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’.
I Choose Poetry
The softness of the lemon in a primrose
the nodding of a bluebell from a bee
the silence in the gaps of a bird’s song
the library of the creatures in a tree
the plumping of a plum in the sunshine
the crazy path an ant left in the grass
the fleeting blue-pink-orange evening
the moment when the sky darks for the stars
the tingle in the thrill of the music
the bounce of the branch as bird flies free
the smell of the earth rise in the rainfall
the things I keep by choosing poetry
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:
hidden in the heart
of darkling leaves
he doesn’t care
as all the
he sings to the sky
song of them all
How do you choose your books?
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.
Here’s my poem about choosing words for a poem!
Place to match the pattern with no seams
Or to clash with a dissonance that pleases
Use no jam that sits stickily on the tongue
Slice them with a scalpel, make them bleed
Hurl them, leave an outline on the paper
Breathe them gently into being to goose-bump skin
Keep some grounded but pin others to the sky
Feather all so together they form wings
Then read your poem out, and let it fly
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!
I thought I’d post some poems about books – this one is inspired by Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay. I hope it makes you want to read it and then recommend it to others!
How do you view pandas? As chubby cute bears that chomp bamboo all day? Well, prepare to be surprised:
This poem is about a leafy sea dragon!
Hello again! It is still National Poetry Day – if you haven’t seen the video of the poem I wrote especially for NPD, as I am a National Poetry Day Ambassador – see the entry before this on the home page!
I was also asked to choose a poem to go with mine, and this is the one I picked. The magical The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House, by Thomas Hardy.
The day of deliciousness for poets is nigh and getting nigher. National Poetry Day’s theme this year is vision, and I have a few poetry films to share up until the day.
In fact they are all bird poems.
Today it is the Curlew – the curlew is a rare and getting rarer sight, in fact it has just been declared endangered in the UK.
Hope you enjoyed that.
The National Poetry Day website is FULL of poets and poems and lesson plans and posters and general poetic delightfulness if you’d like to visit and find something to see or use on National Poetry Day.
On International Poetry Day I produced a video of films about animals for a school – here’s one of the poems from that!