Posted in Shaping the World, 40 Historical Heroes in Verse

Shaping the World – Out Today!

Yes, today is the day this book arrives in the shops!

I can’t thank the poets who sent poems and shapes and ideas for shapes enough – or Gaby Morgan at Macmillan who is always so brilliantly helpful.

I’m really pleased with the resulting book – it has a fabulous, shiny cover, and 40 hero poems inside, twenty women and twenty men who helped shape the world, in a variety of voices and all the poems are shaped to represent the people, an aspect of their lives or life’s work.

Here’s an example from the book – Penny Kent’s fabulous poem about Ravi Shankar. Each poem has a mini-biography alongside the shape:

Shaping the World is available at all good bookstores of course!

Posted in Poetry Review

James Carter: Weird, Wild and Wonderful

Published by Otter-Barry Books

This is a book of James’ most popular and most requested poems (along with a few new ones), and you can certainly see why they are requested over and over!

It contains the cream of James’ ability to write charmingly pitched-perfect poems on any subject under the sun (or the moon), in the dark (or light), about the big (or little), and it covers deeply important subjects such as how to paint an elephant or play air guitar.

Excellent stuff, beautifully illustrated by Neal Layton. Recommended.

Here’s one of my favourites:

Posted in Poetry Review

Shauna Darling Robertson: Saturdays at the Imaginarium

Troika, Cover art by Jude Wisdom

Step out of your daily grind and into Shauna’s imaginarium – where humdrum is injected with colour, feelings and emotions with clarity, and empathy is just how and where you need it to be. You know those somethings you catch out of the corner of your eye but which disappear when you try to look them in the face? Here they are pinned down and given names.

This book is brimful of fantastical reality, a universe of exploration into worlds of words; words that float and sink and climb and swing, beckon, entice, challenge and sing. Exciting words, gentling words, lit along their paths with Shauna’s delightful sense of humour.

This is a fantastic work in every conceivable way, and what is more inside its covers I have found what is in my opinion THE PERFECT POEM (below) – but you can count on finding your own perfect poem there, too.

Published by Troika and beautifully illustrated by Jude Wisdom, this is definitely a winner for the classroom and home – HIGHLY recommended!

The Dreamcatcher

The old man gave me

this weird looking thing.

A stringy, beady

feathery thing.

A dreamcatcher, he whispered.

Yeah, whatever.

Still, I did as he said,

hung it over my bed

and that very night

I caught my first one


with treasures –

gold, silver, rubies, rings.

Nice and all,

but I’m not what you’d call

huge on jewels

so I held out for another

and sure enough, on night two

I was blessed with adventures –

castles and dragons,

galloping stallions, damsels

in varying degrees of distress.

Come night three, I confess

I was hooked

and from that moment on

I spent most of my days

killing time till day’s end

and then sinking to sleep

and waking at dawn to check my net

for a freshly-snared dream.

Six months in, I’m now the proud owner

of five-hundred-and-fifty-eight.

Some creepy, some soothing

some crazy, some straight.

But lately my dreams feel hemmed in,

suspended up there

in my stringy, beady, feathery thing

so I’ve hatched a plan for their urgent release

and tonight’s the night I’ll let my dreams fly.

Thing is, I’m thinking I might go with them.

So please keep this quiet.


and goodbye.

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.