Posted in How to Write a Poem

Poem Writing Tips

One of many notebooks

How do I start writing a poem?

In many different ways! Often, I have already researched around the subject and thought about it for a while. Sometimes an idea just lands in my head – but that is because I am always looking out for things to write about. If you carry a notebook with you, you can jot down sounds and sights and words and ideas as they come to you.

Sometimes I have an end line. Having an end line and writing towards it is very helpful. By the time you get to the end, the end may have changed – but just having that goal, the rhythm, gives you a structure. Having the ‘feel’ of the poem stops you wallowing on an empty piece of paper.

In fact having an empty piece of paper is not a good idea when you start to write anything. You need to start writing straight away, jotting down ideas and sounds and feelings and colours and emotions and facts and anything else that might be helpful while you are writing your poem.

Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. I needed an animal poem beginning with ‘Y’. And I knew I wanted to play with the saying ‘yackety yak’, which is used to describe people chattering, probably quite loudly and uninterruptedly. I’d been thinking about it for a while and decided a simple poem would be best. It was going to be for a shape poem book.

I scribbled words down – I didn’t worry about punctuation or grammar or being tidy! Creativity is not tidy. It lands in a pile in your head or on the paper and you arrange it afterwards. It’s like a building – you start with what you need to put into it, and then put each part where it needs to be – and if it is not needed, you leave it out.

You can see that I have written down other animals that live in the Himalayas, along with yaks and the mythical yeti, and also written out words that belong in the mountains, and a list of rhyming words, before starting the poem. I have changed several parts of the poem as I have written it out again.

The poet Coleridge said that prose is ‘words in their best order’, but that ‘poetry is the best words, in the best order’. Choose words that are precise.

When you are writing your poem, you could write down words that are to do with your subject that rhyme, or that alliterate, which could be useful – but it is better sometimes to write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. If you have a rhyming scheme there is a temptation to write lines that are ’empty’. An empty line is one that is just there to supply a rhyme.

Poetry is very personal. Every person writes and finds ways to write differently. The poet Robert Frost said: ”I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.” So he did not write towards an end he already knew!

Nothing is wrong, in poetry. You can write about anything! It is YOUR poem, coming from YOUR heart.

But it will be a better poem if you think about some of these things:

If you don’t use rhymes just for the rhyme’s sake

If you use precise words

If you speak the truth

If you describe something as if the reader has never seen it before

If you are original

If you think of sounds, colours, smells, emotions, texture, feel

If you are surprising

If you use alliteration, metaphors and similes

If you have fun writing it!

Here is the yak poem in the final book – you can see that even though it is a very short poem, in between writing it and getting it in the book, I have changed one of the words:

Below in other posts are two competitions you can enter your poem in – one is for poems about anything, the other is for poems about bird song.

If you enter the bird song competition, don’t forget to listen to birds singing! You could go for a walk, or listen to files of bird song by type of bird on the internet. This website has the songs of 257 British birds, so you have plenty of choice!

Here is my shape poem about the blackbird’s song:

© Liz Brownlee

Posted in Children's Bookshow

The Children’s Bookshow: The Joy of Poetry

Over the last few weeks the team at The Children’s Bookshow have been thinking a lot about the joy of poetry. One of the Directors, Siân Williams, has been pulling poetry collections down from her shelves and revisiting all of the marvellous poets they have worked with over the years, and some with whom they hope to work in the near future.  Throughout November they are focusing on a different poet every week, giving you an overview of their life and work as well as some videos of them reading and performing their poetry.

They’ve announced three poets of the week – John Agard, Michael Rosen and Grace Nichols –  with Kit Wright and Kwame Alexander to follow.

You can see the posts and more videos here!

Posted in Poetry Realm

Reading Realm’s New Poetry App!

Exciting news! This week sees the launch of an excellent new iPad app. from Reading Realm – THE POETRY REALM!

The Poetry Realm contains 230 poems on a wide range of subjects – the Romans, Ancient Egyptians, Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends, Crime and Punishment, Feelings… the list goes on!

This excellent resource also includes:

– Audio recordings

– Discussion and comprehension links

– Creative writing opportunities

– Spelling, grammar and punctuation games

– Reading challenges

– Cross-curricular links

And all searchable by topic or age group!

If you haven’t downloaded Reading Realm to your school’s iPads, now is the time to do so!

Posted in Poem

#NationalKindnessDay – a Poem

Yes, it’s National Kindness Day – so here’s a poem I prepared a little while ago. This poem will be in my new book coming out next May in Mental Health Week.

If you’d like to buy one of my books, you can do it from this page on my bookshop – I will receive a small amount of money for each book bought, which will help feed us hopefully at this time of no income!

Liz’s bookshop!

Posted in Books for Christmas!

Amazing Animal Shape Poems Book!

Are you wondering about Christmas presents?

Do you buy books from Amazon? Something wonderful has happened for authors during lockdown. Well, it’s not all good. Children’s authors can no longer visit schools, and a large part, the major part of their small-anyway-income is gone. The other part is books sales – but you may be surprised to learn that authors earn very little from their books’ sales. Pennies. And sometimes book sales earn them nothing, because they were given a (very) modest advance and the books do not make as much as the advance and so the author never receives Royalties.

But now a new online bookshop has opened – one that not only gives a portion of the cover price to independent bookshops, but if an author signs up, a proportion of the sale to the author. This could be life-changing in that we might get to eat this Christmas. AND the books are discounted!

What could be better? Buying a brilliant book for a loved one, safe in the knowledge none of the money went to Amazon, and some of the money went to the person who spent 6 months night and day making shapes from poems for it…

If you buy it through this link, that is! Buy Apes to Zebras here!

Here are samples from the book:

Posted in Poetry Review

The Poetry Guide: Trevor Millum and Bernard Young

If you are a teacher or a librarian, or even a poet looking for ideas of how to teach poetry to classes or groups, this is the book for you!

Both Trevor and Bernard are very experienced, both as excellent poets and as educators working with young people.

The book is laid out well, the subjects of chapters are pertinent and useful, any instructions are clear and easy to follow – all with examples and sample poems. There are sections on every type of question you may have from  ‘How to do poetry with pre-readers/writers’, to ‘How to use audio/video as an aid’, and other things covered include ‘performance’, ‘reading aloud’, ‘music and poetry’, ‘imagery, similes and metaphors’ and even ‘how to answer difficult questions’!

I really recommend this! Published by Troika, you can buy it here.

Posted in Poetry Review

Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman: The B on Your Thumb Review

This is such an excellent idea – in fact it is in my ideas book so jolly miffed I haven’t ever put it forward! Here are 60 engaging and funny poems ‘to boost reading and spelling’. Each poem is a rhyme that explains how to remember how to spell a word, or how to use the correct form of a homophone – for instance one poem deals with how to remember when to use to, too or two.

Using plenty of humour, repetition and playfulness, the rhymes really do work and I can imagine this being a very useful resource in schools and for parents; I can also imagine young people actually enjoying learning how and when to use these words!

Tor Freeman’s illustrations are wonderfully colourful, clear, and make a fabulous pairing with these clever, educational poems.

Excellent, highly recommended. I hope these rhymes enter every teacher’s lexicon!  Published by Francis Lincoln , you can buy the book here.

Posted in Poetry Review

Colin West: Barmy Ballads

When my children were little, picture books and poems by Colin West were great favourites; along with books by David McKee and Quentin Blake, Colin’s books are the ones I can remember fondly. The words I had fun reading on multiple occasions if not every day, the ones the children laughed at time after time, the pictures they enjoyed poring over.

So it felt surreal when Colin sent me his latest manuscript, Barmy Ballads, to read. Colin is truly masterly at combining fantastic nonsense with his hilarious images, and to sum up, this is what I sent for the back cover – Barmy, brilliant and absurd – Colin West‘s mastery of witty improbabilities in rhyme, combined with the quirky charm of his illustrations, makes this book irresistible.

You can buy it here.

Posted in Poetry News

Book Chat: Reading With Your Child

The Open University (OU) has launched Book Chat: Reading with your Child, three short films and supporting materials to help parents, families and carers read books conversationally and creatively to children. Working with Macmillan Children’s Books, the films use a selection of their picture books and a poetry collection to support families with reading to different ages of children.

You may have noticed that the poetry collection is The Same Inside, by me, Roger Stevens and Matt Goodfellow, which we are thrilled to see.

The film above is read by Professor Teresa Cremin, who leads the OU’s Reading for Pleasure programme.

If you are an educator, librarian, parent or other person interested in supporting young people develop the reading habit., there is an OU Webinar you may be interested in viewing. The Book Chat crew, Teresa Cremin, Ben Harris and Richard Charlesworth will be joined by the children’s author Smriti Hall (TBC) and Rumenar Atkar, a mum and primary school librarian. The session will include research and practice insights, strategies to enrich informal book talk at home and school, and book recommendations that get everyone talking. The Webinar takes place Tuesday 20 October, 20:00 – 21:00. and can be found here.

Posted in CLiPPA

Zaro Weil – the CLiPPA Award Winner 2020 for Cherry Moon!

Zaro Weil lives in an old farm on a little hill in southern France, and her poetry for children has appeared in many anthologies. She has written several books including a book of children’s poetry, Mud, Moon and Me, published by Orchard Books, UK and Houghton Mifflin, USA, which can be bought here. Her book Firecrackers, Troika, illustrated by Jo Riddellcan be bought here, and her lovely book, Cherry Moon, is the 2020 CLiPPA Award Winner, and deservedly so, and available here! Zaro’s website is here.

Zaro kindly sent me this wonderful poem from the book a while ago for a poetry feast:



I decided to play a game with quiet

hide and seek

my turn

I slipped into the woods

looking for quiet


a cacophony of forest-crackle

a hullabaloo of beast-babel

sprang towards me while

a tweedledum of pandemonium

circled above

it was a free-for-all

and even the sun

jangled copper

between the leaves

so much for the forest

I went to the sea

searching for quiet

but the waves trumpeted

a rumbling ruckus

a crash of crinkle-crests while

squarking gulls sky-dived into

wind-trembled sea and

tiny sea things zig-zagged

underfoot as a medley of

fat green seaweed

slapped the sand

non-stop non-stop

so much for the sea

but then I turned

and quiet tagged me

I stopped

forest stopped

sea stopped

I found quiet

it must have been hiding

the whole time

inside my words

inside of me


© Zaro Weil

Congratulations, Zaro and Troika Books!!