Posted in Poetry in Education, Poetry Review, Poetry Teaching Book

Catalysts, by Pie Corbett: Review

Pie Corbett is an excellent poet – but he is also an excellent teacher of poetry and from poetry, and is a fount of imaginative teaching ideas that WORK to help children express themselves in poetry or prose. He created the Talk for Writing approach to learning, which is widely used in UK primary schools.

This is more than a manual for teachers – it is a book full of magic and wonder, it shines with Pie’s enthusiasm for poetry, teaching and inspiring children as writers – his dedication in the front to his wife states: “We have striven to develop storytelling, creative writing, art, music and dance. Our belief is that the creative arts bring joy, enhance who we are and how we live. The arts bind us together in our common humanity, helping us to take a step out of the darkness of ourselves and let in the light.”

I don’t really need to say any more than this book really is brimful of catalysts, laid out clearly with poems, ideas, examples, and instructions that are easy to follow – which will make Pie’s own triumphs with inspiring children’s writing replicable.

It’s a book I heartily recommend – not only to teachers but to poets, and anyone wanting to be a poet. Five stars from me!

Only available here: TalkforWriting

Posted in Radio Blogging

A Poem a Day During Lockdown, and RadioBlogging

Moments like the one above don’t come along very frequently – the first time Lola smelled a rose – she seemed to like it! Today I was on, and I read the poem below, all about fleeting moments, moments that are special and wonderful for a number of reasons, but which you cannot keep, bottle, retain… except in memory. And possibly, sometimes, if you are lucky, in a photo! I’m at 18:20 on the link if you only want to hear me reading the poem below, with an interview a little while afterwards.

If you haven’t come across then would encourage you to listen to the link above in its entirety – a wonderful daily show (from 9:30 am) full of interactive activities to keep everyone busy and engaged, with Pie CorbettDeputy MitchellIan Rockey and Russell Prue. It’s aimed at families and schools, it’s interactive, and children’s writing can be published during and after the show. It’s brilliant!

Here’s the poem – to be published in a new book coming out next year by Otter-Barry:


Things You Cannot Keep


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 warmth of a hug and its safety –

the moment when the sky darks for the stars.


© Liz Brownlee


You could write your own poem about things you cannot keep – there were some great suggestions on the radioblogging show, such as Hannah’s line, ‘your breath on a winter’s morning’, Onora’s line, ‘the shine of a rainbow in a the sky’, Lydia’s line ‘the white-pink blossom from an apple tree’, and Coco’s, ‘the crackle of rice krispies on my tongue’!

Don’t forget you can send me poems you have written, and maybe you’ll see them on this blog!


Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Day! Truth Poem from Pie Corbett

The third poem for this National Poetry Day comes from wonderful Pie Corbett – English educational trainer, writer, author, anthologiser and poet, who has written over two hundred books. He is now best known for creating Talk for Writing which is a teaching programme that supports children as storytellers and writers. He has supported children’s writing and children’s poets as well as the education of primary children for many years. His main collection is called Evidence of Dragons, illustrated by Chris Riddell and Peter Bailey, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.


I set out to seek the truth


Not knowing where to look,

I took the lane towards the fields

to see what time might yield…


as the knot grass

caterpillar moth

humps and bumps

along the fence,


for a second

at the wind’s touch;

then undulates

its rhythmic pulse

like a heart monitor;

its lean, stippled body

and soft bristles rippling,

as the whopper swan

flexes its neck,              stretches bridal wings,

open as blank pages           of frail feathers;

white washing-line sheets        take off in a flutter,

skimming the lake     with a clatter,

as the orb-weaver spider

tests each thread,

waits at the edge

to scuttle, seize and wrap

any unsuspecting fly

that passes by –

diamond specks of dew

freckle the leaves;

the web clings, glittering,

as kindly morning sun

warms the lane.

Early this morning,

while the sun set out at first light,

I sought the truth.

Not knowing exactly

where to look,

I took Farm Lane

towards the fields

to see where rambling

might take me.


The road ahead glowed,

blackberries polka-dotted hedgerows,

blackbirds broke the silence

and clouds scudded

through sheer blue above.


Truth blossomed with every step,

every stop to stare,

and there I found

that truth

was everywhere

I chose to look.


© Pie Corbett 2019  Photos © Nicola Stables


Thank you Pie Corbett for this fabulous Poem!

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Pie Corbett: Favourite Poetry Books

Seventh in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is Pie Corbett. He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. Pie is an English educational trainer, writer, author, anthologist and poet who has written over two hundred books. He is now best known for creating Talk for Writing which is a teaching programme that supports children as storytellers and writers. Pie is a wonderful and dedicated supporter of children’s writing and children’s poets.

Favourite Poetry books

The Magic Box by Kit Wright brings together all of his beautifully crafted poems for children. He is just at home being funny as he is when dealing with deeper emotions. It contains his classic poem ‘The Magic Box’ which always works as a catalyst for children’s writing. A must for every Key Stage 2 classroom.

Manifold Manor by Philip Gross is one of the finest poetry books written for children in the last 50 years. Each poem is a game and invites children into writing. Wonderfully crafted and richly imagined. Enter the Manor and play.

Poetry in the Making by Ted Hughes is an anthology of poems with extensive notes about teaching writing. As a teacher, this book helped me to understand how to teach children to closely observe the truth of experience and use words to capture and preserve their lives. Read this alongside his powerful Collected Poems for Children.

Collected Poems for Children by Charles Causley is rich with wonderful pickings. No one else writes quite like Causley, the master balladeer whose poems sound as if they are ancient folk songs sprung his own mythical world.

England – poems from a school edited by Kate Clanchy contains poems by secondary children from one school in a ‘challenging’ area. It shows just what should be bread and butter in every English department. This is the real thing – beautifully evocative poetry and should inspire every teacher.

Evidence of Dragons contains my own poems, many of which arose from writing with, alongside and for children. I hope that any teacher could take this book and find poetic ideas to use as a springboard into children’s own poetic responses.

The Mersey Sound has poems by Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough being playful, political and romantic. It was the book that first gave me the idea that I could write. It is of its time but I am grateful to the poems for helping me begin to find my own writing voice.

© Pie Corbett 2019


Posted in A to Z Challenge 2019

AtoZ Challenge; P is for Pie Corbett

Letter P in the Feast of Poems is fulfilled by Pie Corbett (link to Pie’s article on here about reading poetry in school). Pie is an inspirational English educational trainer, writer, author, anthologiser and poet who has written over two hundred books. He is now best known for creating Talk for Writing which is a teaching programme that supports children as storytellers and writers. He has supported children’s writing and children’s poets as well as the education of primary children for many years. Pie’s excellent and very popular main collection is called Evidence of Dragons, illustrated by Chris Riddell and Peter Bailey, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

Here is his lovely poem:


In the City


In the city of snow,
The silence smothered the citadel.

In the city of suffering,
A poor man became the author of statistics.

In the city of saxophones,
A silhouette of sound insinuated itself.

In the city of scales,
A piano played for justice.

In the city of scholars,
They taught the science of beauty.

In the city of serendipity,
A startled key stumbled across a frozen lock.

In the city of sarcasm,
Stern words sliced chasms of pain.

In the city of silences,
The soft-hearted were squashed.

In the city of sunsets,
A song stood still.


© Pie Corbett


If you would like to blog hop to another AtoZ challenge, here is a link.

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

Liz’s Blog: Liz Brownlee Poet

Liz’s Twitter:

KidsPoets4Climate Twitter:

Children’s Poetry Summit Twitter:

Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

C is for Children’s Poet and Educator Pie Corbett, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA


Pie Corbett

Pie Corbett is an English educational trainer, writer, author, anthologiser and poet who has written over two hundred books. He is now best known for creating Talk for Writing which is a teaching programme that supports children as storytellers and writers. He has supported children’s writing and children’s poets as well as the education of primary children for many years. His main collection is called Evidence of Dragons, illustrated by Chris Riddell and Peter Bailey, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.


Here is one of Pie’s fabulous poems:


In the Land of Possibility


In the land of possibility,

there is a swan’s final feather;

a fragment of the moon’s crust;

the final echo of a rainbow’s cry;

the gleam from a conker

when the shell cracks open;

a silence that was trapped after sleep takes over;

the secret of how clouds travel;

the stillness in an opal’s centre;

a spider’s web that has snared

a bee from the hives at the edge of the lake;

a thief’s subtle grin as he sneaks into a house;

the moment when two ideas clash together;

the sudden grating of a car’s brakes

juddering to a terrible halt;

a whip of sea spray gathering

in the wind on an ocean wide;

flames curling their sulphurous tongues;

snowflakes settling on pine trees

and a gobstopper made of honey.


©  Pie Corbett 2017

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You can hear more about children’s poets and poetry, if you follow The Children’s Poetry Summit, @kidspoetsummit on Twitter

Posted in Poetry in Education

Pie Corbett – Reading Poetry in School

Below, Pie Corbett has kindly written an article for us on reading poetry in school – and how to inspire a love of poetry in the listeners! I was lucky to have several good readers among my teachers, and can still hear one of them reading us The Listeners by Walter de la Mare, and remember the delicious goosebumps that the poem, and the reading of the poem excited. Pie has been a teacher, Head Teacher, lecturer and OFSTED inspector, is an author and poet – and a brilliant champion and provider of creative approaches in the classroom. 

Reading Poetry in School


Poems are experiences

Good poems are experiences and, like music, may not be readily understood. It is the conjunction between the sound of the poem, its music, and the meaning of the words that creates an effect. The poem creates echoes of meaning for each reader; words triggering memories, images, ideas and emotions. I remember years ago hearing John Agard reading Blake’s Tyger. A woman in the audience cried and later I asked her why. ‘It was like hearing the earth speak to me,’ she said.


Choosing poems

As a school, agree on and resource a poetry spine with key poets and poems for each term. Establish ‘poem of the week’ at Key Stage 1 and ‘poem of the day’ at Key Stage2 to ensure that children hear lots of poetry. For working on in class, first choose a worthwhile poem. Much of the poetry published over the last 20 years is easy to understand and whilst the poems might be fun to read, their impact will be brief. Poems for use in lessons should be worth spending time with; they have to earn their place. In The Works Key Stage 2, I collected all the poems that I would wish for in a class (organized by year group in the index). There are poems here that have bite and challenge. Look too at Bob Cox’s Opening Doors books for classic poetry with teaching ideas.


Read it aloud

To be experienced, the poem must be read aloud by both the teacher and, most importantly, by the children. Only through reading a poem can you feel the experience. The first encounter with a poem may be through a teacher reading to the class or putting the children into groups to prepare a choral reading. As the groups work together, they will naturally begin to try and interpret the poem, thinking about how it should be spoken. The key is to ‘vary’ – pace, rhythm, expression and volume in relation to meaning. Capture performances and create class CDs, film clips or perform for other classes or in assembly. We may never fully understand Tyger but we can have it by heart and love the mystery. Bring poems alive with great reading and do not be afraid to use percussive instruments to provide a simple backing or to use illustration or film to enrich the experience. Make the poem live. The more it lives, the more they will love poetry.



Discussion is essential as it is through talk that we may begin to bring into being what we think about a poem. Exploratory and tentative ‘Book Talk’ helps a class grow understanding and deepen appreciation. The teacher triggers the discussion with an open question such as, ‘what can we say about this?’. Then show an authentic interest in the poem and what the children say, relinquishing control over the meaning and helping the class focus and deepen their understanding. Coax out initial ideas, including what the class enjoyed or what the poem made them think about. Remember there is no ‘wrong answer’, just their thinking. If the comments leave the poem behind or become ‘wild’, get them to back up their ideas by referring to the poem.


Interact with poems

Help children dig under the skin of a poem, with some form of interactive activity. Try missing out the title– the children read the poem and then decide in pairs or threes what it might be called and provide evidence for their thinking. Cut up a poem by words, lines or verses and the children have to reassemble the poem. Omit key words from a poem, creating a cloze procedure, and the children have to fill in the blanks thinking about rhythm, meaning and style. Rewrite a poem as prose and the children have to put the poem back into lines, considering where each line or verse break might fall. Ask children to illustrate the key image from the poem. All these activities will encourage children to talk about and engage more deeply with the poem.


Write in response to poems

Try using writing as a form of response. Children could advertise a poem, write about the poem discussing likes, dislikes as well as what intrigued them. Some poems lend themselves to writing in role as a character or responding with a diary entry, letter or news item about a dramatic event. A key method that helps children appreciate a poem and to look and read more closely is through imitating the poem. Certain poems make this invitation obvious. Everyone knows Kit Wright’s Magic Box which always provides a skeleton for children’s own ideas.  A careful reading of his poem will stimulate possibilities and techniques to try out. Google Miroslav Holub’s The Door, read by Joseph Fiennes, which is another fabulous list poem. A more demanding model would be Philip Gross’s ‘Dreams of an Inland Lighthouse-Keeper.’ In the poem, different boats are created such as the boat made of stars. Here is a year 6 writing in response, taking up the invitation to create your own boat made of unusual materials.


The Boat made of Stardust


The boat made of stardust

floats over the echoing waves

As living stars

Jump on to the boat

Hitching a moonlit ride.

Celestial bodies

Are concealed

Under towering piles of

Silver and gold.

Delicate grains

Hide in cracks

In the floorboards of the boat.

Heavenly particles

Hang from cobweb threads

Like grotesque decorations.

Bejewelled stars

Glisten in the moonlit sky

And reflect on the

Silver studded surface

Of the boat made of stardust.


By L.E.R.-Y6


Other poems contain a poetry idea rather than an obvious pattern. For instance, Tyger can be viewed as a poem in which the writer talks to animals, asking questions. Here is an example of this idea used by another year 6 pupil.


Snail, snail, why are you so frail?

Snail, snail, why do you leave a silvery trail

Wherever you go?

Snail, snail, why do you carry your house

on your hunched back?

Snail, snail, why do you appear when it rains

And everyone else has gone home?


Don’t torture poems

The key to turning children on to poetry is to not be overly concerned about children totally understanding a poem. Good poems are not the same as sums. They do not always add up. But we can enjoy them in the same way that we can enjoy music without really understanding why. If you want to turn children off poetry then the simplest way is to read a poem to the class. Get them to find the 5 similes and the metaphor. Underline the verbs. Then answer 10 questions (which if you not get right then you fail). That is how to help children loathe poetry. The aim is to develop an inclination towards poetry with its joys of surprise, emotion, music and beauty. Try to avoid strapping a poem to a chair and thrashing a meaning from it with the implements of grammatical torture!


© Pie Corbett 2017