Posted in Poetry News

International Women’s History Day

This month it’s International Women’s History Day on the 8th, and to celebrate, Jan, Michaela and I are taking turns to post a poem about extraordinary women. Here’s one from me – it’s about Amelia Bloomer. She was a suffragette, women’s right’s advocate, journalist and fashion reformer.

Women’s clothes in the 1800s consisted of tight corsets (which restricted breathing), and many layers of woollen petticoats and skirts, which trailed on the ground. As you can imagine, these were heavy, uncomfortable and made doing anything energetic very difficult indeed. It restricted women to doing only those things that men considered women should be doing.

Amelia had other ideas about women’s clothing. She designed loose tops, over short skirts and loose cotton trousers, which became known as bloomers.

Amelia Bloomer

(who campaigned for votes)

didn’t like corsets

or petticoats.

What did she advocate?

I think you can guess –

bloomers! Blooming marvellous

freedom of dress.

and women all over

said ‘what’s not to like?

We can’t ride in long skirts

on new-fangled bikes,

we can’t walk very far,

breathe deeply or sing,

blooming marvellous bloomers

are wonderful things,

if you want to bloom

and work for your wealth,

stand up for your health,

stand up for yourself.

How will you do this?

I think you can guess.

Wear bloomers! Blooming marvellous

freedom of dress.

Posted in Poetry News

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Yes, today’s the day, so I’m posting the only love poem I’ve ever written. You can also see this poem as part of a collection of Valentine Poems over on Brian Moses’ blog – if you like poetry or are a teacher, you should really check Brian’s blog out – it is full of lesson ideas, poetry-writing ideas and also some collections of poetry for days like today.

Secret Valentine


Dearest Herbert, so you know

(and please don’t huff or whine)

as I’m the only one without,

you’re my secret valentine.


I told my friends about you

just yesterday at school

said you’re really good at football 

are dark, handsome, fit and cool.


I won’t make you walk with me

dressed up in fancy clothes

I love you just the way you are

down to your very bones.


I will show the kids at school

the card sent by my mum 

it’s always quite anonymous

I’ll pretend you are the one.


I’ll cover all my books and stuff

with hearts and ‘Herbert’ doodles

and no-one ever needs to know

you are in fact a poodle!


Liz Brownlee

And here he is...

Posted in CLiPPA, Poetry Awards, Poetry News

CLiPPA Shortlist 2022

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!

Posted in Poetry News

You Can Now Buy Signed Books From Me!

I now have a safe PayPal facility installed which means you can buy books straight from me, signed with a personal dedication – the perfect Christmas present!

Available are:

A few copies of first print run Animal Magic Poems on a Disappearing World, illustrated by Rose Sanderson, and published by IRON Press.


Animal Magic, Poems on a Disappearing World

Review: It’s not every book of poems that crosses over the grown-up/child divide – but this is one that does so beautifully. Elegant poetry sits alongside interesting facts, enhanced by charming illustrations. Price includes P&P. Email dedication wanted from contact page, with your name and address, and book’s name.



Being Me, Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings

Written with Laura Mucha and Matt Goodfellow, a ground-breaking collection offering understanding, support and encouragement, and advice from a leading developmental psychologist. Price includes P&P. Email dedication wanted from contact page, with your name and address, and book’s name.



Shaping the World, 40 Historical Heroes in Verse

20 amazing women and 20 amazing men who helped shape the world – in shape poems, all with biographical notes! Find out about Florence Nightingale’s pet owl, Benjamin Franklin’s windsurfing, and the youngest Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. Price includes P&P. Email dedication wanted from contact page, with your name and address, and book’s name.


Posted in Poetry News

New Songs for Old – by Piu DasGupta

New Songs for Old! Re-inventing Nursery Rhymes.

Nursery rhymes – we all know and love them.  Who didn’t grow up with ditties like Hey Diddle Diddle, Mary Mary, Quite Contrary, or Humpty Dumpty?  They’re part of the furniture of the nursery of childhood.

What is less well known is that many of these rhymes – some hundreds of years old – have themes and subject matter of a decidedly adult nature.  One theory about Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, for example, is that the rhyme refers to Queen Mary I of England, the “silver bells and cockle shells” referencing the instruments of torture that she used to convert recalcitrant Protestants to Catholicism.  Other rhymes have somewhat dubious content – like the Old Woman who lived in a shoe, with her multitude of children who could only be dealt with by a sound smacking and sending off to bed.  As a child growing up in Kolkata, India, I remember being mildly frightened by rhymes such as this, as well as bemused by the very English world they created: Dr Foster getting drenched in Gloucester, the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down the hill.

These rhymes are known and loved by generations of children.  They form part of our collective childhood memory.  But memory is a living thing, not a mausoleum.  It should be added to, if we’re to have dynamic and not fossilized childhoods.  Modern nursery rhymes are diverse and inclusive: Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie, which gave Canadian children a whole body of nursery rhymes referencing their own landscape; or Jane Newberry’s gorgeously illustrated, interactive book of rhymes for young children, Big Green Crocodile, shortlisted for the 2021 CLiPPA award.

For older children, fractured and re-worked nursery rhymes provide a rich source for honing critical and analytical skills, for questioning clichés and exploring history.  In my poem What Are Little Girls Made Of?, for example, gender stereotypes are turned on their heads in a joyous mish-mash, encouraging children to think critically about them, and to explore their individual identity:

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

What are little girls made of?

What are little girls made of?

Swords and roars and dinosaurs

pirates, Death Stars, dragons’ claws

castles, pistols, ragged shirts

bows and arrows, finger-dirt

grubby knees and paint-stained faces

every lack of social graces.

That’s what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of?

What are little boys made of?

Ribbons, bows, curly locks

Lady Gaga, sparkly socks

fluffy diaries, friendship bracelets

secret notes in hidden places

cupcakes topped with chocolate sprinkles

fairy wands that wink and twinkle.

That’s what little boys are made of.

But, you say, hang on a mo –

I am a pirate with a bow.

Or actually, I’d rather be

making cupcakes up a tree.

No, I’m a princess with a patch –

Don’t stress, it’s fine to mix and match.

By far the best is to be true

to the bestest person: YOU.

©Piu DasGupta.  First published in The Dirigible Balloon, August 2021

Activities for KS3 pupils based on this poem could include: looking through newspaper and/or magazine articles and cutting out clichéd or recurring descriptions of men and women; are some adjectives considered “male” (handsome, strong) and some “female” (pretty, sweet) – what could be used instead?  Or the children could create their own “fractured” nursery rhymes, replacing key words to turn stereotypes on their heads –

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater

Had a wife and did mistreat her

She waved a wand and winked and eye,

And turned him into pumpkin pie.

Older children and teenagers would enjoy more grown-up nursery rhyme parodies, such as that of This Little Piggy Went to Market in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (William Morrow, 2006).  For a sample Year 7 lesson plan based on examining gender stereotypes in nursery rhymes and modern media, see the end of this article.

It’s also fascinating to unearth the hidden significance of nursery rhymes, the historical and political roots from which they have been cut loose to float free over the years.  One theory about the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice is that, like Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, it may refer to the martyrs, the Anglican bishops Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs (and therefore “blind”):

Three blind mice

Paid a high price

The Queen’s beliefs they all three spurned

So at the stake she had them burned,

Those three blind mice.

For many years, the nursery rhyme Ring a Ring of Roses was believed to have its roots in the Great Plague, the “ring” of roses referring to the rosy rash that was one of the symptoms of the Black Death, the “pocketful of posies” the nosegay that was carried to defend against infection, “Atishoo, Atisshoo, we all fall down” referring to a final death.  Although this explanation is now generally disputed by scholars, it does give the rhyme a dark relevance in the context of these pandemic days.

“A nursery rhyme shapes your bones and nerves, and it shapes your mind. They are powerful, nursery rhymes, and immensely old, and not toys, even though they are for children.”  So says a character in Katherine Catmull’s exploration of myth, fable and nursery rhyme, Summer and Bird (Puffin, 2012).  We who read, write and teach nursery rhymes must tread carefully in the magical forest, mindful of their power.  

Piu DasGupta

Piu DasGupta is a British/French/Indian writer based in Paris, France. Although poetry has been a lifelong passion, she turned to writing it quite recently. Her children’s poems have been published to date in magazines such as The Caterpillar, Northern Gravy, and The Dirigible Balloon.  She is on Twitter as @PiuDasGupta1.    

Posted in Poetry News

Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Met University- the Wonders of the Wind

‘Blow Wind Blow’ a celebration. For librarians, teachers, parents and children – Thursday 29th July, 2021.  7pm.

‘Blow Wind Blow’ is a poetic and visual introduction to the many wonders of wind, the third in the ‘Wild Wanderers’ series for younger readers.  Join poet Dom Conlon and illustrator Anastasia Izlesou for this celebration, hosted by the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and the Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Met University.  Dom and Anastasia will be in conversation with CLPE’s Charlotte Hacking and Plymouth Grove Primary teacher Sarah Thompson, to discuss how this beautiful book can have an impact in classrooms. 

Children also welcome; there will be a reading of the book and we will also be sharing some creative responses from Plymouth Grove pupils, who have been working with the book.  And we will be laying down a summer writing/drawing challenge for children to respond from home.  To join this free online event please register on Eventbrite.

Posted in Poetry News

CLiPPA Shortlist Announced Today!

HUGE congratulations to all the CLiPPA (CLPE) shortlisted poets, who were announced today!

The fabulous books are:

Slam! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, chosen by Nikita Gill, Macmillan

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann, Penguin

Big Green Crocodile Rhymes to Say and Play, by Jane Newberry, illustrated by Carolina Rabei, Otter-Barry Books

On the Move, Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Walker Books

…and my favourite, because it’s by my poet friend (and because it’s stupendous):

A Bright Burst of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, Bloomsbury Education.

Congratulations to all the shortlisters, and good luck for 11th October at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, when the winner is announced!

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.

Young Writers Poetry Competition!

Young Writers have a new poetry competition, I Have a Dream, words to change the world.

Young people aged 11-18 are invited to write a poem inspired by their hopes, dreams and visions for the future.

Who inspires you? What are your hopes and aspirations for the future? You can write a poem in any style sharing your visions for a better world.

All details here.

Posted in Poetry News

National Poetry Day 2020!

The brilliant thing about National Poetry Day is that it does not need to be covid-cancelled. Poetry lends itself wonderfully to showcasing using an array of online opportunities, and the day will go ahead on October 1st.

This year’s theme is vision – my poem on the subject is below, also available on the NPD website.  I’m very proud to be a National Poetry Day ambassador, and you can see all the ambassadors here with their poems for National Poetry Day, too! 

If you have a poetry event planned for any age, you can add it to the National Poetry Day events calendar.

Don’t forget you can book a poet to do a Zoom or Skype or other online event for National Poetry Day – including me!

Long-Eared Owl


Who Knows?


Who knows what the owl sees
with its yellow planet eyes
shuffling moonlight in its feathers
under aubergine night-skies

who knows where the owl sees
hiding in the clambering trees
interrogating movements
from the doorways of the leaves

who knows how the owl sees
as the scrambled ground protects
the taps of tiny heartbeats
where evening dark collects

who knows who the owl’s seen
when its vision paths its flight
passing like an exhaled breath
until lost inside the night


© Liz Brownlee


Quickie Poetry Ideas for Teachers

Wanting a quick idea to practise using nouns, verbs, and adjectives?

the grass


its forest

Carol Bevitt, Susan Eames, Helen Laycock

I call these tribbles. Ask your class to write a noun, a nature word, on the top of a piece of paper.

Ask them to pass that paper to the child behind them, or at a suitable distance.

The new child then adds an action on the next line.  You can, if you wish, have a pool of verbs for them to draw from on the whiteboard, so obvious verbs are not chosen. This can also be achieved if the first child folds their paper so the noun is not visible.

Then the paper is passed on again to another child who writes the conclusion, based on the first two words. Ask them to use a noun or an adjective and a noun in the last line, and to keep it as short as possible.

Show them these examples to give them the idea:


The Volcano


behind a hand of smoke


Susan Eames, Helen Laycock, Liz Brownlee




into frogs


Sherri Turner, Carol Bevitt, Helen Laycock


A bee

fuzzbuzzes its way

up the lupins


Liz Brownlee, Sherri Turner, Liz Brownlee


Then get them to pass the poems on again to be read out. These little poems give a great feeling of achievement, don’t take long and usually yield excellent results – hope you enjoy them! They can be displayed in many ways and if you choose connected initial nouns can be put together to make into longer poems.