Children's poetry, news, interviews, poetry tips and fun!
Author: Liz Brownlee
Poet, blogger and owner of Lola the alert dog. Be the Change, Apes to Zebras, The Same Inside, Reaching the Stars, Animal Magic. I visit schools, libraries, literary festivals, and organise poetry events. I give Zoom lessons on writing poetry for children. http://www.poetryroundabout.com http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com @Lizpoet
Today I am posting a shape poem about the blue whale – which is not the same whale as Jackie Morris’ beautiful illustration of an orca!
Blue whales are are protected but are still threatened – primarily by climate change affecting their food source, krill, collisions cause by boats, and getting entangled in fishing nets.
It is the largest animal on the planet, weighing as much 20 elephants or so. Their plaintive calls make them the loudest animal on earth, even louder than a jet engine, but you can’t hear it out of the water as the sound waves are too large to be carried in the air. It is thought that their call is probably used to attract other blue whales.
It’s National Poetry Day 2022 which is of course my FAVOURITE day of the year – everything is poetry!
So here is my poem for National Poetry Day 2022 this year, as a shape poem. The otter poem is also available on the National Poetry Day website as words!
Otters were almost extinct in the 50s and have made a bit of a comeback with a concerted effort to clean up rivers and riverbanks, where they live, hunt and breed. They cannot live in dirty rivers – so the recent news of raw sewage being discharged into our waterways is not good news for the otter.
Below is a film my husband made of me reading my otter shape poem.
Perhaps you’d like to write a poem about an animal yourself?
I started by reading all about otters, and their lives – otters were very endangered but recently their numbers have increased due to rivers being cleaned up.
I often draw the animal I am about to write about – it helps me think as I am trying to come up with what I am going to say in my poem.
My next stage was to think of words that could describe things about otters – their eyes and thick, shiny fur, the way they walk, how they swim and catch prey. I watched some videos online. There is nothing like seeing the animal moving to give you ideas!
I suggest writing down all the words and grouping them together in different ways – using alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme etc. You don’t have to rhyme, in fact it’s better not to as then you can really think about the words and what sounds well together – but words that sound similar in rhythm or syllables are helpful.
If you do find two words that rhyme, even in an un-rhyming poem, they can be used to create a satisfying end.
In the 1960s the robin was voted to be the UK’s favourite bird – and in 2015 it again took top prize, when more than 224,000 people took part in the National Bird Vote – 34% of them voted for the robin. The next two favourites were the barn owl and the blackbird.
The robin is not endangered – it is a clever, friendly, common bird that has adapted to living in most habitats. It cannot however deal with very harsh winters – so if climate change means that we see more snow, and periods of very cold temperatures during the winter months, this may change.
Here is my robin poem – I wondered what advice the robin might have to other birds to become the number one choice!
The brown hare is relatively common in many parts of the UK, but relatively rare in the south west. It has a species action plan under the UK Biodiversity Action plan, but unfortunately, it is one of two species in the UK which has minimal protection because it is considered to be game, and can be shot all year round.
Hares live above ground, unlike rabbits, and forage in the early morning and evenings. Their young are left in a shallow scrape in the ground all day, relying on their camouflage, and the mother hare comes back only once or twice day to feed them.
National Poetry Day’s theme this year is the environment.
For me, today is giraffe day – below is my giraffe shape poem. you don’t tend to think of giraffes being endangered. And giraffes were mostly not endangered in the 1980s – but in some areas since, their numbers have dropped by a staggering 95%, which leaves two species critically endangered, one endangered, two vulnerable, one near threatened, and only ONE species of least concern.
Why? Well, habitat loss is a large contributing factor. Where giraffes used to range, their land is being converted into ranches and farms – roads are being built to these, and giraffes are run into by cars. Some people make a living by burning trees the giraffes eat to make charcoal to sell.
Wildlife trafficking and poaching has increased due to civil war – people are killing giraffes to eat, and selling parts of them for goods made from bone – such as knives and gun parts – much of which is shipped to the United States.
Giraffes are also falling prey to disease due to inbreeding, as there are fewer places for them to live and fewer giraffes to choose a mate from. Drought, because of climate change, is also making giraffe habitats smaller.
Pie Corbett is an excellent poet – but he is also an excellent teacher of poetry and from poetry, and is a fount of imaginative teaching ideas that WORK to help children express themselves in poetry or prose. He created the Talk for Writing approach to learning, which is widely used in UK primary schools.
This is more than a manual for teachers – it is a book full of magic and wonder, it shines with Pie’s enthusiasm for poetry, teaching and inspiring children as writers – his dedication in the front to his wife states: “We have striven to develop storytelling, creative writing, art, music and dance. Our belief is that the creative arts bring joy, enhance who we are and how we live. The arts bind us together in our common humanity, helping us to take a step out of the darkness of ourselves and let in the light.”
I don’t really need to say any more than this book really is brimful of catalysts, laid out clearly with poems, ideas, examples, and instructions that are easy to follow – which will make Pie’s own triumphs with inspiring children’s writing replicable.
It’s a book I heartily recommend – not only to teachers but to poets, and anyone wanting to be a poet. Five stars from me!
On Friday 8th of July six shortlisted poets who’d written five books made their way to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Southbank, to celebrate the CLiPPA 2022, and hear who had won. Laura Mucha, Matt Goodfellow and I were shortlisted for Being Me, Val Bloom for Stars with Flaming Tails, Manjeet Mann for The Crossing, Kate Wakeling for Cloud Soup, and Matt Goodfellow (again!) for Caterpillar Cake.
The awards were hosted by Southbank and the ALCS as well as the CLPE, and Michael Rosen, last year’s winner, was the main compère, which was fantastic – and of course the whole proceedings were drawn live by the incomparable Chris Riddell as usual.
The performances by the poets were interspersed with the winning shadowing schools’ children’s performances, and wonderful they were, too. The whole ceremony can be watched below, or if you only want to see us, we came on second at about 28 mins in!
The very deserving winner was announced as Valerie Bloom – my review of her gorgeous book is here, posted in January.
Congratulations to all the other shortlisted poets who are all wonderful, and all lovely (we had a fabulous day), and to the CLPE, who as usual put on a fantastic award ceremony, where everything went like clockwork.
And congratulations and huge thanks to our publisher, Janetta Otter-Barry, who published Stars with Flaming Tails, and also Matt’s, Laura’s and my book, Being Me, AND Matt’s Caterpillar Cake – three out of the five shortlisted titles!
This is my performance with the amazing Laura Mucha at The Globe, London. As part of the Off by Heart event, the CLiPPA poets performed a couple of poems from each of their shortlisted books. These are poems from Being Me, Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, Otter-Barry Books.
On Monday the poets shortlisted for the CLiPPA 2022 poetry prize performed at The Globe, London. What a privilege!
The poets are Manjeet Mann on the left, shortlisted for her verse novel The Crossing, and next to her is Laura Mucha, who wrote Being Me with me and Matt Goodfellow – the tall one in the picture! Next along is Kate Wakeling, shortlisted for her poetry book Cloud Soup. Then it is poet Nikita Gill who was our wonderful compere for the day. Next is Matt, who is holding his SECOND book shortlisted for the prize, Caterpillar Cake, and on the end by me is Val Bloom, shortlisted for her poetry book, Stars with Flaming Tails.
The youngsters in the front row brilliantly performed a poem by Matt Goodfellow from last year’s shortlist, and a poem by Michael Rosen, who was the CLiPPA winner last year.
We are all now eagerly awaiting the award ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Southbank.
Attie Lime is a children’s poet whose favourite places to write are her writing shed and fields. Her three boys inspire her constantly, as well as her ankle-biting cat! She enjoys writing poems about nature and feelings, and loves sharing funny poems in schools to make children laugh. She has poetry published in various print and online publications, and her first poetry collection for children will be published by Beir Bua Press in 2023. Attie’s website is www.attielime.co.uk and she is on Twitter @AttieLime.
A few weeks ago I went up to the Centre for Learning in Primary Education library, a very wonderful and special place, to be filmed reading some of the poems from Being Me, and to answer some questions. Here is one of those questions – how I go about writing my poetry.
Being Me, Poems About Thoughts, Feelings and Worries, by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, Otter-Barry Books, has been shortlisted for CLiPPA 2022 (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award). This is a huge honour and we are thrilled.
Being Me was written in consultation with leading developmental psychologist Karen Goodall, and is illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler. This is what CLPE has to say about it:
“A collaborative anthology between three poets and an artist, singing together in harmony. Concern for the child and quality of the word is absolutely at the forefront here: these well-crafted poems articulate with skill and care a wide breadth of complex emotions and situations that may well be familiar to children, but they may not yet have the language to describe.
This timely collection strikes balance between difficult issues and hope, without the latter ever feeling forced or patronising. It is now more important than ever for children to be in touch with their emotions and to share with them the tools to help express and navigate them, which this collection performs brilliantly. Articulate, empathetic, and invites profound connection between poet and reader.”
Also shortlisted was the wonderful Val Bloom, with Stars With Flaming Tails, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, also published by Otter-Barry Books, in a hat trick for Otter-Barry Books, Matt Goodfellow was shortlisted again with his lovely poetry book for younger readers, Caterpillar Cake, illustrated by Krin Patel-Sage, Kate Wakeling for Cloud Soup, illustrated by Elina Braslina, published by The Emma Press, and Manjeet Mann with her verse novel The Crossing, published by Penguin, beautifully and poetically interweaving the lives of two teenagers, one a boy refugee from Eritrea, and the other a girl in Britain struggling to come to terms with the loss of her mother.
Good luck to everyone at the award ceremony, which will be on July 8th at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall!
Charles Causley Trust’s 2022 Young People’s Poetry Competition is open for entries!
This year, the Causley Trust launched their competition at their Mother’s Boy launch weekend, in partnership with Sunday Times bestselling author Patrick Gale. A Trust Patron for several years and the ultimate Charles Causley enthusiast, they are thrilled to announce that Patrick Gale is this year’s head judge!
This year’s theme is home, reflecting the influences of Charles Causley’s hometown of Launceston in his work. The annual poetry competition is open to aspiring writers aged 5-18 years, who can submit one poem under this theme. The deadline for submissions is midnight on the 31st of May 2022.