Lovely Laura Mucha has made this wonderful film – do share it everywhere! Go to the film on YouTube and click on the share button to copy the link. Children all over the world saying thank you to key workers – poem by Laura.
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 RadioBlogging.net, 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 Radioblogging.net 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 Corbett, Deputy Mitchell, Ian 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!
Oh, Sue Hardy-Dawson. I was waiting for another book from Sue, and it arrived through the post a little while ago – but I didn’t want to post a review until I had read it all, and really, it takes a while to read and notice all the details, the metaphor, the wordplay, the delicious words, the beauty within Sue’s poems.
And to make the perfection whole – Sue’s own illustrations – which of course exactly complement the poems.
This book has everything you could possibly want from a poetry book and lot of more besides, which you could never dream of wanting, because Sue’s imagination is rich and wild and free and unique.
Order it now and step into Sue’s world – you won’t regret it. Here is a small sample. If I Were Other Than Myself, Troika, Sue Hardy-Dawson.
Funny poems a day resuming soon – I fell over and hurt myself and have taken a few days to rest! All fine, now!
Lorraine Mariner is Number 21 in my series where I ask a well-known poet, or lover of children’s poetry, to choose some of their favourite poetry books. Lorraine is an Assistant Librarian at the National Poetry Library, Southbank, working among one of the most comprehensive children’s poetry collections I have seen. Yes, I am a little jealous. She has published two poetry collections for adults with Picador, Furniture (2009), and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014), and has a pamphlet, Anchorage, forthcoming this year with Grey Suit Editions. She has children’s poems in Dragons of the Prime, an anthology of dinosaur poems from The Emma Press (2019) and Midnight Feasts an anthology of food poems edited by A. F. Harrold, Bloomsbury (2019), and had a poem shortlisted in the excellent 2019 YorkMix Children’s Poetry Competition.
Enid Blyton’s Treasury of Verse (Purnell, 1979)
When I spotted this on the shelves of the National Poetry Library and saw the field mice on the cover my heart leapt with joy. I had this book as a child and loved it. Enid Blyton just has the ability to write stuff for kids that’s addictive.
Plum Pudding : Stories, Rhymes and Fun for the Very Young by Margaret Mayo (Orchard Books, 2000)
We regularly use rhymes from this book at our under-5s session at the National Poetry Library, you can’t go wrong with them. “Splishy-Sploshy Wet Day” always cheers me up on a rainy day.
The Noisy Classroom by Ieva Flamingo (The Emma Press Children’s Books, 2017)
The Emma Press is doing great work translating the best European children’s poets into English. This book was a revelation to me in my own writing for children; here is poet really writing for kids in the digital age about the loneliness and pressures being constantly connected can bring.
The Bubble Wrap and Other Poems by Dean Parkin (Smith/Doorstop, 2017)
I had no idea my friend Dean Parkin could draw until he published this book. Funny and touching poems from “Granddad in Goal” to the magic of Spagnets.
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012)
I’ve bought this book for many of the children in my life. Beautiful photographs and stellar poems from classic and contemporary poets make this a total winner.
Poems from a Green & Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz (Hodder Children’s Books, 2019)
And this is a new anthology I’m now buying for all the children in my life. Again, a wonderful mix of classic and newly commissioned poems celebrating the natural world.
Is that the New Moon? : Poems by Women Poets collected by Wendy Cope (Lions Teen Tracks : 1989)
Aimed at teenagers, I actually read this anthology in my early twenties and it introduced me to the women poets who have come to mean so much to me. Looking through it again I see that many of the poems have stayed with me and are among my favourites.
Tell Me the Truth About Life : a National Poetry Day Anthology : 100 Poems That Matter (Michael O’Mara, 2019)
And this is another great anthology for getting to know poets and poems. Lovingly curated by Cerys Matthews it features poems nominated by Britain’s poetry readers (some quite famous ones) and includes a poem of mine.
Paul Cookson has visited around 4000 schools, libraries, festivals, front rooms, written and edited over 60 titles – including the best selling The Works – and has sold over a million books. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador. Everton Football Club commissioned a poem for their season ticket campaign and the Everton Home poem which can be found online; it has been played on the big screens at Goodison Park. His collection The Very Best Of (Macmillan) contains many of his signature poems. His new collection for younger children, There’s a Crocodile in the House is reviewed here. Paul’s website is here and his Twitter here.
THE MERSEY SOUND – ROGER McGOUGH, BRIAN PATTEN & ADRIAN HENRI
Like many of my generation ( yes, I am that old ! ), this was the first book to switch my poetry light on. Poems that didn’t look like the poems we had to read at school, poems that were funny and ordinary – in short poems that made us think we could do it too. Roger McGough has always been one of my very favourite poets – whether for children or adults – and these days I still look forward to any brand new releases. This is where it all started. Just wonderful.
THE LUCKIEST GUY ALIVE – JOHN COOPER CLARKE
Even though this is a recent publication I’m going to put this next as chronologically John was the first poet I ever saw perform live – supporting Be Bop Deluxe at Preston Guildhall. I’ve loved his work and style ever since. If Roger was the first poet to make me want to write poems then John was the first poet who made me want to perform them. And I think his work is now stronger than ever. Not for kids – but brilliant!
NICE AND NASTY – STEVE TURNER
This was a large format collection of poems. I lent my copy to a French girl and she never returned it … so I don’t have the original anymore. But I remember the simplicity, fun and wordplay – and have followed Steve ever since. Short poems are fun / you can tell at a glance / whether you like them or not.
UP THE BOO AYE SHOOTING POOKAKIES – MIKE HARDING
Always a fan of Lancashire folk singer and comedian I bought this collection and “The Singing Street” from his mailing list. “Up The Boo Aye …” was a sumptuously presented colour collection of mad children’s poems! So much fun. “The Singing Street” was black and white , illustrated, with poems about childhood and growing up. Both had a profound and inspirational effect on me over the years. His poems for adults are stunning too.
FALLING UP – SHEL SIVERSTEIN
I love the look of these books – they are spacious where the poems and pictures have time to breathe. I hate cluttered books. There is fun a plenty – crazy rhymes and wordplay and stuff that just makes me smile. I could have picked any one of his books but this is a cracker.
COLLECTED POEMS – GARETH OWEN
Salford Road, Den To Let … and more. Poems I wish I’d written! I love the wry humour and conversational tone that Gareth infuses into his poetry. There is warmth and nostalgia, humour and pathos. Everyone should have this collection – it is that good. And our love of Everton ( and poetry ) made us friends – mostly Everton though!
THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL – BILLY COLLINS
A few years ago I went to the Festival Hall – mainly to see Roger McGough – but Billy Collins was there too. And I loved his work there and then. Somewhat ordinary and understated there is a profundity lurking that catches you unawares. He captures moments majestically and magically. Simple, straightforward, yet with hidden depths – poetry we can understand.
THE VERY BEST OF PAUL COOKSON
I’m tempted to go for my latest collection – “There’s a Crocodile In The House” ( your latest is always a favourite ) – but I’m going to go for my VERY BEST OF because of the range of poems therein. As a performer who like to make audiences laugh you can get stereotyped as “that funny poet” ( and I love that, I really do! And I think funny poems are very much under rated – often by people who can’t write funny poems to be honest! ). But this collection has a real variety of styles, genres, subjects and emotions and poems that I’m really proud of. If you want laughs and joining in – well, go for “Crocodile”!!
Mums to admire, mums to entrance, mums who fuss and some football-mum chants – every type of mum, even a dad who’s a part-time mum, is within these poems from Justin Coe.
This lovely book is the partner to his popular Dictionary of Dads, published by Otter-Barry in 2017.
Children will enjoy finding the poetry version of their own mum in these pages, and schools will certainly never be without a great poem for Mothers’ Day – there’s a good range of styles, personalities and aspects of motherhood covered!
Recommended. Here’s a taster:
Mum gave me fun and gave me laughter.
She gave me all the things I asked for,
and trips and treats.
I gave her… nits for Christmas.
When I felt scared she helped me flourish,
when I was ill she gave me courage.
When I had troubles
she gave me cuddles.
I gave her nits for Christmas.
So while she gave without a limit,
her heart and everything within it,
I brought the louse
into the house.
I gave her nits for Christmas.
The advice she gave she gave with love.
I gave her lice that sucked her blood,
eggs that hatched
and made her scratch.
I gave her nits for Christmas.
There were other gifts. I gave her germs
and once I gave her bottom worms.
She thanked me – not,
but to top the lot,
I gave her nits. FOR CHRISTMAS.
© Justin Coe
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
Charlie never cries
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
Charlie never cries
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
flicked through the pages
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
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,
© Matt Goodfellow
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:
When in need
of the poem,
go write it.
But do not think
There is no
for the poet.
There is only
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!
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.
Bernard Young is an experienced professional poet and performer who leads writing workshops for children and adults. Bernard’s poems have been broadcast on local and national radio and feature in numerous anthologies of poetry for young readers. His speciality is primary school age. Here is a link to his new book, What are you Like? And here is a link to his website.
And here is lovely poem Bernard sent for the Poetry Feast:
Would a best friend
Eat your last sweet
Talk about you behind your back
Have a party and not ask you?
Would a best friend
Borrow your bike without telling you
Deliberately forget your birthday
Avoid you whenever possible?
Would a best friend
Turn up on your bike
Give you a whole packet of your favourite sweets
Look you in the eye?
Would a best friend say
Sorry I talked about you behind your back
Sorry I had a party and didn’t invite you
Sorry I deliberately forgot your birthday
– I thought you’d fallen out with me?
And would a best friend say, simply,
© Bernard Young
If you would like to blog hop to the next AtoZ Challenge, please 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
Cheryl Moskowitz writes for adults and children. She loves going in to schools to get pupils, teachers and parents writing their own poems – a film of her poetry residency at Highfield Primary School is wonderful viewing on her website. Her popular collection of poems about home, school and everything in between, Can It Be About Me?, illustrated by Ros Asquith, is published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books. Her website is here.
Here is a wonderful piece by Cheryl about poetic inspiration.
Starting with Firsts
Remember all your firsts? Of course you do. First taste of a mushroom, first sight of snow, first pet dying, first hold of a new born baby, first poem you ever wrote? Maybe you don’t remember these things exactly, but there is something about the first time we do or experience anything that goes inside us and stays there, not just as a memory but as a feeling, a sense, a quality, a je ne sais quois. That is because our first encounter with people, things, places and experiences is usually more heightened than similar ones that come after. These internalised moments, these ‘firsts’ let’s call them, are what shape us from the very moment we’re born and keep on shaping us – they are also what make up the well that poets draw from when writing their poetry.
Life deals its fair share of firsts, some will be awe-inspiring (the first time we see a rainbow) some wonderful (the first time you win a prize) and some desperately sad and difficult (the first time you have to move away from a home, a school or a country that you love). In truth, almost every day, each of us will experience at least one new thing we have never experienced before. Even if it is only the fact of being one day older than the day before.
Not every first experience will inspire a poem but the ones that really matter, might. I would encourage any budding poet to take note of those moments as they happen. Write down what you notice, and how it makes you feel, even if the feelings are a little bit sad. I love this poem by the Canadian poet Alden Nowlan, in which a father expresses his pride at how his son has managed his first real experience of loss by writing a poem.
Look! I’ve written a poem!
and hands it to me
and it’s about
his grandfather dying
last summer, and me
in the hospital
and I want to cry,
don’t you see, because it doesn’t matter
if it’s not very good:
what matters is he knows
and it was me, his father, who told him
you write poems about what
you feel deepest and hardest.
© Alden Nowlan
Article © Cheryl Mokowitz
Chrissie Gittins is an award-winning poetry writer for children and adults, and also writes short stories and plays. Her poems have been widely anthologised and animated for Poetry Pie and CBeebies on TV. Not only has she been visiting schools as a poet for over 20 years, she has written 5 children’s poetry collections. Now You See Me, Now You…, illustrated by Gunnlavg Moen, and I Don’t Want an Avocado, illustrated by Kev Adamson, were shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award. Her latest book is Adder, Bluebell, Lobster, illustrated by Paul Bommer. Her website is here.
Are Children Ever Too Young For Poetry?
I live next door to twins – Billie and Milo. When they were three years old I discovered that Billie called her dollies Baby Door and Baby Floor. This begged for a poem. I wrote ‘Billie’s Dollies’ and took a copy next door to show her. The family had visitors and I was asked to read/perform the poem to them all. There was much laughter.
Milo also wanted a poem. He is mad about leaf blowers and asked if I would write a poem about a leaf blower, which I did. Their parents framed both poems and hung them on the wall in their bedroom. Just before they got into bed they would say the poems together. Before they could read them they would run their fingers along the lines as they remembered them. They enjoyed the rhymes and could pick out their names and recognise repeated words. After their parents left the room they would say the lines to each other.
I’m so pleased that I contributed in a small way to the twins learning to read, and to their enjoyment of poetry.
‘Milo the Leaf Blower’ will appear in the anthology ‘Poems Out Loud’ published by Penguin in September 2019.
Billie has two dollies,
Each dolly has a name,
One dolly is called Baby Door,
The other one’s called Baby Floor.
Billie throws Baby Floor to the ceiling,
Then she pushes Baby Door to the wall,
They all look out of the window,
Then Billie shouts ‘More! More! More!’
They all go into the garden,
Where the dollies are planted in soil,
Soon the two beautiful dollies,
Become Four! Four! Four!
© Chrissie Gittins
Milo The Leaf Blower
Milo is a Leaf Blower,
He blows every single leaf,
They spin and twirl and hit the ground –
He catches three leaves in his teeth.
The golden leaves lie in a pile,
They cover Milo’s nose,
No matter how much Milo blows –
They pile up on his toes.
Milo blows and blows the leaves,
The orange and the red,
But if the wind blows North to West –
They pile up on his head!
© Chrissie Gittins
Forward Arts Foundation provide EXCELLENT free resources for teachers for National Poetry Day – I can’t emphasise enough how fan-dabby-dozy-BRILLIANT they are. All you have to do is download them from here. What are you waiting for?
I first met Eric Ode (pronounced ‘Odee’) in poetic circles on Facebook, and very soon fell for his warm, droll and upbeat personality. Eric is not only an educator and well-published poet performer, he writes his own songs and performs with his guitar. I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Eric this May, where I had a chance to get to know him and his lovely wife Kim when we got together with a group of children’s poets and did a performance. It was hilarious and at some point I will post one of Eric’s songs from that recording. Here is a link to one of Eric’s lovely books, Sea Star Wishes, and his website. Below, Eric expounds on ¿Que Es La Palabra?
¿Que Es La Palabra? (Or “Why Writing Poetry is Like Spending Three Weeks Learning Spanish in Guatemala)
Okay, that was hard. I’ve just wrapped up my first full week of Spanish classes at a cooperative school here in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala. My first visit to this wonderful country. Five days a week of one-on-one instruction, five hours each day. I’m still too overwhelmed to create poetry here. Frustrating. I’m surrounded by amazing sights and sounds and people that should inspire BRILLIANT poetry! But maybe I can concentrate enough to create a short list – some commonalities between learning a new language and writing poetry. So here we go!
FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS CAN BE… DIFFICULT? CHALLENGING? ARDUOUS?
Of course with a new language, we can fumble around with vocabulary we do know, and, with the help of our pocket dictionary and some frantic hand motions, we’ll get by. But with poetry, there’s no alternative to knowing precisely the right words. It is poetry, after all!
BELIEVE THERE’S A DESTINATION
People ask me why I’m studying Spanish. Truthfully I don’t know. I have no end goal. But I do believe that when we open ourselves to opportunities, opportunities reveal themselves – opportunities we could not have foreseen. So in the end, these studies will lead to something wonderful. I’m sure of it! Likewise with poetry, we might approach the blank page with little idea of what will come of our efforts. But, poco a poco, the poem will reveal itself, again often arriving as nothing we could have imagined.
TAKE TWO STEPS FORWARD…
It’s never just forward momentum. Language learning? We can expect that, by the next morning, we’ll have forgotten much of what we were so certain we’d learned. And with poetry? We’re frequently tearing apart what we had already so carefully built. Of course the beautiful thing with poetry is that we’ll be rebuilding into something even better – something closer to the ideal poems we have in our dreams. Which leads us to…
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
It’s Guatemalan Independence Day today. I was trying to tell my host mother how much I enjoyed “la parada” this morning. Wait. Parada is “stop,” NOT “parade.” Sigh. But I digress! The parade? I had no idea. I was enjoying a coffee in a small café when the school marching bands began their enthusiastic procession down the narrow cobblestone street. I stood in the doorway with the café’s waitress, and we watched and listened and talked about the schools and the children. Absolutely a treat! Writing poetry is often like that. We’re scribbling away, when suddenly wonderful, unexpected metaphors and images parade right in front of us.
Do you want to enthuse your pupils with a love of words and give them ways of expressing themselves and extend their vocabulary at the same time as giving them a fabulously entertaining day?
There is one way to do this – invite a poet in to your school to read, perform, excite, enthuse, inspire and do workshops with them!
In the tabs at the top of the site is an A-Z of poets working in schools. Most are working in this country. Have a look! There may be one near you… including me!