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

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