The wonderful Gerard Benson and River Song, for National Poetry Day’s theme of change – you will never tire of listening to his voice.
Gerard Benson is one of my favourite poets who wrote for young people. He sadly died in 2014. Here is a link to one of his wonderful poetry books for children: To Catch an Elephant
Gerard Benson was a wonderful poet (and friend). His excellent books can be bought here. Here he is in about 2012, reading his poem The Cat and the Pig.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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