on Twitter, organised by the wonderful Brian Moses – the results of which will be on his blog, soon. His own favourite children’s poetry books are already there.

I tweeted some of my own favourites – but most of my children’s poetry books have poems in that I love.

A few of the books I tweeted yesterday were written by Gerard Benson. Gerard Benson was an excellent poet, story-teller, singer and teacher (and friend) who died in 2014. I have all his poetry books, but the two following books which he edited I would particularly recommend to any children who like writing, and anyone writing for children.

I take these out again and again – they are entertaining and useful, but they also contain a little slice of Gerardness which I miss.

‘this poem doesn’t rhyme’ won the Signal Poetry Award (and, incidentally, contains one of my favourite poems, What For, by Noel Petty). It was written because Gerard noticed children felt poems must rhyme, and added it to their own poems, even if the resulting rhymes meant their poems made no sense. So he chose a number of poems, accessible to children, that they enjoyed, that don’t rhyme. The poems chosen include work from all ages, cultures and countries. The book is packed with alliterative poems, concrete poems, imagist poems, sound poems, riddles and more. Published by Puffin, you can still buy it here.

‘does W trouble you?’ is the sister book of rhyming poems – it contains a riot of rhyming forms all explained with Gerard’s witty and engaging commentary. In the introduction Gerard talks to a ‘A. Poetry-Lover’ about the book. This is one of things he said:

Dear A Poetry-Lover,

The poets care how poems are made. What the poem is saying is, of course, important. But with poetry, the sound it makes can be just as important. Rhythm is even more telling than rhyme.  Many readers read with their ears as well as their eyes. In fact, it’s a good idea to read poetry aloud, whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Benson”

‘does W trouble you?’ is also published by Puffin, and available on Amazon, here.

If you’d like to hear some of Gerard’s poems read by himself, he is on the poetry archive here.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Matt Goodfellow: My Favourite Poetry Books

Tenth in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Matt Goodfellow. One of my favourite writing companions, Matt and I have written two books together, with Roger Stevens. He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Matt is a poet and National Poetry Day Ambassador. His most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), and Be the Change, Poems to Help You Save the World, written with me and Roger Stevens. His solo collection is 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. Matt’s website is here.

Some of Matt’s Favourite Children’s Poetry Books:

Wallpapering the Cat by Jan Dean (Macmillan). Jan is a stupendously brilliant writer, up there with the very, very best. Funny, clever, thoughtful, playful, weird and honest, this is a collection that showcases her poetic talents. Seek it out – and anything else she has ever written.

Evidence of Elephants by Gerard Benson (Viking). This book contains one of my all-time favourite poems, ‘River Song’ – you can find footage of Gerard reading it aloud in his fabulous voice here. By all accounts a brilliant story-teller, actor and all-round good egg, as well as poet, it is a big sadness of mine that I’ll never get to meet the great man.

Snollygoster and other poems by Helen Dunmore (Scholastic). Helen Dunmore’s death was a huge loss for poetry. I first started reading her poems when I was just starting to dabble with writing my own – and this book was one I read over and over again. She was a beautifully gifted writer.

I Had a Little Cat by Charles Causley (Macmillan). Causley wrote so many brilliant poems over the course of his career and this book has got them all! Not really much more to say other than if you are interested in poetry for children, this is one of the important foundation stones you must have in your collection.

If You Could See Laughter (Salt). I love this book. Mandy has such an interestingly elegant way with words and a unique viewpoint on the world. It was immediately clear to me when I first read this book that here was somebody with a special talent. Having met her quite a few times, I can also confirm she is as splendid a person as she is a writer!

Plum by Tony Mitton (Barn Owl Books). To put it simply, I think Tony Mitton is a genius. I recommend you read anything that has his name on it!

Black Country by Liz Berry (Chatto & Windus). This book, written for adults, was recommended to me by my good friend, poet Dom Conlon. Dom has excellent taste and the second I dipped my toe into this rich collection I knew I was going to love it.

Chicken on the Roof by Matt Goodfellow (Otter Barry). I s’pose I better also recommend one by me! This is my most recent solo collection. I hope on reading it you’d find simplicity, depth, sadness, silliness, laughter, warmth and love. Lofty ambitions, eh?

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

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 World Poetry Day

Happy #WorldPoetryDay! Celebrating with the mini-film, Poets are Everywhere!

Happy World Poetry Day!

To celebrate, here is a video of Poets are Everywhere, featuring poets Liz Brownlee, the late and wonderful Gerard Benson, Catherine Benson, Jane Clarke, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Andrea Shavick, Roger Stevens, and Philip Waddell. Written by the poets, with extra verses by Jan Dean, Michaela Morgan and Graham Denton. Filmed on location in Bristol, thanks to Blackwell’s Bookshop and Bristol City Museum.

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Blast Off!

From a new imprint of Smith/Doorstop for children’s poetry, Small Donkey, Blast off is by newcomer Carole Bromley.

It is illustrated by the detailed and charming ink drawings of Cathy Benson, who illustrated most of the children’s poetry published by the late Gerard Benson.

There’s a poem for every mood in this book – warm, funny, exploring many of the concerns pertaining to primary children, it feels like a hug.

Suitable for younger readers round the fire with mum and dad or for older primary readers on their own.

Here’s poem from the mix to judge for yourselves!

 

DIY Zoo Poem

 

I went to the zoo and looked in a cage,

Beware of these tigers. They get in a  —-

 

I went to the zoo and looked in the pool.

Not a fish in sight, I felt such a —-

 

I went to visit the elephant house.

nothing in there, just a little grey —–

 

I followed a sign This way to the apes.

not a monkey around to eat my ——

 

I nagged and nagged to see a giraffe

but my father said You’re having a —–

 

they’re all fast asleep like the chimpanzees

and the sloths and koalas up in the —–

 

and the Emperor Penguins in their box

but the owls and the bats and the arctic —

 

are all wide awake cos they think it’s night,

so whatever you do, don’t switch on the —–

 

 

© Carole Bromley 2017