Today I am posting a shape poem about the blue whale – which is not the same whale as Jackie Morris’ beautiful illustration of an orca!
Blue whales are are protected but are still threatened – primarily by climate change affecting their food source, krill, collisions cause by boats, and getting entangled in fishing nets.
It is the largest animal on the planet, weighing as much 20 elephants or so. Their plaintive calls make them the loudest animal on earth, even louder than a jet engine, but you can’t hear it out of the water as the sound waves are too large to be carried in the air. It is thought that their call is probably used to attract other blue whales.
In the 1960s the robin was voted to be the UK’s favourite bird – and in 2015 it again took top prize, when more than 224,000 people took part in the National Bird Vote – 34% of them voted for the robin. The next two favourites were the barn owl and the blackbird.
The robin is not endangered – it is a clever, friendly, common bird that has adapted to living in most habitats. It cannot however deal with very harsh winters – so if climate change means that we see more snow, and periods of very cold temperatures during the winter months, this may change.
Here is my robin poem – I wondered what advice the robin might have to other birds to become the number one choice!
The brown hare is relatively common in many parts of the UK, but relatively rare in the south west. It has a species action plan under the UK Biodiversity Action plan, but unfortunately, it is one of two species in the UK which has minimal protection because it is considered to be game, and can be shot all year round.
Hares live above ground, unlike rabbits, and forage in the early morning and evenings. Their young are left in a shallow scrape in the ground all day, relying on their camouflage, and the mother hare comes back only once or twice day to feed them.
National Poetry Day’s theme this year is the environment.
For me, today is giraffe day – below is my giraffe shape poem. you don’t tend to think of giraffes being endangered. And giraffes were mostly not endangered in the 1980s – but in some areas since, their numbers have dropped by a staggering 95%, which leaves two species critically endangered, one endangered, two vulnerable, one near threatened, and only ONE species of least concern.
Why? Well, habitat loss is a large contributing factor. Where giraffes used to range, their land is being converted into ranches and farms – roads are being built to these, and giraffes are run into by cars. Some people make a living by burning trees the giraffes eat to make charcoal to sell.
Wildlife trafficking and poaching has increased due to civil war – people are killing giraffes to eat, and selling parts of them for goods made from bone – such as knives and gun parts – much of which is shipped to the United States.
Giraffes are also falling prey to disease due to inbreeding, as there are fewer places for them to live and fewer giraffes to choose a mate from. Drought, because of climate change, is also making giraffe habitats smaller.
A few weeks ago I went up to the Centre for Learning in Primary Education library, a very wonderful and special place, to be filmed reading some of the poems from Being Me, and to answer some questions. Here is one of those questions – how I go about writing my poetry.
Being Me, Poems About Thoughts, Feelings and Worries, by me, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, Otter-Barry Books, has been shortlisted for CLiPPA 2022 (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award). This is a huge honour and we are thrilled.
Being Me was written in consultation with leading developmental psychologist Karen Goodall, and is illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler. This is what CLPE has to say about it:
“A collaborative anthology between three poets and an artist, singing together in harmony. Concern for the child and quality of the word is absolutely at the forefront here: these well-crafted poems articulate with skill and care a wide breadth of complex emotions and situations that may well be familiar to children, but they may not yet have the language to describe.
This timely collection strikes balance between difficult issues and hope, without the latter ever feeling forced or patronising. It is now more important than ever for children to be in touch with their emotions and to share with them the tools to help express and navigate them, which this collection performs brilliantly. Articulate, empathetic, and invites profound connection between poet and reader.”
Also shortlisted was the wonderful Val Bloom, with Stars With Flaming Tails, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, also published by Otter-Barry Books, in a hat trick for Otter-Barry Books, Matt Goodfellow was shortlisted again with his lovely poetry book for younger readers, Caterpillar Cake, illustrated by Krin Patel-Sage, Kate Wakeling for Cloud Soup, illustrated by Elina Braslina, published by The Emma Press, and Manjeet Mann with her verse novel The Crossing, published by Penguin, beautifully and poetically interweaving the lives of two teenagers, one a boy refugee from Eritrea, and the other a girl in Britain struggling to come to terms with the loss of her mother.
Good luck to everyone at the award ceremony, which will be on July 8th at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall!
It’s National Poetry Day today – the most exciting day in the poetry calendar, and I’m so proud to be a National Poetry Day ambassador, to let everyone possible in on the secrets of poetry. This is the poem I have given NPD this year on the theme of ‘CHOICE’.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice – we have to get up and go to school or work to learn or earn money, we have to eat each day to stay healthy, and we need to clean our teeth every day to keep our smiles in working order.
And sometimes it feels as if we don’t have any choice – perhaps we feel we need to say we like something we don’t because most people do like that thing, or we must behave in a certain way because we will be thought uncool if we don’t.
This poem is about choosing to be you – are there things about yourself that you feel others might not approve of? Do you care? Do you worry about it? How does that make you feel?
Here’s the poem in words instead of the shape of the nightingale:
Do you read the back, and choose something that sounds exciting, soothing, or interesting?
Do you look for books on a certain genre you enjoy, such as mystery, humour, adventure, detective, or horror?
Do you go by the cover, and choose a book which you want to pick up, which makes you glad or excited just by the illustration or design?
Do you open books at the first page and see if they grab you?
There are as many ways to choose a book as there are types of book to read, and no way is incorrect. But perhaps one day you could try a different way of choosing – take a recommendation from someone, pick up the first book you see with a cover you love, even if it isn’t one you’d normally read, or try a mystery if you mainly pick romance.
Here’s my poem about what you might find in a book – can you think of any books you have read that fit one of the verses?
In the Heart of a Book
I found myself a story
with a place in me to store it
I found myself a wide, new world
so set off to explore it
I found a scary monster
plus the way to banish it
I found a pool of sadness
and the strength to manage it
I found the dragon in my soul
learned the way to tame it
I found a new ambition
a path to take and aim it
I found a way to rest my head
while my worries all unplug
I found a curl of comfort
where each word was a hug
I found a web of wonders
things I dream about at night
I found a pair of magic wings
and flew into the light
From Being Me, Poems Abut Poems About Thoughts, Worries and Feelings, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, May 2021
National Poetry Day is on Thursday this week – the theme is CHOICE. Today I have a poem about choosing words!
How do you choose just the right word for a poem? Do you use the one you first think of? Sometimes that IS the correct word – poem lines should be easy to read and use direct language.
But if you read the poem as a whole, and notice a repeat, or realise a word doesn’t express precisely what you were trying to say – or think of another word that is alliterative and makes the poem more interesting to say out loud – then it can be changed.
For our Book launch, we asked a few young people to read some of the poems from Being Me, which they did beautifully. Here is The Quiet Child, by me, read by Polly, from Being Me, Poems About Thoughts Worries and Feelings, Otter Barry Books.
Are you a teacher? Do you have a class you’d like to introduce to female and male historical heroes – via shape poems?
Are you free at 9:30 am on the 22nd of April?
Are you a shape poem fan?
If so. come and find out how penicillin was discovered (by being messy!), why Shakespeare is so loved, who invented the first sliced loaf of bread, or the system known as the Socratic method still used to solve crime today, and hear why Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on that bus!
There are 20 female and 20 male heroes in the book, and many of the poems will be read by their authors – me, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, John Dougherty, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Jan Dean, Cheryl Moskowitz, Chitra Soundar, Dom Conlon, Shauna Darling Robertson, Kate Wakeling, Laura Mucha, Myles McLeod, Suzy Levinson, and Penny Kent – all hosted by Gaby Morgan, Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books
At the same time as the readings, you will also see the wonderful shape poems themselves!
Opportunities to ask the poets questions included, FREE!
In fact the whole event is free, get your tickets here:
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!