Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

A. F. Harrold: Favourite Poetry Books

A.F. Harrold is a children’s author and children’s poet who writes and performs for both grown ups and children. He can often be found in school halls pointing at children and sharing his poems, and even more often in the bath, thinking them up… His latest wonderful poetry book is Midnight Feasts, illustrated by Katy Riddell, and  Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard, illustrated by Chris Riddell is in my favourite colour.  A. F.’s Website is here and Twitter here.

Come Hither, ed. Walter de la Mare (1923) – a delicious and delightful anthology (obviously somewhat dated now!), made superbly special by de la Mare’s glosses, essays and unrelated rambles in the notes which make up a full half of the book.

Silly Verse for Kids, Spike Milligan (1959) – one of the few books I still own from my own childhood. The most memorable nonsense and wordplay, enlivened by Milligan’s own drawings.

The Gloomster, Ludwig Bechstein (translated by Julia Donaldson), illustrated by Axel Scheffler – just one poem, and not a particularly long one, but a beautiful melancholy-funny one. Scheffler and Donaldson’s magic continues to work, even here, in 19th century German poetry.

Cloud Busting, Malorie Blackman (2004), illustrated by Helen van Vliet – a verse novel that is moving, wise, not for aimed at older readers and actually made of poems for a reason. It’s about friends and being weird and loss and all the things books are about, and deserves to be read in one sitting.

If You Could See Laughter, Mandy Coe (2010) – a very fine poet, this, her first children’s collection, is full of poems firing off in all directions, sparky and lively and filled with a deft raft of poet’s-eye imagery. Good stuff.

Midnight Feasts, ed. A.F. Harrold (2019) – I put together this collection of poems all themed around food and drink because it was the sort of thing I wanted to read. I think it’s a good spread of delciousness.

A.F. Harrold.

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Shauna Darling Robertson: Favourite Children’s Poetry

Shauna Darling Robertson is 12th in my series of children’s poets asked to give a selection of their favourite children’s poetry books. Every poet is allowed 5-8 choices, one of which can be a book of poetry for adults, and one of which has to be their own. Shauna lives in Somerset. Her poems for adults and children have been set to music, performed by actors, displayed on buses, turned into short films, made into comic art, hung on a pub wall and published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Shauna also makes artwork and loves working with other writers, artists, musicians and film-makers to explore and play with poetry in different ways. Her website is here.

I usually try to side-step favourites questions because I find it really hard to narrow things down. So let’s just say that these books are a few, but by no means all, of my favourites. (I’ve deliberately left out books by my poet friends, otherwise things could get a tad awkward – like, Hey, how come you put their book on your list and not mine?).

The Book of Clouds by Juris Kronbergs, illustrator Anete Melece, translators Mara Rozīte and Richard O’Brien (The Emma Press)

This is a gorgeously quirky book with wonderful artwork. Translated from the original Latvian, it’s philosophical, playful and refreshingly original. These poems suggest that clouds have quite a lot in common with us humans and our thoughts and feelings. Then again, sometimes clouds are “summoned to discuss / things that have nothing to do with us.” Quite right too.

A Book of Nonsense by Mervyn Peake (Peter Owen)

Mervyn Peake had an extraordinary imagination, which he expressed in poems, stories, novels and illustrations. I love this collection because it’s both hilarious and deeply thought provoking. It’s also packed with absurd characters and bizarre scenarios, from aunts who live on moss to toast that’s far too full of bread.

New & Collected Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber)

I’ve always loved Carol Ann Duffy’s poems for adults but it was a while before I discovered her children’s poems. When I did, it was a revelation. These poems are complex and varied and intelligent and spirited and musical and touching and technically excellent and they gave me permission to try to write the kinds of poems for children I really wanted to write, the kind that don’t talk down to anyone and instead consider children as the sharp thinkers and deep feelers they are.

A Children’s Treasury of Milligan: Classic Stories and Poems by Spike Milligan (Virgin Books)

Spike’s a master at writing poems which, on the surface, seem light and funny, but dig deeper and there are some complex observations and ideas there. He’s also rebel and questions things that need to be questioned – but in a gentle way, not aggressively. And, while he’s famous for his zany humour, some of his writing is incredibly sad and tender too.

Everything On It: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein (Particular Books)

I would love to have met Shel, but sadly he’s no longer with us. He strikes me as an adult who could think like a child. Not childish, but child-like. He really knew how to inhabit a child’s perspective.  His poems are boundlessly playful and I love the way he combines them with his own artwork so that they dance a dance together in tandem, rather than starting with a poem and then illustrating it.

Just one favourite poetry book for adults to choose? Oh boy, now that’s tough. There are so many, but I’m going to go with…

Velocities by Stephen Dobyns (Penguin)

I love, love, love the American poet Stephen Dobyns but not many people in the UK know him so I’m on a one-woman mission to change that! When I do poetry performances I often read out one of his poems. This book includes one of my all-time favourites, called How To Like It. It’s about getting older and dealing with life’s changes and longings, and it had such a big impact on me that I copied the whole thing out (it’s quite long) in marker pen across my kitchen wall where it stayed for several years (it was a permanent marker). I loved having it up there because it became a real talking point every time friends came over (or the plumber).

And one of my own – well that’s easy since right now I only have one book of children’s poems (though I’m working on the second).

Saturdays at the Imaginarium by Shauna Darling Robertson (Troika)

My first book of poems for children will be published in spring/summer 2020. The writer Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” That’s kind of the focus of the book. It’s about championing the imagination, celebrating creative thinking, saying yes to curiosity (which I don’t believe kills cats) and revelling in the pleasure of looking at things ever so slightly slant. It’s also about daring to think for yourself – even if that means standing out from the crowd and feeling a bit different.

Shauna Darling Robertson

Posted in Favourite Children's Poetry

Philip Gross: Favourite Poetry Books

Number 11 in my series where I ask a well-known poet to choose some of their favourite poetry books is award winning poet, Philip Gross. He was asked to choose 5-8 books, one of which could be an adult collection, one of which had to be his own. The first book I read of Philip’s was Manifold Manor and I became an instant fan. Until recently he was Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. He is a Quaker, and that special relationship between words and silence informs much of what he writes; poetry for adults and for children. Off Road To Everywhere, illustrated by Jonathan Gross, was the winner of the CLiPPA (CLPE) poetry award 2011. His new book, Dark Sky Park, Poems from the Edge of Nature illustrated by Jesse Hodgson (Otter-Barry) is available here, and was also shortlisted for a CLiPPA  2019. His website is here.

This selection comes from the particular angle that is me. I guess everything here is a crossing point on the (supposed) border between children’s and adult poetry.

Charles Causley, Figgie Hobbin (1970)

This was the book that made it possible for me to write poetry for young people. Causley was a poet who wrote adult poems that could be intriguing to young people in the way that folk tales are… and, in this book, children’s poems that make adults stop and think –  deceptively easy to read, with a strangeness that lasts. 

T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939)

I’m not worried that much of the world these poems have such fun with is far away back in another century. Even writing from ten years ago is ancient history when you’re nine years old. What matters is the irresistible larkiness of the language, that makes yoy feel part of its world by sheer rhythms and richness of words. 

Helen Dunmore, Secrets (1994)

Such is the sadly late Helen Dunmore’s reputation as a novelist for adults and children, and as an adult poet, that it’s easy to overlook this slim, superb and subtle contribution to children’s poetry. It seems even more valuable now in this extraverted age as a reminder that young people have a right to rich interior lives.

Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, The Rattle Bag (1982)

The radical thing about this anthology, compiled by two great poets, was that it has no apparent order, no mission to instruct us or promote a particular style. They simply chose their favourite poems, mixed them up together and opened the doors to people of all ages, saying, Poetry is all of this, and more. Welcome in. 

Philip Gross, Manifold Manor (1989)

Some books come as a surprise even to their own writer, with the feeling that they’ve stumbled into an unsuspected small world and are simply discovering it. This was one of those. Incidentally it is a set of writing prompts and models, an invitation to join in, and a celebration of how our imaginations are haunted by real history. 

Charles Ghigna’s Dear Poet

Dear Poet, Notes to a Young Writer by Charles Ghigna – a Poetic Journey into the Creative Process for Readers, Writers, Artists & Dreamers popped through my letterbox just before National Poetry Day/Week.

The book takes the form of short numbered poems on all aspects of writing poetry – set out on a double page spread, the left-hand side the number title, the right-hand side, the poem. I love the feeling of light and space this gives for each poem to breathe inside your head. Here is one of my favourites:

 

1V

 

When in need

of the poem,

go write it.

 

But do not think

you are

needed.

 

There is no

need

for the poet.

 

There is only

need

for the poem.

 

© Charles Ghigna

 

I love this. The poet as an observer, recorder, describer. What you feel, see, understand, remember will be personal to you, the reader. There are many such observations throughout the book, the sum of a life well-lived in poetry. Recommended!

More information can be read in the spotlight on Charles Ghigna, here. His website is here.

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week Truth Poem by Zaro Weil

Zaro Weil lives in an old farm on a little hill in southern France, and her poetry for children has appeared in many anthologies. She has written several books including a book of children’s poetry. Her book Firecrackers, Troika, illustrated by Jo Riddellcan be bought here, and her book, Cherry Moon is available here! Zaro’s website is here.

 

Unicorn

 

Unicorn

don’t go

let me ask you

how long you’ve been here

 

please

no lies

 

© Zaro Weil

Thank you, Zaro, for this lovely poem!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week, Climate Truth Poem from Andrea Shavick

Andrea Shavick is an experienced UK writer with 27 books published including best-selling children’s picture books, funny children’s poetry and a biography of Roald Dahl that’s still in print around the world after 20 years! Her poetry book, Grandma was Eaten by a Shark can be bought here. For freelance writing/commissions please get in touch via Andrea’s website here.

Environmentally Friendly Haiku

To save energy

Not to mention trees and ink

I’ll stop writing now

 

© Andrea Shavick

 

Thank you for this fun climate truth haiku, Andrea!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week – Truth Poem from Julie Anna Douglas

Julie started writing poetry four years ago and she just can’t stop! Her poems have appeared in magazines like SpiderEmber Journal and The Caterpillar and Watcher of the Skies, an anthology of space poetry by The Emma Press.

.

What is Truth?

Truth is the mountains, the sea and the sky.

Truth is the answer when children ask ‘Why?’

Truth is the moment remembered for years.

Truth is the word which can stop or start tears.

Truth is the friendship where time always flies.

Truth is the photograph which never lies.

Truth is the thought that can cut through our fear.

Truth is not always what we want to hear.

.

© Julie Anna Douglas

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week Lie Poem by Trevor Parsons

Trevor Parsons was born in Parsons Green, London, but, disappointingly, was not the son of a parson. After studying dentistry at London University (he decided it was not for him) he had a variety of jobs including being a postman. He has written poetry since his postman days and for the last twenty years has written for children as well. He has had poems in dozens of anthologies and in 2011 had his first children’s collection, Hear Here (illustrated by Lucy Creed) published –  available here! He also writes poems for greetings cards. This is his website.

 

Lying Around

 

Lying on the beach

lying in the sun

lying on a lounger

lying having fun.

Lying by the water’s edge

lying in the foam

couldn’t go to school that day

lying ill at home.

 

Lying in department stores

lying, she was caught

lying in a cell before

lying in the court.

Lying to the magistrate

she was nowhere near the crime

lying she was on the beach

lying all the time.

 

© Trevor Parsons

Thank you for this excellent poem, Trevor!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week Lie Poem by Neal Zetter

Neal Zetter is an award-winning children’s author, comedy performance poet and entertainer. Most days Neal is found performing or running fun poetry writing or performance workshops in schools and libraries with children, teens, adults or families. He has worked in all 33 London Boroughs and many, many other UK cities. One of his Troika books for 6-13 year olds includes Yuck & Yum (A Feast of Funny Food Poems) illustrated by Scoular Anderson, with poet Joshua Seigal. More information is here. Neal’s Twitter page is here, and Neal’s Amazon Author page is here.

 

The Dog Ate My Homework

The dog ate my homework Miss
At breakfast time today
I managed to complete it first
I’m sure I got top grade
He suddenly felt peckish
In one gulp wolfed it down
I can’t hand in my homework
‘Cause I have a hungry hound

The dog ate my homework Miss
He shredded it to bits
Then munched it, crunched it, lunched it
Sent it to the dark abyss
It’s stuck inside his stomach
It nestles in his guts
I can’t hand in my homework
‘Cause my mutt has scoffed it up

The dog ate my homework Miss
I hate to break bad news
Preferred it to his dinner
And his biscuits, treats and chews
I’m begging you believe me
I’m telling you the truth
I can’t hand in my homework
‘Cause my pet’s a piggish pooch

The dog ate my homework Miss
It’s never coming back
My literacy, French, science
Art, geography and maths
He certainly is sorry
I hope you’re fine with that
But think I’d better warn you…
I also own a greedy cat

 

© Neal Zetter

Thanks for this funny poem, Neal!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week! Truth Poem by Jackie Hosking

Jackie Hosking’s favourite thing to do is write in rhyme and meter. Her second most favourite thing to do is walk amongst the Australian Bush. Her third most favourite thing to do is to combine the two. She also likes to copy other poets as she’s done in her picture book, The Croc and the Platypus, illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. (Only available in Australia or New Zealand, I’m afraid!) If you read it very carefully you’ll likely hear echoes of Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Jackie’s website is here.

Weather or not…

The polar caps are melting and the plastic‘s run amok
Our oceans all are drowning in a sea of human muck
There’s just no use denying that our planet’s slowing dying
And we need to change before we’re out of luck.

 

© Jackie Hosking

 

Thank you Jackie for this great poem all the way from the other side of the world!

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,

resting

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 National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Day, Climate Truth Poem by Liz Brownlee

Happy National Poetry Day everyone! Here is my National Poetry Day Truth poem, published last month in Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World, Macmillan.

 

Greta Thunberg

 

When the whole world is deaf

by greed and by choice,

how do you change things

with only your voice?

 

It’s hard to be noticed,

harder to be heard,

but she stood up and spoke,

could not be deterred.

 

What made them listen?

What cut through their lies?

Not the pollution

or the fast melting ice,

 

not the experts or science,

not hunger or flood,

not the extinctions,

our hands red with blood,

 

it was her steady gaze,

on our planet, alight,

her desperate calm,

her demand, make it right.

 

It’s what we’ll recall

of her fight for our youth,

her luminous words

her courage, her truth.

 

© Liz Brownlee

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week Lie Poem from Trevor Millum

Trevor is a writer and performer of short stories and poems for children and has published lots of other stuff too. His poems are widely published and anthologised. He is also an experienced workshop leader and is well known for his work on creativity and developing the use of ICT in English.  His website is here.

Lies

A lie
set free
like a fly
where will it settle
where will it go
will it mate
and reproduce
produce maggots
of untruth?

A promise made
Emerging like a butterfly
From its cocoon
Tests it wings
Takes flight
Settles… moves on…
Can it be trusted?

A reminder…
A buzzing fly
banging at the window pane
of your mind
flies off around the room
out of sight, out of mind
And returns
bangs against the pane again

An excuse..
Wriggling
Avoiding the light
A worm
Wanting the haven of deep dark soil
Away from the pecking beaks
Of close questioning

 

© Trevor Millum

Thank you very much for this great lie poem, Trevor!

Posted in National Poetry Day 2019

National Poetry Week, Climate Lies Poem from Dom Conlon

We continue today, the day before National poetry Day, with a climate lies poem from Dom Conlon. Dom launched onto the children’s poetry scene with Astro Poetica, illustrated by Jools Wilson, a collection of poems inspired by space and praised by Nicola Davies, Jon Culshaw, George Szirtes and many more. Since then he has been published in magazines and anthologies whilst performing and teaching in schools and libraries around the North West. He’s a regular guest on BBC Radio Lancashire where his poetry covers everything from the universe to grief. Dom’s work can be read here.

There is no new land to discover

 

The law passed in the year

twenty-it-doesn’t-matter

making it illegal to make anything

which could not biodegrade

but change came too late

they’d already climbed into the plastic bath

and cut it loose from the plumbing

plug plugged in taps stopped

as the latest flood

licked away the wall like a stamp

sending them out through the town clutching

each other like loofahs

but all we found all we have of them now

is the rubber duck

squeaking its parched cry over a sea of bags

whispering in the wind of days out days shopping

days caught below a storm filled with gossip

of how the world does not need saving.

 

© Dom Conlon

 

Great Climate Lies poem, Dom, thank you.