Posted in Poetry Review

Riding a Lion, by Coral Rumble: Book Review

Published TODAY! Slip between the pages of this book and relax into Coral’s warm, vibrant, exciting, world of poems – it seems a poem about practically everything, in every poetic style, lies within.

I particularly enjoyed her animal poems (of course) but there is much to entertain, fascinate and make you laugh in this book.

Coral is an excellent poet and her exacting word choices explode little bombs of enjoyable recognition.

Here’s a couple I enjoyed – firstly, this lovely fox poem:

And lastly, a humorous one:

Riding a Lion is out TODAY, has lovely illustrations by Emily Ford, is published by, and can be bought at Troika Books, as well as all on Hive and any books shop.

FIVE fizzing stars and a big bang of recommendation!

Posted in Poetry Review

The Girl Who Became a Tree, by Joseph Coelho, Book Review

Out today, The Girl Who Became a Tree is an extraordinary verse novel about Daphne, a young teen whose father has died. Daphne disappears into her phone screen, library and imagination – shutting out the world, she avoids her sorrow by becoming the tree for which she was named by her father (from the legend of Daphne, who turns into a tree to avoid the attentions of Apollo). Stricken by her loss and inability to leave the river of her father’s comfort, the book interweaves the legendary Daphne with Daphne today’s slow return from the loneliness of grief with the solace of nature, and books.

The illustrations by Kate Millner are fantastic and are an excellent foil to the haunting text – which has been told in a variety of poetic forms.

Excellent.

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho is published by Otter-Barry and is available 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

 

Posted in Poetry Review

Dear Ugly Sisters, by Laura Mucha: Book Review

I knew I’d love Dear Ugly Sisters as much as I love Laura herself – she’s a BIG bundle of energy, thoughtfulness and fun, and so of course is her book.

Here are just two of the spreads to show her range, first, the title poem:

And a more wistful one:

As a fabulous extra, there is a code to a free accompanying audio book, which is is great bonus!

I predict this book will give laughter, thoughts, questions, comfort – and sow the seeds of a love for poetry in any young person who reads it or has it read to them. A must for every library, home and school.

BIG recommendation, 5 SPARKLY, FIZZING stars for young people aged 7-11.

Dear Ugly Sisters is published by Otter-Barry Books and is beautifully illustrated by Tania Rex.

Posted in Poetry Review

Belonging Street by Mandy Coe, Book Review

 

YOU ARE HERE

 

In the car park is a map of your town.

Everyone presses their finger

on the red dot that says,

You are here.

 

And here you are!

Inside your shoes, inside your skin

and beneath your hair,

on freshly cut grass, a double-decker bus,

or in bed, slipping into a dream.

 

In a map of your day

you are here, bookmarking

this page, passing ginger biscuits,

dodging umbrellas

as you dash through the rain.

 

You are blowing on a hot chip

and laughing with a friend.

Breathe in the smell of vinegar

and place your finger on this moment.

 

You are here, you are here!

 

© Mandy Coe

 

This is a gentle, relatable book full of humour and the wonder of being alive – to quote another of the poems ‘wrap it around you to keep you warm’.

There are many lovely, finely observed poems in here to share between parents and children, and poems that can be used as models for children’s own writing in school.

5 Stars – highly recommended for young people 5-9!

Belonging Street is published by Otter-Barry Books and is full of playful, detailed illustrations by Mandy Coe herself.

Posted in Poetry Competition

Covid19 Competition News!

This morning I received this lovely photo of Summer Janssens, one of our Covid19 poetry competition winners, with her prize sent by Macmillan books. Well done, again, Summer! Summer wants to be a poet or author when she grows up, and is clearly well on the path!

Posted in Children's Poetry Magazine

the caterpillar Magazine

Do you enjoy children’s poetry, do you know children who love beautifully illustrated stories and poems? Perhaps you know someone with children or grandchildren? Do let them know about the caterpillar magazine.

It’s a magazine of poems, stories and beautiful illustrations, by grown-ups for children. Created for young people between the ages of 7 and 11(ish), adults are bound to like it too. It is published four times a year, in March, June, September and December and is the sort of magazine I would have devoured as a young person.

Some children’s reviews:

Jemima, 11: Jemima thinks the caterpillar magazine has made her more interested in poetry. “I would describe it as colourful, funny, interesting, likeable and accessible/understandable to all.”

Carole Bromley asked Matilda (10), Martha (8) and Mabel (5) what they thought of the caterpillar, and all said they find it exciting to get the magazine in the post, and that they like looking at the illustrations. They like to keep it and reread it. When asked which poems they liked best, Matilda said rhyming poems, Martha said haiku and Mabel said sad poems! They all like writing poems.

There is no doubt that children’s ears are waiting and wanting to hear rhythm, music, new words, new ideas, absurdity, language play and knowledge introduced in a humorous way. Their imaginations crave new worlds with pathways to recognise and help them negotiate this one. They need to read to gain tools to be able to write. the caterpillar magazine is there to supply all this and more.

You can read more about it here.

Posted in Poetry Art and Craft

National Poetry Day – Vision, and a Firework Poetry Craft Idea

This year’s National Poetry Day word is VISION! If you are a school you can sign up to the NPD Newsletter so you can be first to hear about all the amazing lesson plans, poems, a schools toolkit to plan your National Poetry Day, and all sorts of give-aways such as posters and badges, and exciting opportunities.

Here is my first VISION poem. It is about fireworks – I don’t like fireworks that bang as they scare birds and horses and other farm animals, our cat used to be terrified every firework night, and my assistance dog also trembles all evening. I’m a big fan of SILENT fireworks which all VISION and no violence, so that is what my poem is about!

Read my poem, and then you can follow the instructions to write your own firework poem and decorate it with some crafty-firework fun!

 

A Silent Vision

 

Shooting to space in the freezing night air

we wait in suspense as they fly

then in a splash of colour and light

they burst into being in the sky

 

a theatre of sparkles and spangles they flash

reflected as stars in our eyes

we marvel and wonder, we ooh and we aaah

as we turn up our faces and sigh

 

there are streamers and twinkles and lingering sprinkles

a sky full of flare and surprise

and then they’re just ghosts in a cloud of white smoke

which melts into darkness – goodbye!

 

Liz Brownlee

 

So would you like to write a firework poem? My poem above rhymes – but this poem is not going to rhyme. YOU are going to be the firework – you will write the poem from a firework’s point of view.

Your first line will describe what you can hear as you wait. Think of what is happening – a bonfire, people watching, sparklers, toffee apples for sale, people trying to keep themselves warm, chatting etc. This is my first line:

The bonfire flames lick and spit through wood

Your second line describes the anticipation and excitement; you will use a simile – you feel ‘as excited as’, or ‘excited like’.  This is my second line:

I’m as excited as a shaken fizzy drink 

Your third line uses another simile to describe your flight through the air. This is my third line:

until I whizz through dark like a shut umbrella

Your fourth line describes what happens next – this is my fourth line.

and open into the sky as a thousand glittering stars!

You have finished your poem! Here is mine, written out:

 

Firework

The bonfire flames lick and spit through wood

I’m as excited as a shaken fizzy drink

until I whizz through dark like a shut umbrella

and open into the sky as a thousand glittering stars!

Liz Brownlee

 

You can write your poem on a piece of paper, and draw fireworks, or you can make some fireworks from coloured paper like this – read all the instructions first so you have everything you need and someone handy to help:

Get a square of coloured paper and fold it so it is a triangle:

Fold that triangle in half so it is a smaller triangle:

Then you have to fold this triangle in from both sides so that it folds into thirds, like this – you may need help at this stage:

When you have done that the triangle has two little sticky-out bits:

On one side there is a straight line – cut a straight line across that line so the sticky-out bits come off.

Now you are left with another triangle:

Hold your triangle so the open end is at the top:

And cut into the near edge to make curved triangle shapes making sure you do not cut too near the tip of the triangle on the left there or go TOO near the opposite edge. Cut into a point at the top. You can draw in pencil to plan where to cut if you like – I did. This can be hard if the paper is thick – I used origami paper. Get someone to help if it is hard, as the cutting has to be quite precise.

Then very carefully open up your paper. It should look a bit like a firework opening in the sky.

You can leave it like that or, like I did, you can carefully cut through where the pattern joins, except in the middle, to make it look more firework-like.

I then did it all again using a smaller square of contrasting colour.

You now have fireworks to put on your poem paper:

Draw four pencil lines with a ruler as shown on a piece of paper and write your words along them in pencil – try to keep the poem in the bottom half of the paper.

Then write over the poem in ink, rub out the lines, and staple or glue your ‘fireworks’ on the top – turn your paper up the other way, and voila, your firework poem is complete!

Posted in Poetry Competition

Covid10 Poetry Competition Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of the Covid19 Poetry competition, shortlisted by me, and judged by the wonderful Roger Stevens of PoetryZone!

As usual the standard was very high!

The three main first prizes of hardback poetry books go to:

Abhinaya Bahirathan, aged 10, for her wonderful poem The School of Emptiness, containing sighing corridors and weeping stationery. Fabulous Abhinaya!

 

The School of Emptiness

 

In the school of emptiness I can see

Stationery weeping for children to use them

The books on the shelves stare uncomfortably at the ground

 

In the school of emptiness I can hear

The loneliness of the corridors sigh sadly

The head teacher’s office looks unhappily at the door

 

In the school of emptiness I can feel

The walls crying softly for their children

The trays in the lunch hall waiting patiently for delicious food

 

In the school of emptiness I can smell

The emptiness of the playground

The vast emptiness of the assembly hall

 

In the school of emptiness I can taste

The sadness of the certificates  that have  not been given out

The unhappiness of the school closure

 

© Abhinaya Bahirathan

 

Samuel Arthur, aged 10, for his excellent Covid19 Abecedarious Poem. It is much harder than it looks to write one of these! Congratulations, Arthur.

 

Covid19 Abecedarious Poem

 

About three months ago the world changed

Because of the

Corona Virus, which has

Damaged lives, families and companies, affecting

Everyone, and restricting all of our movements.

Friends can only meet up online or on the phone. We’ll be

Glad to properly say

“Hello!”

I miss my friends and sports, it’s no

Joke though, as people are dying.

“Keep safe!” they say,

“Look after yourself and your family, and

Make the most of every moment.”

No one is safe

On this planet.

People can enjoy spending time with their family in

Quarantine without

Rushing about like normal.

So stay inside and be safe.

Take the time you have together and

Understand the dangers in this

Very scary time.

Wash your hands especially well and use

eXtra soap to get rid of the germs.

You need to keep safe in your own

Zone.

 

© Samuel Arthur

 

And lastly Jacob Nicholas, 10, with his lovely poem The Rainbow and his skilful use of rhyming – never using a forced rhyme. Well done, Jacob.

 

The Rainbow

 

School is shut and I miss my family and friends,

I am bored, I am lost, will this ever end?

“We have so much to be grateful for,”

Says my mum one sunny day.

“We live amongst beautiful countryside,

And have a garden in which to play.”

We go for a walk, to get some fresh air,

But I’m not in the mood, I don’t want to be there.

My sister is chattering and she is really annoying me,

“But you love me dearly!” she says cheekily.

The road is still and quiet. The sky is too.

There are no cars or planes. How can we go to where we want to?

There is no school, there are no day trips or holidays,

I’m just at home doing schoolwork and there is too much time to sit and laze.

We walk past my school and it stands still and empty,

When I suddenly spy a rabbit and it looks at me gently.

Our walk carries on, it shows no sign of ending,

But then I spot a rainbow sign, a message of hope it is sending.

I stop for a moment, I need to stop and think,

Is my mum really right? I look up and blink.

The sky is bright blue, the sun is shining brightly,

The flowers are in bloom and the lambs are dancing lightly.

I then turn to mum and I quietly say,

“How lucky we are to be safe and well today.”

 

© Jacob Nicholas

 

And seven second prizes go to:

Lilly Nolan, 10, with her thoughtful poem. Lovely description, ‘delirious blue’, Lilly.

 

The Small Things

 

Before all this, I could

Lay upon golden grains of sand,

Glide along the deep, delirious blue,

Climb across limpet-spread rocks.

 

Before all this, I could have

A warm, comforting hug

From my old, loving grandad.

 

Before all this, I could

Laugh with my friends, while

Swinging in the playground, while

Dawdling, waiting for the school bus –

During lockdown

The only way to see a loved one

Is on a screen.

 

Before all this,

I think I took

The small things

For granted.

 

© Lilly Nolan, 10

 

And Iestyn Preddy, 11, for these wonderful descriptive images such as ‘casting dandelion clocks’ .

 

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

 

I didn’t know that I loved the turn of a page

Whilst sat on an uncomfortable plastic chair

Neither did I know I adore the satisfaction of disrupting nature,

Casting dandelion clocks with their parachute-like seeds,

Floating through the air.

 

I never thought I’d miss the lessons of art,

Even though I can’t make a page explode with colour,

Explode with imagination, explode with detail.

I never, ever thought I’d miss even my family,

Even though we talk all the time,

I still feel a longing.

 

I thought I would miss the weekly games of football,

But it turns out I don’t, I miss other things.

I definitely thought that I would long for a proper maths lesson,

But it turns out I don’t, I miss other things.

 

But the most important thing I miss is

 

SCHOOL

 

© Iestyn Preddy, 11

 

Summer Janssens – well done Summer, we loved this detailed description of the sounds and sights in your school life, they really brought your poem alive!

 

School Life Before Covid19

 

Listening to the scribbling sound when we do our work,

Listening to the tweeting of the birds in our playground,

Listening to the munching noise when children eat apples at break,

Listening to the lovely voice of Miss Welch when she is teaching.

Missing my school, my teachers and my friends,

Missing my school life before Covid-19.

 

Playing basketball with my friends during PE lessons,

Playing fun games with Miss Harris at Sunshine Club,

Playing Hangman with a bunch of friends at golden time,

Playing Hide and Seek without getting lost in the playground.

Missing my school, my teachers and my friends,

Missing my school life before Convid-19.

 

Looking at the sugary doughnuts afterschool in Krispy Kreme,

Looking at the beautiful butterflies fluttering in the Prayer Garden,

Looking at the colourful posters hanging in up in the corridors,

Looking at the shimmering trophies on the shelves,

Missing my school, my teachers and my friends,

Missing my school life before Covid-19.

 

© Summer Janssens, 7

 

Euan Cameron-Mitchell – excellent use of smell to conjure a place, well done.

 

Quarantine

 

I didn’t know I’d miss the warm food smells of the school canteen

and the comfy pillow like the smell of the car on a long journey.

I didn’t know I’d miss the taste of my fresh packed lunch and a

warm Waitrose chocolate chip cookie.

I didn’t know I’d miss the sound of Fizz playing with her doggy friends

and the screams of school playtime.

I didn’t know I’d miss the sight of cars flying by on a busy road

and my friends’ friendly faces.

I didn’t know I’d miss the touch of the metal chain ropes when sitting on a swing

and my grandparents’ hugs.

 

© Euan Cameron-Mitchell, 9

 

Carys Davies, 10 –  a wonderful wistfulness in this poem, Carys, and spare description such as ‘the splash on rocks at Angle’. We all know you mean the sea, it doesn’t have to be mentioned.

 

One Day

 

I didn’t know I’d miss the shouting at dinner time,

The deafening squeal of children.

I didn’t know I loved the boiling hot sand on the beaches,

Trembling across the shining gold, burning my feet.

Who knew that I’d long to sit by granny,

Chatting about my day?

I never thought I’d miss begging for ice cream,

Listening for the ringing of the ice cream van.

 

But I don’t miss the sudden shout, calling

WAKE UP!!! at seven in the morning.

And I don’t miss the many cars,

Rumbling up and down the road.

Nor do I miss the trudge around Tesco,

On a rainy afternoon.

 

Oh, one day

I will hear the splash on rocks at Angle,

I will smell a juicy burger heading my way,

I will stroke the fur of Rocky,

The new poodle.

I will taste fresh raspberries from the hedgerow,

And I will see my cousins once again…

One day.

 

© Carys Davies, 10

 

Ria Burton, 11 – very nice feeling of the freedom that is still there, waiting, in the culminating lines of this poem, Ria – ‘the gannets will keep on diving’.

 

Things I Long For

 

I didn’t know I loved the sound of lunch time bickering,

The little bits of chat catching in my ears.

I didn’t know I loved the taste of chlorine in my mouth,

Lingering long after lessons at the pool.

I never thought I’d miss the endless maths session,

The numbers speaking to me in a weird language.

I never thought I’d miss the lumbering school bus,

Its suspension always seemingly broken.

Who knew that I’d long for the ringing of the raspy bell,

Signalling the end of break?

But as I long to set eyes upon my friends,

I know the clouds will blow past

The gannets will keep on diving

and we’ll have these moments again.

 

© Ria Burton, 11

 

Arthur Davies – great close attention to the detail of a school day in your poem, Arthur – ‘The clunking of chairs and tables colliding’. Something we don’t really notice, let alone as something to be missed!

 

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

 

I didn’t know I loved looking for a café in a small country town,

The comforting texture of fish and chips.

I didn’t know I’d miss the sound of pastries at dinner time,

And the cheering sound of lunchboxes opening.

I never thought I’d miss the annoying talking at the back of the class,

The clunking of chairs and tables colliding.

I didn’t know I loved sitting on benches,

with sparrows chirping in my ear.

I never knew I loved sitting on Granny’s old, patched couch,

With Pixie laying on my knee.

Although I miss hugging Granny,

I know that the benches will stay

And so will the fish and chips.

One day we will have them

Once again.

 

© Arthur Davies, 11

 

Huge congratulations to all our winners! Your books should soon be on their way.

Posted in Poetry Art and Craft, Poetry Fun!

Writing a Moon Poem and Hanging it on a 3D Moon!

Today I’m going to guide you to write a poem about the moon – this can be written out onto paper or a disc of card and hung up, or written onto a 3D moon to hang as a mobile!

This is a circular poem – the first line is the same as the last line, and on the mobile it IS the same line. If you write it correctly, it doesn’t matter where you start in the poem, it will still make sense.

Start every line with a capital letter. Do not use rhyme.

You will be writing your poem from what is known as ‘the first person’ perspective. That just means you are writing as if you ARE the moon. You only use words like ‘I’ and ‘My’ and ‘Me’. Your first line (and last line!) is:

Because I am the moon

Your second line starts ‘I am the colour’ – try and think of interesting, unusual, or surprising things that are the same colour as the moon. My second line is:

I am the colour of cobwebs and smoke

Your third line begins ‘My mountains’. This line will be a lie. The mountains will do something that mountains cannot really do. My third line is:

My mountains tell me stories

Your fourth line begins ‘My secrets can be found’. This line is also a lie. Try and think of the most wonderful, unusual, exciting, amazing place the moon’s secrets might be found. My fourth line is:

My secrets can be found in silver coins

Your fifth line starts ‘I wish’. What ambition might the moon have? Think about what might be exciting to you if you were the moon.

I wish I was a shooting star

Your sixth line begins ‘I’m sad’ – the moon might be lonely all on its own in space. It has no air, no water, no plants or animals. Because there is no air, there is no sound, because sound waves use air to travel though. Think about being the moon, and decide what you would miss the most. This is my sixth line:

I’m sad I cannot hear Earth’s songs

Your seventh line starts ‘I dream’. What would the moon dream about? Perhaps another of those things she does not possess? Maybe there is something she would like to do, or try, or someone/something she would like to meet? My seventh line is:

I dream of being kissed with clouds

Your eighth line begins with ‘My seas of dust hide’. What extraordinary thing might the moon’s dust hide? Creatures? Jewels? Words? Magic? Tunnels to another place? My eighth line is:

My seas of dust hide night time lullabies

The last line after this is ‘Because I am the moon’ – the same as the first line. BUT unless you are writing this poem out on a piece of paper, you will not write this onto your 3D shape – because it shares a place with the first line. You will see what I mean when you make your shape!

Here is my poem written out:

Because I am the moon

I am the colour of cobwebs and smoke

My mountains tell me stories

My secrets can be found in silver coins

I wish I was a shooting star

I’m sad I cannot hear your songs

I dream of being kissed with clouds

My seas of dust hide night time lullabies

Because I am the moon

 

Here is how to write your poem onto a moon!

First you need four pieces of A4 paper. Fold them all in half. Then, either use a pair of compasses to draw a circle or find a saucer or something round that is just smaller than the width of the folded paper to draw round.

Then cut the circle through the 4 layers. Or, if you are unsure of doing it this way, draw your circle onto each folded piece of paper and cut each folded piece out separately. You will end up with 8 paper circles. Fold them in half and open them up again.

Write one line of your poem on each of the circles. Remember, you only need one ‘Because I am the moon’.

If you want to illustrate your poem or colour in the circles, it is best done now – it becomes harder later! Then stack the circles with your poem in order, first line at the top-  ‘Because I am the moon’.

Then take the top circle and fold it in half, so the right side folds onto the left side.

Glue this half.

Take the second circle with the second line of your poem on and stick the left hand side of this circle onto the other glued half circle. Make sure the fold matches the fold in the other circle. Be as accurate as you can.

Then fold this second circle in half and glue the side facing you.

And add the next circle on top – again, making sure the folds are all lined up.

Do this with all of the circles, until you have none left. Then turn the circles over so you have half of the first circle on your right and half the last circle on your left.

Take a long piece of hanging string, embroidery thread or wool and stick it in the crack in the middle of the half circles. Use sticky tape to keep it in place.

Then glue the left-hand circle side and stick it to the right-hand half circle. The shape is now 3D and will open up into your 3D moon poem.

Can you see that now the first and last line of your poem is ‘Because I am the Moon’? In fact, because of the way it is written, any line can be the first line, so it doesn’t matter if the moon is not facing the right way when you begin to read it. It still makes sense. You are ready to hang up your moon poem!

Quicky Poetry Ideas for Teachers: Similes – what colour is your heart?

Here’s a quickie simile poem idea.

The poem is a description of the person writing it, they should describe each part in the most surprising, and positive way they can. They must be as complimentary as possible about themselves. Each colour should be true, the description of the colour can be as vivid as they like.

Line one describes their hair colour, line two describes that colour further with a simile

Line three describes their eye colour, line four describes that colour with a simile.

Line five describes their skin colour, and line six further describes that colour with a simile.

Line 7 describes the colour of their hearts. This can be ANY colour.  Line eight will be a simile again, and can be of anything, but animals work very well.

 

The colours of me!

My hair is brown

like conkers in the sun

my eyes are brown

as autumn nuts

my skin is paler pink

than summer buds

and my heart

is dappled

like the leopard

that hides in the grasses.

 

Have fun! This poem can be done with many variations.