Posted in Be the Change

Be the Change – Some Poems Performed by the Poets!

Hello! Today, Matt and Roger and I are launching Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World in performance – brought to you from lockdown in Manchester, Bristol and somewhere deep in France… we are wondering whether to do some lesson plans for other poems in the book, if you’d like that, could you get in touch so we can gauge demand?

So – without further ado – the poets perform!

Hope you enjoyed that!

Many poems have little tips at the end for ways in which young people can help save the planet with small, achievable actions.

The book is available here on Amazon, (also available on Kindle), and here from an independent book shop.

Review: Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow

Bright Bursts of Colour, Matt Goodfellow, Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, pub. Bloomsbury.

I knew I’d love this book, having seen a few sneak peeks, and I did. I didn’t want to start reading because then I knew I’d get to the end and would regret not being able to read it for the first time again. 

Matt has provided a book with bright bursts of his ability to illustrate the essential with the everyday, his sense of humour with the absurd and poignancy with poems that contain a planet-full of empathy.

Many moods, many colours, many laughs – everything you could possibly want in a poetry book, in a range of styles. I enjoyed every single poem. This book is very much recommended. I insist you buy it right now.

Two poems to illustrate Matt’s range below – one that made me laugh, and one that made me cry!

 

A Special Badger

 

I’m a special kind of badger

in a special badger den

writing special badger poems

with my special badger pen

learning special badger lessons

in a special badger school

earning special badger kudos

for my special badger cool

wearing special badger badges

saying badgers are the best

passing special badger interviews

and special badger tests

drinking special badger coffee

from a special badger mug

but my special badger problem:

 

I am actually a slug

© Matt Goodfellow

 

Strest

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when he came down the slide

too fast in Year 5

and broke his wrist.

Miss couldn’t believe it;

he even smiled and waved

to our class across the playground

when Mr Smith drove him off

to hospital.

 

Charlie never cries

 

not even

when his gran died –

he was back in school

the next day

said he was fine,

he’d survive –

but you could see it

in the shadows

of his eyes.

 

Charlie never cries

 

but when it was time

for the reading paper

we’d

revised

revised

revised

for,

Charlie sighed

flicked through the pages

for ages

put his pen down.

Miss appeared at his side

saying try your best, Charlie

it’s just a test, Charlie

and he looked over at me

and I swear I could see

right inside his mind

and it was dark

and he was hiding

shoulders shaking

and he knew

he couldn’t do

what they wanted

him to do

however hard he tried.

 

And I’ll never forget

the day of the test,

 

the day

Charlie

cried.

 

© Matt Goodfellow

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Laura Mucha: Favourite Poetry Books

Laura Mucha worked as a face painter, studied flying trapeze, philosophy and psychology, and swam in Antarctica before becoming a lawyer. Now she spends most of her time playing with words. She is extraordinary fun to know and I can guarantee that in any room, you will always know where she is by the laughs. Laura’s poetry has been published in books, magazines and newspapers around the world, and she’s performed on BBC Radio, at festivals and in schools. In 2016, she won the Caterpillar Poetry Prize. Laura’s book about Love – Love Factually  is non-fiction, and her debut collection is due out next year. You can read and listen to some of Laura’s poetry here.

Heard It In The Playground by Allan Ahlberg.

I’ve been reading a lot of his picture books lately and wanted to check back in with his poetry so I re-read this collection. Child-centred, witty and technically brilliant. Boom.

Everything All At Once by Steven Camden.

I’ve been reflecting on what makes a good collection recently and have concluded that an original and authentic voice plays a huge role. Steve Camden has that totally nailed. This collection feels like he climbed into the minds of KS3 students and articulated their inner workings via poetry.

Plum by Tony Mitton. A classic. Read it.

Selected Poems for Children by Charles Causley.

Predictive spelling keeps changing his name to Charles Casually – and I wonder whether there’s some truth in that. His poems seem so effortless that it feels like they just popped out of him while he brushed his teeth or washed the dishes. I wonder whether he spoke at all times in perfect metre and rhyme.

A Kid in My Class by Rachel Rooney Rooney is a whizz with words and, as always, combines insight with technical rigour in her most recent collection. Combine her words with Chris Riddell’s illustrations and you have a stonkingly good book.

Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson I don’t understand how Hardy-Dawson’s brain works, but I love it. She creates sketches, doodles and sculpts with words and crafts poems I wish I could write.

The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship by Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee and Matt Goodfellow.

Brilliant poems looking at important themes written by exceptional poets. What’s not to like?

Dear Ugly Sisters by Laura Mucha I’ve read this about 1,526,927 times now and I’m sick of it. It comes out next year but I never want to read it again. Please don’t make me.

Laura Mucha

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Matt Goodfellow: My Favourite Poetry Books

Tenth in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Matt Goodfellow. One of my favourite writing companions, Matt and I have written two books together, with Roger Stevens. He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Matt is a poet and National Poetry Day Ambassador. His most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), and Be the Change, Poems to Help You Save the World, written with me and Roger Stevens. His solo collection is Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. Matt’s website is here.

Some of Matt’s Favourite Children’s Poetry Books:

Wallpapering the Cat by Jan Dean (Macmillan). Jan is a stupendously brilliant writer, up there with the very, very best. Funny, clever, thoughtful, playful, weird and honest, this is a collection that showcases her poetic talents. Seek it out – and anything else she has ever written.

Evidence of Elephants by Gerard Benson (Viking). This book contains one of my all-time favourite poems, ‘River Song’ – you can find footage of Gerard reading it aloud in his fabulous voice here. By all accounts a brilliant story-teller, actor and all-round good egg, as well as poet, it is a big sadness of mine that I’ll never get to meet the great man.

Snollygoster and other poems by Helen Dunmore (Scholastic). Helen Dunmore’s death was a huge loss for poetry. I first started reading her poems when I was just starting to dabble with writing my own – and this book was one I read over and over again. She was a beautifully gifted writer.

I Had a Little Cat by Charles Causley (Macmillan). Causley wrote so many brilliant poems over the course of his career and this book has got them all! Not really much more to say other than if you are interested in poetry for children, this is one of the important foundation stones you must have in your collection.

If You Could See Laughter (Salt). I love this book. Mandy has such an interestingly elegant way with words and a unique viewpoint on the world. It was immediately clear to me when I first read this book that here was somebody with a special talent. Having met her quite a few times, I can also confirm she is as splendid a person as she is a writer!

Plum by Tony Mitton (Barn Owl Books). To put it simply, I think Tony Mitton is a genius. I recommend you read anything that has his name on it!

Black Country by Liz Berry (Chatto & Windus). This book, written for adults, was recommended to me by my good friend, poet Dom Conlon. Dom has excellent taste and the second I dipped my toe into this rich collection I knew I was going to love it.

Chicken on the Roof by Matt Goodfellow (Otter Barry). I s’pose I better also recommend one by me! This is my most recent solo collection. I hope on reading it you’d find simplicity, depth, sadness, silliness, laughter, warmth and love. Lofty ambitions, eh?

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week Climate Truth Poem from Roger Stevens

Roger Stevens is a National Poetry Day Ambassador, a founding member of the Able Writers scheme and runs the award-winning website www.poetryzone.co.uk for children and teachers. Roger (link to 3 Simple Steps to Perk up your Poems) has published 40 books for children. His book Apes to Zebras – an A to Z of Shape Poems (Bloomsbury), written with Sue Hardy Dawson and Liz Brownlee, won the prestigious NSTB award in 2018. Recent books include  I Am a Jigsaw; Puzzling Poems to Baffle your Brain (Bloomsbury 2019) and Moonstruck; an Anthology of Moon Poems (Otter-Barry). This poem is from the Tricky Questions, Talking Points section of the just published Be the Change; Poems About Sustainability (Macmillan) written with Liz Brownlee and Matt Goodfellow.

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Getting to the Truth

Some people say
drinking cow’s milk is bad
For one thing
cows expel huge volumes
of greenhouse gasses
which contribute
to global warming

They say
Drink almond milk.
Almonds are good for you.
And they are.
Very good for you.

But it turns out
that nearly all the world’s almonds
are grown in California*
where there are often droughts
And did you know that
in California
it takes
six thousand litres of water
to produce one litre of almond milk?
That’s BONKERS!
And farmers are ripping up
healthy citrus groves
to meet the rising demand
for almond milk.

Oatmilk seems to be a better alternative
But the whole point is this.
Don’t always accept
what you read on a label.
or what people tell you.
Don’t always believe what you read
in the papers
or see on TV
or on the internet
If you really want to help
Just dig a little deeper
Try and get to the truth

*around 80%

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© Roger Stevens

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Thank you for the poem, Roger!

 

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week – Truth Poem by Matt Goodfellow

Matt Goodfellow (links to What Poetry Offers in the Classroom) is a poet and National Poetry Day Ambassador. His most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), written with Liz Brownlee (me!) and Roger Stevens, and his solo collection, Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. His new book, Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World, written with Roger Stevens and Liz Brownlee (me, again!), is out now. Matt’s website is here.

 

Walk

the mown path
through the park
sparkles with dew
which stains the tips
of these too-tight shoes
and way way up
in the stillness
of the blue
passengers
sip cardboard teas
suck boiled sweets
lean back in their seats
and know nothing
of me
down here
on my last walk
to school
© Matt Goodfellow
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Thanks for this lovely poem, Matt.
Posted in Be the Change

Be the Change – Poems to Help you Save the World!

It’s out today! This is a ‘heart’ book. Written with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, this is a book that took a lot of our care and research and love of the planet to produce. It’s for those children who are worried about the things they are hearing about climate crisis, and feeling powerless. It gives them things to do to help.

There is information, there are talking points, springboards for discussion about fairness and tricky climate problems, and hopeful poems about climate successes, too. Poems to cover nearly all of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, poems about toilets, tomatoes and glitter, people, plastic, and paper, whales, weather and windmills.

Perfect for all young planet protectors!

Posted in A to Z Challenge 2019

#AtoZChallenge; G is for Matt Goodfellow

Matt Goodfellow (links to What Poetry Offers in the Classroom) is a poet and National Poetry Day Ambassador. His most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), written with Liz Brownlee (me!) and Roger Stevens, and his solo collection, Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. His new book, Be the Change, Poems about Sustainability, written with Roger Stevens and Liz Brownlee (me, again!), is out in August. Matt’s website is here.

Matt sent this beautiful poem from Chicken on the Roof, saying: “I wrote it for my mum, who died nearly 20 years ago, as a reminder to her, and myself, that memories live on. I hear and see echoes of her wherever I go.”

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Still There

 

I see you near the river,

half-extinguished by the mist.

 

I see you in the summer fields

where dandelions drift.

 

I see you through the stubble plains,

autumn at your back.

 

I see you on the skyline

when night is winter black.

 

I follow you down shadow-lanes

where memories still pass.

 

I walk within your footsteps,

haloed in the morning grass.

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© Matt Goodfellow

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If you would like to blog hop to another AtoZ Challenge, 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 Poet's Piece

Matt Goodfellow: What Poetry Offers in the Classroom

Matt is a good friend who, following one career as a primary school teacher in Manchester, England, is now a fellow full time children’s poet. He’s also a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation. His acclaimed debut collection, Carry Me Away, illustrated by Sue Hardy-Dawson, was released in 2016 and his most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), written with me and Roger Stevens, and Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. His website is here.

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Matt Goodfellow: Poetry in the Classroom

As a poet who spends much of his time working in schools to raise the profile of poetry, I’m often asked many different versions of the same sort of question: ‘What can poetry offer in my classroom whilst I’m under extreme pressure to get children to achieve ‘age related expectations?’

Well, to put it simply: freedom. And the ability to engender children who WANT to write. A space away from the pressure. Speaking as a former primary teacher who worked in a Manchester school for over 10 years (5 of them as a Y6 teacher), I’m acutely aware of the current curriculum and, in my opinion, its damaging constrictions.

The pressures put on schools by the government to get an increasing percentage of children writing at a standard dictated by them, regardless of children’s starting points, year on year, can often mean that stressed out teachers and classes write extended piece of writing after extended piece of writing desperately trying to satisfy the curriculum’s insatiable appetite  for clean, cold grammatical features that someone has decided demonstrates ‘good writing.’

Now, I’m not saying this happens in all schools, but I have seen classrooms where creativity and freedom have pretty much disappeared by Year 6. But, boy, do the kids have thick writing portfolios to show the Local Authority moderator.  It’s a difficult balancing act.

Ok, so poetry. Due to its mercurial nature, nobody is able to pin-down what poetry actually is – because it is a million and one different things and more – and for this reason, all of those government-imposed ideas of what a ‘good’ piece of writing looks like come crashing down. There is no ‘check-list’ for things a poem must contain. It can’t be forced into a box. Good news, eh?

Well, not in some schools, I’m afraid. For this very reason, lots of schools will marginalise it, knowing it won’t hold much sway in the end-of-Year 6 writing portfolios – again, I’d like to reiterate that I’m not saying all schools are like this, and nor am I assigning blame to beleaguered teachers trying to meet targets in order to move up the pay-scale. I’ve been there.

So, how can poetry provide freedom? Well, as well as being free from all of those horrible grammatical constraints, it’s actually a space where children can write about thoughts, feelings and ideas about their lives in their own words. To steal a phrase from Michael Rosen, children can ‘talk with their pen.’ They can use their playground voice, the one they can’t use in other bits of writing; the voice they talk to their mates and their families with; the voice that they think with. And they can tell the truth. Or they can lie. Or they can do a bit of both! Find a poem you like, talk about it, perform it, act it out (so much drama has disappeared from some schools) – expose them to all different kinds of poems – let them know some are funny, some are sad, some are strange, some aren’t clear, some are nonsense – just like us! Make poetry visible in class. Have poetry books around.

A great starting point for me is what I call ‘tag-line’ poems (I may have nicked that name from someone!). Start off with a phrase and then ‘tag-on’ the rest of the line – and always try to allow the class to tell the truth. Those of you working regularly in schools will know how intimidating it can be for some children to be told to ‘use your imagination’. Here are a few verses of a ‘first-go’ at a poem that a Y4 child I worked last year came up with. We’d used one of Michael Rosen’s ideas, creating ‘what if’ poems – and this child had gone out at lunchtime and innovated, creating a brand new one. Telling her truths – in her own voice:

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only I

know how nervous

I get before a test

 

only I

get to hold

hands with my

dad

 

only I

imagine being

a shooting star

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Fancy that, not a fronted adverbial in sight!

 

Matt Goodfellow

 

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.

Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

G is for Children’s Poet Matt Goodfellow, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA

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Matt Goodfellow

Matt Goodfellow is a poet and primary school teacher from Manchester, England. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation. His acclaimed debut collection, Carry Me Away, illustrated by Sue Hardy-Dawson, was released in 2016 and his most recent collections are The Same Inside (Macmillan 2018), written with Liz Brownlee and Roger Stevens, and Chicken on the Roof  illustrated by Hanna Asen (Otter Barry 2018). He still spends two days a week working as a primary school teacher; on the other days he visits schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. Matt says he wasn’t supposed to be a poet, he was supposed to be a rock star – but he was awful at music! His website is here.

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Here is one of Matt’s gorgeous poems:

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Gone

 

She left last week for another school

somewhere out near Hartlepool.

I didn’t cry, I played it cool –

now I wish I hadn’t.

 

Deleted photos, mobile number,

left her standing there to wonder

why I slipped her arm and shunned her –

now I wish I hadn’t.

 

They made her cards and sang along.

I wouldn’t, couldn’t sing along.

Swallowed words, held my tongue –

how I wish I hadn’t.

 

© Matt Goodfellow (from Chicken on the Roof – Otter Barry Books)

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