Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Brian Moses’ Favourite Poetry Books

Fifth in the series where I ask children’s poets for their favourite poetry books! They can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be their own. This week it’s thank you to wonderful, percussionist and poet and big supporter of all children’s poets and poetry, Brian Moses. Brian published my first ever poem.

A Desert Island Discs invitation from Liz Brownlee but children’s poetry books, not discs. Where to begin? What to select from the vast collection I’ve built up over the years. Well, this is how it stands at the moment.

Late Home by Brian Lee (Kestrel Books imprint of Penguin in 1976)… It’s an evocation of childhood, the sort of childhood that I had. The title poem looks at how time flies when you’re deeply involved in some childhood activity and then suddenly, you’re late, two hours late home.

I wondered just what had happened

To Time, for three hours in June:

If all my life is as happy –

Will it all be over as soon?

Walking On Air by Berlie Doherty (Lions Poetry, 1993) Berlie’s first (& only I think) collection of poetry and like Brian Lee’s book, it looks at childhood. Some classic first lines ‘Playgrounds are such gobby places’, ‘I went to school a day too soon.’ ‘Fishes are stars’. These are lines that intrigue and the poems that follow are wonderful observations. No filler here! A gem of a book.

Please Mrs Butler by Alan Ahlberg (Puffin 1983) Should be required reading for anyone starting to write poetry. The poems are a master class in how to use rhyme effectively & unexpectedly. ‘Dog in the Playground’ is a perfect read aloud.

The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East. selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, (Aladdin paperbacks, 1998). Couldn’t put it better than Karen Hesse in her introduction: ‘Under the ancient cadences, under the vibrant imagery lies a contemporary tension that flashes to the surface, bringing a strong, Middle Eastern light to shine upon the rubble wrought by today’s conflicts.” One I return to again and again.

Rabbiting On by Kit Wright (Lions, 1978). One of the first poetry books I used in the classroom. ‘Dad, the Cat & the Tree’ & ‘The Party’ (Dave Dirt’s poem) were requested over and over again.

Morning Break & Other Poems by Wes Magee (Cambridge University Press, 1989). Pie Corbett and I were big fans of Wes’s adult poetry collections and were excited when his first two collections for children were published. This is the one for older readers. Some wonderfully spooky stuff and also more sensitive material such as ‘Until Gran Died’ and ‘Tracey’s Tree’.

The Journal of Danny Chaucer (Poet) by Roger Stevens (Dolphin Paperbacks 2002). Must have been one of the first verse novels for children/young adults. Danny’s dreams of girls, guitars and rock ’n’ roll. Was also a radio play for BBC Radio 4 I believe. Great fun.

I was going to choose If I Were In Charge of the World by Judith Viorst too, but Eric Ode bagged that one first.

And I’m supposed to mention one of mine. Think it has to be Lost MagicThe poems that I consider to be the best ones I’ve written over the past 25 years. Published by Macmillan 2016. Believe in what you write, it’s advice I’m always handing out.

Thanks Liz, for making me think.

Brian Moses

Posted in A to Z Challenge 2019

#AtoZChallenge; F is for Fish Ventriloquist, by Brian Moses

Lovely Brian Moses (links to Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?) has been a professional children’s poet since 1988; he has over 200 books published including volumes of his own poetry such as A Cat Called Elvis and Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses , (both Macmillan and illustrated by Chris Garbutt), anthologies, and picture books. Over 1 million copies of Brian’s poetry books have been sold by Macmillan. His poem ‘Walking With My Iguana’ is one of the most listened to poems on the Poetry Archive. Brian has visited well over 3,000 schools to run writing workshops and perform his own poetry and percussion shows in the UK and abroad; CBBC once commissioned him to write a poem for the Queen’s 80th birthday! His website is here, blog is here, and Twitter is here.

This is the great poem Brian sent for the letter ‘F’ in the A-Z:

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Fish Ventriloquist

 

I wanted to be the world’s first fish ventriloquist,

so I searched and searched for the sort of fish

that might share the spotlight with me,

till somewhere near the Caspian Sea

I spoke with a cod who had found God

but all he wanted to do was pray with me.

In Yokohama I came across a shark

who had the sort of cut and thrust for showbiz life

but was more concerned with finding a wife.

I found a plaice with the most expressive face

but when I tried to put words into her mouth

she spat them out. I found an eel

whose personality was electric, but she was too much

of a shocker for me. I trembled every time I touched her.

I found a pike I liked immensely, but

he didn’t like me, spat in my eyes each time

I tried to handle him. There was a ray who I could pass

the time of day with and a monkfish had possibilities

till I discovered he had taken a vow of silence.

 

Then right at the end of my search when I thought

I’d be returning to puppets and dolls,

I found a fish that was perfect, but although I swam

with him, ocean after ocean, offered him money, fortune

and fame, his name in lights, a season in Vegas,

he stubbornly refused to be swayed.

 

People would have paid thousands for the illusion

of a talking fish. In a world where we celebrate

the sham and the fake, fish ventriloquism

could have been my big break.

 

© Brian Moses

 

If you would like to blog hop to another AtoZ Challenge post please follow this link.

Children’s Poets’ Climate Change blog: Be the Change

Liz’s Blog: Liz Brownlee Poet

Liz’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizpoet

KidsPoets4Climate Twitter: https://twitter.com/poets4climate

Children’s Poetry Summit Twitter: https://twitter.com/kidspoetsummit

Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

M is for Children’s Poet and Performer Brian Moses, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA

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Brian Moses

Brian Moses has been a professional children’s poet since 1988. He has over 200 books published including volumes of his own poetry such as A Cat Called Elvis and Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses (both Macmillan and illustrated by Chris Garbutt), anthologies such as The Secret Lives of Teachers and Aliens Stole My Underpants (both Macmillan) as well as picture books. Over 1 million copies of Brian’s poetry books have now been sold by Macmillan. His poem ‘Walking With My Iguana’ is one of the most listened to poems on the Poetry Archive. Brian has visited well over 3,000 schools to run writing workshops and perform his own poetry and percussion shows in the UK and abroad; CBBC once commissioned him to write a poem for the Queen’s 80th birthday! His website is here, blog is here, and Twitter is here.

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Brian is a kind and indefatigable supporter of children’s poets and poetry. Here is one of his fab poems:

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All The Things You Can Say to Places in the UK

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Always say ‘Ta’ to Leamington Spa,

say ‘Have a nice day’ to Whitley Bay.

You can shout ‘What’s new?’ or even ‘Howdo’

to inhabitants of Looe or Crew.

You can tell the whole story in Tobermory,

say ‘Hi’ to Rye and ‘Right on’ to Brighton,

or call out ‘Let’s go’ to Plymouth Ho.

Talk through your dreams in Milton Keynes,

say ‘It’s all for the best’ in Haverfordwest.

Always say ‘yes’ when you visit Skegness

but only say ‘No’ in Llandudno.

Don’t tell a lie to the Island of Skye

or say ‘It smells’ in Tunbridge Wells.

Don’t talk rude if you’re down in Bude

or start to get gabby in Waltham Abbey.

Don’t ever plead in Berwick on Tweed

or say ‘You look ill’ to Burgess Hill.

You could lose your voice and talk with your hands

when you take a trip to Camber Sands,

but whatever you say just won’t impress

the inhabitants of Shoeburyness.

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© Brian Moses

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Posted in Poet's Piece

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? By Brian Moses

Brian Moses is, as Poetry Archive says, “One of the nation’s favourite children’s poets.” He taught in schools for 13 years and has been a professional writer in schools, libraries, theatres and festivals for 30 years. In that time 3,000 schools across the country have been the thrilled recipients of his poetry and percussion shows (‘The Alternative 3Rs – Rap, Rhythm & Rhyme’) and his expertise as an inspired poetry teacher in workshops, where he uses a variety of percussion instruments to both underpin the rhythm of his words and to add atmosphere. 

He has also published over 200 books from publishers such as Macmillan, Hachette, Puffin, OUP, Collins, Longman,  Heinemann and  Frances Lincoln, and over a million of his poetry books have been sold by Macmillan Children’s books alone.

Brian is a generous and unfailing supporter of new poets, and he published my very first poem back in 2000, in A Sea Creature Ate My Teacher (Macmillan).

His first children’s fiction book Python has just been published by Candy Jar Books. His latest poetry books are The Waggiest Tails (Otter-Barry Books), written with Roger Stevens, and Lost Magic, The Very Best of Brian Moses (Macmillan), where you can read all his favourite own poems!

You can visit Brian’s website here, and his blog, where he writes about reading, writing and performing poetry here. You can follow him on Twitter @moses_brian.

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

“Where do you get your ideas from,” is the question I’m most asked when I visit schools. Occasionally a curve ball comes in like – “Have you ever been arrested’ from a 6 year old in Southend, or ‘Have you ever used a ouija board?’ – but more often than not it’s the way ideas are born that fascinates children. They look at me as if I have a secret to impart, and that if they could share it they’d never struggle to find ideas for their own writing again. I toy with the notion of telling them that I purchase my ideas from an ideas super- market or discover them in some online catalogue, but mostly I try to satisfy their curiosity.

I tell them that all writers are ideas detectives, that we’re always on the look out for something strange or different that might lead to a poem. There are, of course, very few new ideas, but there is always the possibility of taking an old idea and looking at it from a different angle. Think of fireworks, for example, and avoid the whizz, bang, whooshes. Write instead about the charred and blackened treasures pulled from the bonfire ashes next morning.

An idea, of course, is like a knock on the door. Ignore the knocking and whoever it is gives up and goes away. So with poetry, when an idea calls, I need to be ready to act on it. Whatever I’m doing, wherever I am, I need to capture that idea, to scribble it down on a scrap of paper, file it away in a notebook, talk it into a voice recorder. My family became used to me suddenly getting up from where we were sitting to hastily find something to scribble on. Quite often too , they fed me ideas, and it still goes on. My older daughter’s partner is training to be a stuntman and on a family holiday this year he told us that he still hadn’t fallen from the saddle of a horse. I was onto that straightaway – Still haven’t found a rainbow’s pot of gold/still haven’t discovered a cure for growing old. Still haven’t painted a new Mona Lisa/still haven’t straightened the Leaning Tower of Pisa.’

Often it is the things people say that get me thinking. I was in a school staffroom once where I discovered that six teachers were all telling each other what they wore in bed. It was an absolute gift and I made notes as they spoke which later developed into my poem ‘What Teachers Wear in Bed. Another time I heard a young boy ask his Mum, ‘Did pirates wear make up?’ I ended up with a poem all about a topsy-turvy world of pirates.

Perhaps the poem I’m most associated with, and the one that seems to be the most listened to poem on the Poetry Archive for much of the time, is ‘Walking With My Iguana’ – a performance poem involving drumming which seems to inspire children to perform their own versions. (Take a look on YouTube.) The idea behind this came from a meeting with a man and an iguana on a very hot day on Bexhill beach. The creature was called Ziggy and only came out for a stroll during summer heatwaves. I love finding out about things that sound as if they shouldn’t be true, but actually are. I wrote the poem very quickly and premiered it a few weeks later at the Edinburgh Festival.

Signs that I see in the street or glimpse by the roadside as I’m driving are often a source of inspiration. In Nottingham once, a department store were holding a ‘Monster Sale’ . Well, obviously that meant there was to be a huge clear out of unwanted stock but looking at it another way, it might just have easily have been ‘Buy one monster, get one free’. A poem and a book resulted from that. On another occasion I saw a sign for ‘Carpet Warehouse’.

Not a terribly interesting subject for children, but split ‘Carpet’ in two and it becomes something quite different – ‘car pet’. What would we find in a ‘Car Pet Warehouse?’ Maybe earwigs to keep in ashtrays or a hamster for the glove compartment. Perhaps a snake on the back seat to deter would be car thieves. The possibilities are huge.

In any book that I write there are poems that I hope will make children smile or laugh, but poetry, of course, touches every emotion and I always make sure that in my books there are poems to make children shiver, or think, or wonder, or maybe a little sad at times. I always include a selection of these in any performance I give along with the humorous ones.

Friends ask how do I keep coming up with fresh ideas. Surely, they say, you’ll run out of ideas one day? But it’s what I’ve done all my life, as a teacher for 13 years with year 6 in the days when you opened them up rather than closed them down, and then as a professional writer for the past 30 years. I’ve searched out ideas, both for my own writing and ideas to inspire children in the writing workshops I run on my school visits. A cat called Elvis moved in next door, Laika, the space dog, troubled me till I finally found the right words and the right mood, turtles in captivity, a white feather (from an angel?), stars, unicorns, snakes. Recently too, I’ve written to order, writing 30 poems in six months about space, sport, war, scary stuff, pre 1066 history and most recently dogs. That’s a real challenge, the final poems often wrung out of me in pure desperation as the deadlines loomed.

There’s another question I’m asked too by children who see themselves as writers of the future. ‘What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write?’ First of all, I reply, if you want to write, then write. Don’t talk about it, do it. So many people talk about writing a book one day but never do.

Secondly, keep a writer’s notebook. Write down what you see, hear, jokes people tell you, thoughts about strange situations, odd signs. It will, as time goes on, become a treasure chest of ideas to refer to again and again. I have notebooks going back many years and they still prove useful. Finally, train yourself to be an observer. Look, listen, note it down. Be receptive to anything and interested in everything. Spot possibilities. Be that ideas detective.

Brian Moses

A Pot of Poets?

A group of children’s poets met at Trafalgar Square Waterstones on Wednesday, to go on a poetry picnic… sadly, it was raining, so the event was taken to Festival Hall, and a fun time was had by all. There was chocolate. There was poetry writing. There was poetry chat! Thanks to Brian Moses for organising it, and for the photo! It’s hoped to make it a yearly event.

L-R: Laura Mucha, Liz Brownlee, Coral Rumble, Jan Dean, Jane Clarke, Roger Stevens, Phil Waddell, Brian Moses, and in front, Andrea Shavick and Clare Bevan. Oh! And Lola.