Posted in National Poetry Day 2018

National Poetry Day, 4th October

Forward Arts Foundation, National Poetry Day

The Forward Arts Foundation is a charity committed to widening poetry’s audience, honouring achievement and supporting talent.

National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. Everyone is invited to join in. National Poetry Day will take place on Thursday 4th October 2018 and this year’s theme is “Change”.

Go to the NPD website to get details of how to join in, posters, bookmarks, and if you’re celebrating in school, take a look at their Toolkit for Schools for inspiration.

Make sure you use #NationalPoetryDay on Twitter and Websites!

National Poetry Day Ambassadors are a crack corps of inspiring poets who take poetry to new and young audiences – in schools, in bookshops, in libraries, in public squares – all year round.

Each one of them has contributed a new poem on the 2018 theme of Change, and chosen a poem to accompany it, for a special National Poetry Day collection published by Otter-Barry books. It’s a beautiful thing. You can buy it here.

If you want to find this information again, it is under Poetry Resources in the menu at the top and top of the side of this site.

Posted in Poet's Piece

How to Engage KS1 and 2 – and, Are you a Poet or a Guitarist or a Comedian? By James Carter

As a child, James Carter had a very bad stutter, and flatly refused to take part in any school play because of it. He spoke very rarely in class. Nowadays he says he is a right chatterbox as he’s most passionate about what he does. He is a very experienced poet and excellent performer in schools (I know, I’ve seen him!) and uses his musical friends, Keith, his old acoustic guitar, and Steve, his melodica, to help engage the children. Here he explains the differences in his performances for Key Stage 1 and 2, and whether he is in fact a poet, musician, or comedian…

Are you a Poet or a Guitarist or a Comedian?

I get asked this question a lot. By children. At the end of my assemblies. This is the answer I’d give if there was time…

I’ve now been writing for over twenty years now. Writing books that is. I’ve written quite a few poetry books,  a handful of teachers’ creative writing manuals and now a series of verse non-fiction books with the brilliant Little Tiger Press. To be honest, I see myself as a non-fiction writer that happens to write in verse rather than prose. But actually, I’ve been writing things on and off since childhood.

I’ve been a roving poet in Primary and Prep schools all over the UK and abroad for the last 16 years. I must have visited over 1100 schools by now. I absolutely love my job. I love working with innovative, dynamic and responsive teachers and of course children – I so enjoy their vitality, their fresh, wide-eyed sense of wonder and lack of inhibition when it comes to creativity.

I write instrumental music pieces for guitar or piano – and I play these in assemblies or on the CDs I have recorded in the studio. Music I find is a great stimulant for creative writing. Children in the main respond to it very well. It takes the mind out of the here and now, gives you rich  mental imagery, and allows you to really take risks with your writing.

And humour? Though I don’t want to stand at the front of the hall just delivering ‘funny’ poems, I try and use a lot of humour. Anarchic, zany humour. Pythonesque as one Headteacher said. It’s essential the children warm to me quickly as I want them to respond to me in the workshop when we get writing. Plus, I relish the creative challenge of finding something amusing to say in any given moment during the day.

With KS1 I only ever do light-hearted material, and all interactive. I will start with a guitar piece and do all kinds of poems about bugs, aliens, funny faces, pirates, travelling the world. All the poems have actions which I teach the children through call and response. Then I do a bunch of animal riddle poems. To finish, I’ll do two more action rhymes, and then I play the melodica – maybe some jazzy stuff or Lady Gaga – and the children might have a boogie for a minute or so.

Schools often ask me to do whole school assemblies. I ALWAYS refuse. How on earth can you deliver age-appropriate material to rising 5s up to rising 11s? If time, I will do three assemblies – one for KS2 in the hall, one for KS1 in the hall, and another shorter one for Reception (sometimes Nursery come along too) in their classroom as they respond much better on the carpet, in an environment they are fully familiar with.

My delivery with KS2 is that of a zany, eccentric professor. With Early Years and KS1 I become a chirpy, avuncular figure. With Infants, I do call and response with every single poem as it keeps them with me. I have a very short attention span myself so I know that I need to keep them on track. I also do actions throughout most of my poems. This again keeps them engaged. One of many reasons I keep Infants and Juniors apart is that if you do anything slightly quirky with Infants, they get excited and giggly very quickly and it’s hard to bring them down again – and this can be annoying for the older children.

I write because I love words, love the whole process of writing individual poems as well as putting a poetry or non-fiction book together. I want children to love writing too – and to really enjoy and explore their creativities, and to want to pick up a pen/pencil and see where it will take them. I can’t go in cold into a workshop in a classroom and start writing on the board, as the children need firing up.

At KS2 in particular – especially Yrs 4 5 6 I want the children to write something incredible, something that will delight and surprise the children themselves as well as the teachers. This means they have to like and trust me. This is where the assembly comes in. After half an hour or so of poems and music (and hopefully having been inspired by that!) in the hall – they will then want to go on and do their writing. Poetry is all about finding new ways to explore and express the world around us, and that’s hard work and takes time.

Children always rise to the occasion. I love it when a child comes up to me and says either ‘Wow! I wrote this!’ or ‘Great, we haven’t done anyway work today’ – as it hasn’t felt like work, even though creative writing is very demanding. One of my favourite ever Finales in a school was in a Boy’s Prep school (though my favourite schools tend to be inner city, multicultural state school, obvs) – in which every member of staff – teachers/Totally Awesomes – were in tears as the boys wrote the most wonderful poems.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Posted in Poetry Awards, Poetry News

Attention Teachers! Vote in the Teachers Book Awards Before 2018 Ends!

A new UK-wide award has been set up for teachers to vote for literally any children’s books – but among the categories is POETRY, hooray!

Teachers will be able to vote until the end of 2018 for any book published in this year. They will collect all the nominations from across the country at the end of the year. January will see the shortlist of winners released and the final voting process will begin.

TEACHERS! PLEASE send in a vote for your favourite poetry books 2018 as soon as possible!

The Teachers’ Book Awards website is here with all the details.

Here is the Twitter address. Twitter handle is @book_awards

There has been some excellent children’s poetry published this year – to remind you, here are as many of the UK children’s poetry books published this year as I can find:






UPDATE! Voting isn’t open yet but will be soon!

Posted in Poetry Awards

North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards Shortlist for Poetry Announced

This award is voted for by teachers who use poetry in the classrooms, so it is thrilling to even be nominated.

Here are this years shortlisted books in the poetry category:

#NSTBAs team go all out; the longlist reviews all the books (poetry and fiction and non-fiction) in wonderful detail, and the shortlisted books are all pictured with fabulously cute dogs, making the whole process very, very special.

The organisation involved in getting Lady and Mungo dressed in the correctly coloured bows to set off each book alone must be epic!

Here’s each book in detail:

I’m thrilled to be involved in this shortlisting with lovely Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens. The work involved in writing and shaping all these poems into the animals they are about took months and months of back-breaking work, and it’s wonderful to have it recognised! This book was published by Bloomsbury, who have made a beautiful hardback book on quality paper with two colour printing to properly show off the loveliness inside! Artwork by Lorna Scobie.

Matt Goodfellow‘s first entry on the shortlist is his wonderful single voice book, Chicken on the Roof. Matt has a sensitive and lyrical way with words, and Otter-Barry, the publisher, always do a fine job with quality paper and excellent illustrations, in this case by Hannah Asen.

Zaro Weil’s fabulous Firecrackers is an amazing bumper book of poems, wordplay and stories with gorgeous illustrations by Jo Riddell. It is published by Troika in association with ZaZa Books in an eye-catchingly large format hardback.

And lastly – I’m over the moon to be shortlisted again for this award with The Same Inside, with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, both also shortlisted twice. The Same Inside is a book of poems all about empathy, tolerance, kindness, and love; there are poems in here to spark conversations and opinions about many sensitive subjects that are or could be worrying our young people today. It was hard to write! But a subject dear to our hearts. The publisher is the long-time stalwart of children’s poetry, Macmillan, with a wonderful cover by Debbie Powell.

The winner is announced on November 10th at the award ceremony.

Hurry to Enter the 5th Annual Timothy Corsellis Prize for poetry!

There’s only a week left to do so!

Timothy Corsellis was a young poet and pilot killed in 1941. The Prize was set up in his name, with the support of his family, to encourage more people to read the powerful but lesser-known poets of the Second World War.

Choose one or more poet/s and write a poem in response to their life and/or poetry. It can be anything about their life or work, whatever inspires you.

The deadline for entries is Sunday 16 September 2018.

All the details are here.

Posted in Poet's Piece

Caterpillar Prize-Winning Author Coral Rumble; The Challenge of Writing Poems for Children

Coral specialises in writing and performing for children, and as well as being in many anthologies, she has three collections; Creatures, Teachers and Family FeaturesBreaking the Rulesillustrated by Nigel Bainesand My Teacher’s as Wild as a Bisonalso illustrated by Nigel Baines. You can read more about Coral in her A-Z entry. Here Coral tells us something about writing poems for children, and also specifically about writing her prize-winning poem for Caterpillar Magazine



(Written by a poet who still has much to learn.)


I think that many poets would agree with N R Hart, who has said,

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence”. Adults often experience that wonderful moment, when the words in a poem resonate, and make clearer, or change, an area of their understanding. Of course, sometimes a poem simply reflects our experience, which is also valuable; confirmation is a wonderful thing! Humorous poems do this well. They often expose an embarrassing situation, then encourage the reader to relax as they personally identify with it.

Children experience their own areas of silence, and also deserve to hear a breakthrough of sound, as a poem encourages them to look at something from a different angle. ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’, the poem I entered for The Caterpillar Poetry Prize, is about a child losing his belonging in a community, and another child feeling the emptiness. I wanted the image of the empty jumper to become a symbol of the losses children have to deal with, without exploration or explanation. We often feel sorry for children who suffer in some way, we might even post on social media, heart-wrenching photos, but we don’t necessarily listen to their voices. Poets must listen and sometimes write in a way that makes their voices louder.

When we write poems for children, we mustn’t be dishonest. We must write for a child, not for ourselves, or to gain the admiration of other writers. Somehow, we have to marry personally satisfying poetic technique with a sensitivity to the experience of a child, living in a child’s world. When writing for adults it can be exhilarating to express yourself to your wordsmith limit, to push concepts a little further, to develop sophisticated images that make others say, ‘Ah, I can see it now.’ A child needs to, ‘see it now’, too, but we must always show respect to where they are in their understanding, and not usher them into the room of our imagination and experience, insisting that they see what their eyes can’t yet focus on. That doesn’t mean we should avoid writing anything that will challenge and stretch a child, there are many great poets writing poems that do so. However, if we say we are writing for a child, the child must come first, and our responsibility is to meet them where they are, before we take them on a new journey.

I’d add, as a note of balance, never underestimate what a child can understand and respond to, and remember that children vary greatly in all respects. Don’t expect ALL children to enjoy ALL of your poems. That’s okay, you know! It’s also good to remember that a poem written for children, is usually enjoyed by an adult. Again, not ALL adults will enjoy your children’s poems, but if some do, it probably means they’re well written. C S Lewis said of story: –

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I think the same is true of poems.

The way I see it (and the way I see things is often flawed and in need of revision), if a poet only ever writes poems about bodily functions, in the belief that children are only interested in base matters, it’s insulting. At the same time, if a poet only ever writes in a way that insists children ‘grow up’ in understanding, because they think it will ‘do them good’, it’s arrogant. Balance is beautiful. All human beings, whatever their size, need to laugh as well as meditate on serious matters. At the end of the day, whether we’re rising to the challenge of writing for children or for adults, there’s a lot of paper out there; let’s mark it with something meaningful.

If you’d like to read ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’, you’ll find it at the bottom of the article here.

Posted in Famous children's poets

The Three Types of Poem by A. F. Harrold (and – How to Pass Poetry Exams)


How to describe A. F. Harrold? Well, he has a beard. His poems are brilliant and sometimes wonderfully weird. And he’s fun. Some of his poems, and his book, Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard, are illustrated by the amazingly talented Chris Riddell, who did the fabulous pirate illustration to go with the poem at the end of the article. Here A. F. describes the three types of poem – and how to pass a poetry exam! 


The Three Types of Poem


There’s an old story I just made up about a woman who goes for a walk in the woods and discovers, there on the ground in the middle of the path, a carrot.

It’s an odd place for there to be a carrot, she thinks.

Carrots normally appear on plates, or in saucepans, or places like that… not on paths.

So she picks the carrot up and looks at it.

And it turns out it’s not a carrot after all, but a wolf-in-disguise.

And the woman gets eaten by the wolf and learns an important lesson.


‘Now,’ I say, ‘a poem is like the character in the story.’

‘But which character?’ the imaginary voice in my head asks.

‘Let me explain,’ I say. And I do…

Some poems are like the woman: they wander into the woods and they pick things up and look at them.

Some poems, on the other hand, are like wolves-in-disguise: they look like they’re going to be one thing, but they turn out to be quite unexpected. (Sometimes you, the reader, escape them, sometimes you end up inside them.)

And some poems are like carrots.


So, if you’re ever set a test or exam or quiz about poems, just take your answer sheet and write: ‘woman,’ ‘wolf,’ or ‘carrot’ in nice big, neat, clear handwriting and you’re bound to get full marks. Guaranteed. For sure.

There’s no need to thank me.


A following example poem, by me, is a carrot.





            The vegetarian pirate

has a carrot instead of a parrot,

which doesn’t make much sense

but is handy if he ever needs

a nutritious snack halfway through the day.


(Poem and illustration (by Chris Riddell) from Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard:


Posted in Poetry Videos

A Folly of Poets…

Here are the out-takes and boo-boos and some of the fun takes from a group of children’s poets who met earlier in the year to make some poetry films and do a poetry performance…

I give you, A FOLLY OF POETS, Ed Boxall, Liz Brownlee, Jan Dean, John Dougherty, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Trevor Millum, Eric Ode, Andrea Shavick, Roger Stevens, Philip Waddell, Celia Warren, and Bernard Young.

All the above poets have websites where the actual poem performance might or might not appear… but I can tell you, mine, Back in the Future, is on my site, here!


WIN the POETRY BOOKS Recommended for National Poetry Day!!!

Enter this competition to win a set of these wonderful new poetry books, all recommended for National Poetry Day:

Happy Poems by Roger McGough draws together a fantastic collection of upbeat poetry from the very best classic and contemporary poets; Apes to Zebras contains shape poems by favourite children’s poets Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee and Sue Hardy-Dawson, certain to entrance young readers; Rachel Rooney’s new collection A Kid in My Class features stunning illustrations by former UK Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, and every type of kid will find themselves in its pages; The Same Inside is a collection to encourage empathy, with poems covering friendship and togetherness, difference, tolerance, bullying, by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens; while The Song of the Dodo by Hilda Offen is a vibrant and accessible collection full of funny, thoughtful and surprising poems.

Plus, the prize package will also contain Poetry for a Change, the first ever National Poetry Day anthology. It features new poems by the National Poetry Day Ambassadors, Deborah Alma, Liz Brownlee, John Canfield, Joseph Coelho, Sally Crabtree, Jan Dean, Marjori Lotfi Gill, Chrissie Gittins, Matt Goodfellow, Remi Graves, Sophie Herxheimer, Michaela Morgan, Brian Moses, Cheryl Moskowitz, Abigail Parry, Rachel Piercey, Rachel Rooney, Joshua Seigal, Roger Stevens, Jon Stone, and Kate Wakeling. Each poet has chosen a favourite poem to share too, so you’ll also find classics as well as suggestions for further reading (and writing), making this a collection to enjoy all year round.

To enter email with the subject Poetry for a Change World Book Day NPD competition. The deadline is 14th September 2018.