Posted in Poetry Review

Colin West: Barmy Ballads

When my children were little, picture books and poems by Colin West were great favourites; along with books by David McKee and Quentin Blake, Colin’s books are the ones I can remember fondly. The words I had fun reading on multiple occasions if not every day, the ones the children laughed at time after time, the pictures they enjoyed poring over.

So it felt surreal when Colin sent me his latest manuscript, Barmy Ballads, to read. Colin is truly masterly at combining fantastic nonsense with his hilarious images, and to sum up, this is what I sent for the back cover – Barmy, brilliant and absurd – Colin West‘s mastery of witty improbabilities in rhyme, combined with the quirky charm of his illustrations, makes this book irresistible.

You can buy it here.

Posted in Poetry in Education, Poetry Videos

Why We Love Poetry – a Video!

As part of the Bristol Poetry Festival one year I was asked to provide a poetry exhibition for young people. This expanded with the aid of an Arts Council Grant I applied for into a family exhibition. I decided it would be great to include all my poetry friends who had met recently and produced a poetry book. Poems and illustrations by the poets from that book were enlarged and exhibited on the walls.

I also wanted to include shape poems and so we also wrote, found and shaped other poems, and this was a great success.

Hanging from the ceiling on mobiles were reversible poems – they could be read upwards and downwards.

My husband (a film editor in his work-life) and I interviewed, chose and directed children from ITV Television Workshop to learn and read poems written by the poets, and these performances were intercut with poetry films we had made of all of us at various meetings. These were shown on two screens with headphones, one for older children and adults and one for younger children.

There was a two-sided giant jigsaw puzzle which everyone had fun doing and then reading – we even had timed races to see who could build it quickest.

The best thing was the giant magnetic poetry, on three giant magnetic boards set at different heights. This nearly finished me off – making it was very time consuming, but it still survives and it’s a wonderful prompt for poetry writing. No-one could resist picking up the pieces and playing with the words – which is what poetry is, basically.

It was so easy to find a poem on the boards from a little play and it encouraged expansion of the original words into many, many poems written on the tables, illustrated sometimes, and hung on the poet-tree. Our youngest poet was three and our oldest – well, very old. She was excited to learn that poetry did not have to be about ‘special subjects’ but could be about anything, and set off home to write more. Even if it was just that one lady, it was  worthwhile endeavour… but it was a whole lot more than that.

If anyone wants to employ us with this exhibition any time, let us know! The 250 feedback forms were wonderful, full of praise and delight, and the only lament was that perhaps there would never be another.