Posted in Funny Poem a Day

Funny Poems for Strange Times

Along with my assistance dog, Lola, I think we could all do with some fun parts to the day at the minute, so I intend to post a funny poem a day if at all possible – really funny, funny poems from books, out of copyright poems and also poems from well-known children’s poets! Let’s hear some laughter! For teachers, parents, children  (this is a safe site) and anyone who could do with a giggle.

The FIRST poem is one of my all-time favourites. It was selected by Gerard Benson for his excellent Signal Award winning book: this poem doesn’t rhyme, Puffin.

 

WHAT FOR!

 

One more word, said my dad,

And I’ll give you what for.

 

What for? I said.

 

That’s right, he said, what for!

 

No, I said, I mean what for?

What will you give me what for for?

 

Never you mind, he said. Wait and see.

 

But what is what for for? I said.

 

What’s what for for? he said,

It’s to teach you what’s what,

That’s what.

 

What’s that? I said.

Right, he said, you’re for it,

I’m going to let you have it.

 

Have what? I said.

 

Have what? He said,

What for, that’s what.

Do you want me to really give you

Something to think about?

 

I don’t know, I said,

I’m thinking about it.

 

Then he clipped me over the ear.

 

It was the first time he’d made sense

All day.

 

© Noel Petty

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Lorraine Mariner: Favourite Poetry Books

Lorraine Mariner is Number 21 in my series where I ask a well-known poet, or lover of children’s poetry, to choose some of their favourite poetry books. Lorraine is an Assistant Librarian at the National Poetry Library, Southbank, working among one of the most comprehensive children’s poetry collections I have seen. Yes, I am a little jealous. She has published two poetry collections for adults with Picador, Furniture (2009), and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014), and has a pamphlet, Anchorage, forthcoming this year with Grey Suit Editions. She has children’s poems in Dragons of the Prime, an anthology of dinosaur poems from The Emma Press (2019) and Midnight Feasts an anthology of food poems edited by A. F. Harrold, Bloomsbury (2019), and had a poem shortlisted in the excellent 2019 YorkMix Children’s Poetry Competition.

Enid Blyton’s Treasury of Verse (Purnell, 1979)

When I spotted this on the shelves of the National Poetry Library and saw the field mice on the cover my heart leapt with joy. I had this book as a child and loved it. Enid Blyton just has the ability to write stuff for kids that’s addictive.

Plum Pudding : Stories, Rhymes and Fun for the Very Young by Margaret Mayo (Orchard Books, 2000)

We regularly use rhymes from this book at our under-5s session at the National Poetry Library, you can’t go wrong with them. “Splishy-Sploshy Wet Day” always cheers me up on a rainy day.

The Noisy Classroom by Ieva Flamingo (The Emma Press Children’s Books, 2017)

The Emma Press is doing great work translating the best European children’s poets into English. This book was a revelation to me in my own writing for children; here is poet really writing for kids in the digital age about the loneliness and pressures being constantly connected can bring.

The Bubble Wrap and Other Poems by Dean Parkin (Smith/Doorstop, 2017)

I had no idea my friend Dean Parkin could draw until he published this book. Funny and touching poems from “Granddad in Goal” to the magic of Spagnets.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012)

I’ve bought this book for many of the children in my life. Beautiful photographs and stellar poems from classic and contemporary poets make this a total winner.

Poems from a Green & Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz (Hodder Children’s Books, 2019)

And this is a new anthology I’m now buying for all the children in my life. Again, a wonderful mix of classic and newly commissioned poems celebrating the natural world.

Is that the New Moon? : Poems by Women Poets collected by Wendy Cope (Lions Teen Tracks : 1989)

Aimed at teenagers, I actually read this anthology in my early twenties and it introduced me to the women poets who have come to mean so much to me. Looking through it again I see that many of the poems have stayed with me and are among my favourites.

Tell Me the Truth About Life : a National Poetry Day Anthology : 100 Poems That Matter (Michael O’Mara, 2019)

And this is another great anthology for getting to know poets and poems. Lovingly curated by Cerys Matthews it features poems nominated by Britain’s poetry readers (some quite famous ones) and includes a poem of mine.

Lorraine Mariner

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Paul Cookson: Favourite Poetry Books

Paul Cookson has visited around 4000 schools, libraries, festivals, front rooms, written and edited over 60 titles – including the best selling The Works  – and has sold over a million books. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador. Everton Football Club commissioned a poem for their season ticket campaign and the Everton Home poem which can be found online; it has been played on the big screens at Goodison Park. His collection  The Very Best Of  (Macmillan) contains many of his signature poems. His new collection for younger children, There’s a Crocodile in the House is reviewed here. Paul’s website is here and his Twitter here.

THE MERSEY SOUND – ROGER McGOUGH, BRIAN PATTEN & ADRIAN HENRI

Like many of my generation ( yes, I am that old ! ), this was the first book to switch my poetry light on. Poems that didn’t look like the poems we had to read at school, poems that were funny and ordinary – in short poems that made us think we could do it too. Roger McGough has always been one of my very favourite poets – whether for children or adults – and these days I still look forward to any brand new releases. This is where it all started. Just wonderful.

THE LUCKIEST GUY ALIVE – JOHN COOPER CLARKE

Even though this is a recent publication I’m going to put this next as chronologically John was the first poet I ever saw perform live – supporting Be Bop Deluxe at Preston Guildhall. I’ve loved his work and style ever since. If Roger was the first poet to make me want to write poems then John was the first poet who made me want to perform them. And I think his work is now stronger than ever. Not for kids – but brilliant!

NICE AND NASTY – STEVE TURNER

This was a large format collection of poems. I lent my copy to a French girl and she never returned it … so I don’t have the original anymore. But I remember the simplicity, fun and wordplay – and have followed Steve ever since. Short poems are fun / you can tell at a glance / whether you like them or not.

UP THE BOO AYE SHOOTING POOKAKIES – MIKE HARDING

 Always a fan of Lancashire folk singer and comedian I bought this collection and “The Singing Street” from his mailing list. “Up The Boo Aye …” was a sumptuously presented colour collection of mad children’s poems! So much fun. “The Singing Street” was black and white , illustrated, with poems about childhood and growing up. Both had a profound and inspirational effect on me over the years. His poems for adults are stunning too.

FALLING UP – SHEL SIVERSTEIN

I love the look of these books – they are spacious where the poems and pictures have time to breathe. I hate cluttered books. There is fun a plenty – crazy rhymes and wordplay and stuff that just makes me smile. I could have picked any one of his books but this is a cracker.

COLLECTED POEMS – GARETH OWEN

Salford Road, Den To Let … and more. Poems I wish I’d written! I love the wry humour and conversational tone that Gareth infuses into his poetry. There is warmth and nostalgia, humour and pathos. Everyone should have this collection – it is that good. And our love of Everton ( and poetry ) made us friends – mostly Everton though!

THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL – BILLY COLLINS

A few years ago I went to the Festival Hall – mainly to see Roger McGough – but Billy Collins was there too. And I loved his work there and then. Somewhat ordinary and understated there is a profundity lurking that catches you unawares. He captures moments majestically and magically. Simple, straightforward, yet with hidden depths – poetry we can understand.

THE VERY BEST OF PAUL COOKSON

I’m tempted to go for my latest collection – “There’s a Crocodile In The House” ( your latest is always a favourite ) – but I’m going to go for my VERY BEST OF because of the range of poems therein. As a performer who like to make audiences laugh you can get stereotyped as “that funny poet” ( and I love that, I really do! And I think funny poems are very much under rated – often by people who can’t write funny poems to be honest! ). But this collection has a real variety of styles, genres, subjects and emotions and poems that I’m really proud of. If you want laughs and joining in – well, go for “Crocodile”!!

Paul Cookson

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Dom Conlon: Favourite Children’s Poetry Books

Number 19 in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Dom Conlon, known for his ‘out of this world’ space poems! He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Dom launched onto the children’s poetry scene with Astro Poetica, illustrated by Jools Wilson, a lovely collection of poems inspired by space. Since then he has been published in magazines and anthologies whilst performing and teaching in schools and libraries around the North West. His new collection of poems about the moon, This Rock, That Rock, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, Pub. Troika, is out in March. Some of Dom’s work can be read here.

All of the books for children I’ve selected are from my own childhood. Without exception they helped guide me towards the imagination as surely as any books about Narnia, Middle Earth or The Foundation did but more than a novel did, they gave me the tools to understand my heart. They continue to in one way or another but are now helped by the many amazing poets who write today and who I’ve come to call friends.

For children:

Moon Whales

Ted Hughes was a major influence on me, along with Plath, Larkin, Eliot and Cummings, back when I was studying for my A Levels but this collection for children remains a touchstone for my writing. I keep the edition illustrated by Chris Riddell close by. Moon Whales is a sweeping exploration of imagination and emotion. Funny, horrific, melancholic and strange, it shows the power of poetry.

Rhymes Without Reason

Mervyn Peake’s writing, art and life captivated me in my teens and never let go. Rhymes Without Reason is a beautifully produced collection in every sense. The number of poems is kept to a minimum (no filler here) and each one is a gateway to wonder, helped in no small part by the paintings Peake made.

The Hunting of the Snark

Epic poems for children delight me (allow me to briefly point you towards Dr Seuss and Robert Paul Weston) and here Lewis Carroll channels all his Alice and Jabberwocky magic. The edition I own is illustrated by Mervyn Peake and the partnership delivers something rich and ancient.

The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear

Over the years I’ve lost sight of Lear and his undisputed contribution to children’s poetry. His limericks don’t sing to me as they once did. And yet I’m choosing this book for three vital reasons: the first is The Owl and the Pussycat, the second is The Pobble, and the third is the most compelling reason of them all—the illustrations. John Vernon Lord’s edition is an explosion of inspiration.

For adults:

The Republic of Motherhood

Pick any collection by Liz Berry and you’re in for a treat but I’m going to settle on this slim pamphlet. I pressed it into poet Matt Goodfellow’s sweaty palms recently and his reaction proved I will never regret recommending it. Berry’s ability is extraordinary, her love of words delightful. She focuses place and memory through the lens of dialect and always leaves a mark.

For everyone:

This Rock That Rock

Viviane Schwarz and I have worked hard on putting together this collection and making sure the words and pictures are as inseparable as the Earth and the Moon. It contains fifty poems about the once and future moon, drawing upon personal history and scientific curiosity whilst never forgetting the fun and wonder. And because (as my teachers always told my parents) Dom Can Never Stop Talking… there are chapters where I talk about poetry and art too.

Book Review: Welcome to my Crazy Life, Joshua Seigal

Welcome to my Crazy Life, Joshua Seigal, illustrated by Chris Piascik, Pub. Bloomsbury.

Full of jokes, great fun! Some nice poems about reading, writing and poetry in here, perfect for the classroom, to instigate discussion. Lots of familiar situations, not-so-familiar situations, and darned ridiculous situations, this book is bound to please. Recommended.

Book Review: How Many Points for a Panda?, Hilda Offen

How Many Points for a Panda?, Hilda Offen, Pub. Troika.

This is a book of delightful  poems, charmingly and richly illustrated by the author herself, who was CLiPPA shortlisted in 2015. Fantasy and magical poems jostle with the real world wistful and humorous (I laughed out loud several times). Contains poems to please and poems to stretch – recommended.

Book Review: There’s a Crocodile in the House, Paul Cookson

There’s a Crocodile in the House, Paul Cookson, pictures by Liz Million, Pub. Otter-Barry.

Paul Cookson is renowned for his audience-snaring participation poetry performances, and fittingly, these are mostly poems with a purpose – to read out loud with young children, complete with actions and sound effects. Some of them come complete with handy performance suggestions, perfect for use with little ones in the classroom.

Book Review: The Magic of Mums, Justin Coe

The Magic of Mums, Justin Coe, Illustrator Steve Wells, Pub. Otter-Barry.

Mums to admire, mums to entrance, mums who fuss and some football-mum chants – every type of mum, even a dad who’s a part-time mum, is within these poems from Justin Coe.

This lovely book is the partner to his popular Dictionary of Dads, published by Otter-Barry in 2017.

Children will enjoy finding the poetry version of their own mum in these pages, and schools will certainly never be without a great poem for Mothers’ Day – there’s a good range of styles, personalities and aspects of motherhood covered!

Recommended. Here’s a taster:

 

Itchy Mum

 

Mum gave me fun and gave me laughter.

She gave me all the things I asked for,

tasty sweets

and trips and treats.

I gave her… nits for Christmas.

 

When I felt scared she helped me flourish,

when I was ill she gave me courage.

When I had troubles

she gave me cuddles.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

So  while she gave without a limit,

her heart and everything within it,

I brought the louse

into the house.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

The advice she gave she gave with love.

I gave her lice that sucked her blood,

eggs that hatched

and made her scratch.

I gave her nits for Christmas.

 

There were other gifts. I gave her germs

and once I gave her bottom worms.

She thanked me – not,

but to top the lot,

I gave her nits. FOR CHRISTMAS.

 

© Justin Coe

 

 

 

 

Review: Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow

Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, pub. Bloomsbury.

I knew I’d love this book, having seen a few sneak peeks, and I did. I didn’t want to start reading because then I knew I’d get to the end and would regret not being able to read it for the first time again. 

Matt has provided a book with bright bursts of his ability to illustrate the essential with the everyday, his sense of humour with the absurd and poignancy with poems that contain a planet-full of empathy.

Many moods, many colours, many laughs – everything you could possibly want in a poetry book, in a range of styles. I enjoyed every single poem. This book is very much recommended. I insist you buy it right now.

Two poems to illustrate Matt’s range below – one that made me laugh, and one that made me cry!

 

A Special Badger

 

I’m a special kind of badger

in a special badger den

writing special badger poems

with my special badger pen

learning special badger lessons

in a special badger school

earning special badger kudos

for my special badger cool

wearing special badger badges

saying badgers are the best

passing special badger interviews

and special badger tests

drinking special badger coffee

from a special badger mug

but my special badger problem:

 

I am actually a slug

© Matt Goodfellow

 

Strest

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when he came down the slide

too fast in Year 5

and broke his wrist.

Miss couldn’t believe it;

he even smiled and waved

to our class across the playground

when Mr Smith drove him off

to hospital.

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when his gran died –

he was back in school

the next day

said he was fine,

he’d survive –

but you could see it

in the shadows

of his eyes.

 

Charlie never cries

 

but when it was time

for the reading paper

we’d

revised

revised

revised

for,

Charlie sighed

flicked through the pages

for ages

put his pen down.

Miss appeared at his side

saying try your best, Charlie

it’s just a test, Charlie

and he looked over at me

and I swear I could see

right inside his mind

and it was dark

and he was hiding

shoulders shaking

and he knew

he couldn’t do

what they wanted

him to do

however hard he tried.

 

And I’ll never forget

the day of the test,

 

the day

Charlie

cried.

 

© Matt Goodfellow

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

A. F. Harrold: Favourite Poetry Books

A.F. Harrold is a children’s author and children’s poet who writes and performs for both grown ups and children. He can often be found in school halls pointing at children and sharing his poems, and even more often in the bath, thinking them up… His latest wonderful poetry book is Midnight Feasts, illustrated by Katy Riddell, and  Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard, illustrated by Chris Riddell is in my favourite colour.  A. F.’s Website is here and Twitter here.

Come Hither, ed. Walter de la Mare (1923) – a delicious and delightful anthology (obviously somewhat dated now!), made superbly special by de la Mare’s glosses, essays and unrelated rambles in the notes which make up a full half of the book.

Silly Verse for Kids, Spike Milligan (1959) – one of the few books I still own from my own childhood. The most memorable nonsense and wordplay, enlivened by Milligan’s own drawings.

The Gloomster, Ludwig Bechstein (translated by Julia Donaldson), illustrated by Axel Scheffler – just one poem, and not a particularly long one, but a beautiful melancholy-funny one. Scheffler and Donaldson’s magic continues to work, even here, in 19th century German poetry.

Cloud Busting, Malorie Blackman (2004), illustrated by Helen van Vliet – a verse novel that is moving, wise, not for aimed at older readers and actually made of poems for a reason. It’s about friends and being weird and loss and all the things books are about, and deserves to be read in one sitting.

If You Could See Laughter, Mandy Coe (2010) – a very fine poet, this, her first children’s collection, is full of poems firing off in all directions, sparky and lively and filled with a deft raft of poet’s-eye imagery. Good stuff.

Midnight Feasts, ed. A.F. Harrold (2019) – I put together this collection of poems all themed around food and drink because it was the sort of thing I wanted to read. I think it’s a good spread of delciousness.

A.F. Harrold.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Laura Mucha: Favourite Poetry Books

Laura Mucha worked as a face painter, studied flying trapeze, philosophy and psychology, and swam in Antarctica before becoming a lawyer. Now she spends most of her time playing with words. She is extraordinary fun to know and I can guarantee that in any room, you will always know where she is by the laughs. Laura’s poetry has been published in books, magazines and newspapers around the world, and she’s performed on BBC Radio, at festivals and in schools. In 2016, she won the Caterpillar Poetry Prize. Laura’s book about Love – Love Factually  is non-fiction, and her debut collection is due out next year. You can read and listen to some of Laura’s poetry here.

Heard It In The Playground by Allan Ahlberg.

I’ve been reading a lot of his picture books lately and wanted to check back in with his poetry so I re-read this collection. Child-centred, witty and technically brilliant. Boom.

Everything All At Once by Steven Camden.

I’ve been reflecting on what makes a good collection recently and have concluded that an original and authentic voice plays a huge role. Steve Camden has that totally nailed. This collection feels like he climbed into the minds of KS3 students and articulated their inner workings via poetry.

Plum by Tony Mitton. A classic. Read it.

Selected Poems for Children by Charles Causley.

Predictive spelling keeps changing his name to Charles Casually – and I wonder whether there’s some truth in that. His poems seem so effortless that it feels like they just popped out of him while he brushed his teeth or washed the dishes. I wonder whether he spoke at all times in perfect metre and rhyme.

A Kid in My Class by Rachel Rooney Rooney is a whizz with words and, as always, combines insight with technical rigour in her most recent collection. Combine her words with Chris Riddell’s illustrations and you have a stonkingly good book.

Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson I don’t understand how Hardy-Dawson’s brain works, but I love it. She creates sketches, doodles and sculpts with words and crafts poems I wish I could write.

The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship by Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee and Matt Goodfellow.

Brilliant poems looking at important themes written by exceptional poets. What’s not to like?

Dear Ugly Sisters by Laura Mucha I’ve read this about 1,526,927 times now and I’m sick of it. It comes out next year but I never want to read it again. Please don’t make me.

Laura Mucha

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Celia Warren: Favourite Poetry Books

Celia Warren has been writing poetry ever since she learned to read, and has been published in hundreds of children’s anthologies. Her collections are all for young children and many of her poems and stories form infant readers in mainstream school reading programmes all over the world. She has compiled two anthologies, The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poems illustrated beautifully by a range of fabulous artists, (Bloomsbury) and A Time to Speak and a Time to Listen (Schofield and Sims). Her latest book is Don’t Poke a Worm till it Wriggles, illustrated by Sean Longcroft, A&C Black. Celia’s website is here.

First, I have to say that I am not keen on the label ‘Children’s Poets’. It seems constrictive to writers and readers alike. Life can be at its most intense when you’re a child, and even if children (or adults) don’t necessarily understand every word or nuance in a line of poetry, they are more than open to the music and emotion of the written and spoken word – be it ‘aimed at’ children or adults. All poetry lovers will return to favourite poems and find new depths or viewpoints each time and, as we grow, so we find more in each poem, young or old. I hope children will read grown-up poetry as well as ‘children’s poetry’, and that grown-ups will never grow too old to enjoy the lightest of ditties.

I have seven shelves of poetry books at home, so it was really hard to choose only a handful of favourites. I have avoided books by my many poet friends as I’d hate to exclude anyone, so my choices are collections and anthologies old and new that I find myself returning to again and again.

Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare (1913)

My first choice is a classic book, penned by a poet who certainly appeals to adults and children alike. His lyrical style seems timeless, and my numerous readings of his poetry have, I’m sure, influenced my own writing. Peacock Pie includes one of my favourite poems, Nicholas Nye. (The edition pictured above originally belonged to my mother and has the added delight of emmet’s wonderful illustrations.)

Going to the Fair by Charles Causley (Viking, Penguin, 1994)

It was in my first year at high school that I was introduced to this Cornish poet’s work, and I loved his writing straight away. His lyricism, again, attracts all age-groups. His choice of subject, often turning everyday events into magical moments, has universal appeal, too. I love the way Causley uses questions in many of his poems, leaving the reader to discern possible answers, without their being spelt out. The poet enjoyed wordplay as much as I do, and one of my favourites in this book is Good Morning, Mr Croco-doco-dile.

Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope (Faber & Faber, 1992)

Though Wendy Cope, like the poets above, writes for children, too, one of her collections is my choice for the one book of poetry for grown-ups that I’m allowed. The very title belies the poet’s sense of humour. She is a poet who won’t be labelled or limited by adult expectations and writes with a light touch and a sense of whimsy, although often her poems do have serious undertones, too.

We Animals Would Like a Word with You by John Agard (Random House, 1996)

As a lover of animals, I was bound to notice a title (and cover) as attractive as this! It’s a slim volume, but its short poems have as much to say about humans and the human condition as about animals. It also includes one of my all-time favourite poems A Conference of Cows. Such apparent simplicity, so neatly crafted, and such beautiful sentiments!

There now follow three titles that have a common theme: they encourage children – and grown-ups, too – to read at least one poem every day.

Good Night, Sleep Tight, a poem for every night of the year compiled by Ivan and Mal Jones (Scholastic, 2000)

This first title is likely to be read as much by parents to their children as by children themselves, aimed as it is at younger children. Good Night, Sleep Tight includes a few of my own poems and I particularly love the book as, first, one poem is very much about my son when he was little and, secondly, now that I have just become a granny, I’m sure my daughter will enjoy sharing its contents with her little girl. Thirdly, it includes many favourite classics.

A Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri (Macmillan, 2017)

The second, Allie Esiri’s collection, is very much a family book. The choice of poems and extracts is diverse – entertaining and thought-provoking, comforting and disquieting, in equal measure. As one who has never developed ‘reading stamina’, I like the ‘short bites’ that poetry offers and the uplifting approach of (at least one) poem a day. Such anthologies also offer ‘tasters’ as they introduce the reader to new names to look out for.

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree selected by Fiona Waters (Nosy Crow, 2018)

The third offers a different twist in that the contents offer a nature poem for every day of the year. They are deliciously illustrated in full colour on every page of this mighty tome. Its size and weight might mean sitting at a table to read it, to avoid crushing young legs! It, too, contains old classics as well as poems by lots of contemporary poets.

Star-gazing by Celia Warren (Collins, 2013)

Finally, I was invited to choose a title of my own and dithered over which to pick. In the end, it was this slim school ‘reader’ that won the day. It is one tiny title in the poetry strand of a huge array of classroom readers in Collins’ Big Cat series.  It is my favourite as I was given a free hand over which poems to choose, and it is probably the nearest I have come to a ‘collected Celia Warren’. It includes many of my personal favourites and, though it may miss out on appearing on bookshop or library shelves, it possibly passes through more children’s hands, by dint of being in a school reading programme, than better known titles in the poetry world. I like to hope that my little book might whet the appetite and stir the hearts of even a handful of children, and inspire them to enjoy a lifetime of poetry reading and the delight it can bring. I wish all readers the joy of that never-ending road …

Celia Warren

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

James Carter: Favourite Children’s Poetry Books

James Carter is the 15th poet in my series of children’s poets asked to choose 5-8 favourite poetry books, one of which had to be his own, and one of which could be an adult collection. James is an award-winning children’s poet, non-fiction and educational writer and INSET provider. He travels all over the UK and abroad with his guitar (that’s Keth) and melodica (that’s Steve) to give very lively.poetry/music performances and workshops. The author of over 16 poetry titles, his poetry/non-fiction picture book, Once Upon A Star (Little Tiger Press) was BooksforKeeps’ Book of the Week March 2018. Spaced Out, an anthology of space poems, edited with Brian Moses, came out earlier this year. James’ website is here.

As 100% of my writing life is spent writing poetry – either as actual poems or non-fiction verse – as a reader I tend to head in other directions, though I often find poetry in the most unexpected places. Such as…

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Best picture book ever. No contest. The writer/illustrator Ian Beck once referred to its ‘strange poetry’ which made me return to it and re-re-re-read this deeply poetic and existential prose. I’m sure the first half of the book ‘The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief…’ has informed every single syllable I’ve written since.

Monkey Do! By Allan Ahlberg and Andre Amstutz

For me, Ahlberg is the godfather of all modern children’s poetry. He is ground zero, The Beatles of children’s verse, and this delight of a poem is soooooo slick, funky, funny, charming and has a real ahhh.. of an ending. My daughter Madeleine would point at the final spread and say ‘That’s me and Mummy.’ Happy 18th, Madeleine!

 

Don’t Put Mustard In The Custard by Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake

My eldest daughter Lauren demanded this book be read to her over and over and over and over and over again. It’s easy to see why: no poet writes about childhood with as much charm and insight as Rosen. Nuff said. Fabulously daft too. Blake too brings so much extra mischief and mayhem!

 

Plum by Tony Mitton

Best children’s poetry collection of the last 30 years, this book made me rethink my writing. Exquisitely nostalgia-glazed, this gem never hits a wrong note. This gorgeously crafted lyrical verse is a masterclass in verse for children. Perfectly harmonised by the mighty Peter Bailey’s illustrations. Teachers – get your class performing I Wanna Be A Star and discussing Child Of The Future. Unmissable.

 Orange Silver Sausage by Graham Denton and err me..

Narcissism or too many copies left in the warehouse? I absolutely loved putting this book together with my dear, dear poetry chum, and good egg, Graham Denton. It was my initial idea as I prefer reading free verse to anything else, but Graham brought easily more than 60% of the poems to the table. More than anything, a poem for me has to be a) uber-tight and b) actually say something new,  and every poem in here really delivers. Am I allowed to say it’s my favourite anthology ever as it has such glorious free verse poems from the likes of Carol Ann Duffy, Mary Oliver, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard – but nothing sadly by the bespectacled bard of Luton…?

Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton

As a reader, comic verse is not my thing at all. BUT John Hegley is the one exception. He has to be the finest comic poet this country has ever produced. A true original. Genuinely LOL. Been to probably 15 of his gigs from 1985 onwards, and this picture book – an ode to the playful creativity of childhood – is perfectly brought to life by the wonder that is Neal Layton. Every EY/KS1 class should have one.

 3 Doz Poems, read/edited by Garrison Keillor

No, it’s not a book. It’s a CD. Everyone should have this in their car / on their iPod / phone / whatever as arguably no-one reads poetry with as much grace and majesty as GK. It’s a brilliant selection of verse too, from Lewis Carroll to Mary Oliver to the greatest living poet, Billy Collins.

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes by Billy Collins

PLEASE don’t be put off by the title. It’s not whatever it may sound like. It’s the finest ‘best of’ by arguably the planet’s finest living poet – wise, erudite, clever and deliciously witty. Trust me – you will buy multiple copies for friends when you read it…

James Carter

Posted in Poem

Moira Andrew’s Poem, Poppies for Remembrance

Poppies for Remembrance

 

Scarlet poppies can flutter

like fragile butterflies

in the dry yellow corn

of summer.

 

And they can dance

like graceful ballerinas

among the feathery stalks

of barley.

 

Red poppies can glow

like bright little lamps

on our warm winter coats

in November.

 

And they can whisper,

like long-lost voices

from the forgotten fields

of Flanders.

 

© Moira Andrew

 

Moira Andrew was born and educated in Scotland. She became a primary teacher, and later, after becoming a lecturer in Craigie College of Education in Ayr, began writing poetry. In her next job as head of a primary school near Bristol she started to write for children. Moira’s website is here.