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

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. 

Posted in Poetry Book Parade

Everything all at Once, by Steven (aka PolarBear) Camden

 

How FABULOUS to be able to review a young people’s poetry book written for above primary age.

These poems speak directly in an authentic teenage voice, with humour and insight, giving voice to the complex, anxious, insecure and serious feelings that face all teenagers. And the exciting ones, too! Steven Camden, AKA Polarbear is by reputation (I regret that I have not seen him!) an excellent spoken-word poet, but these poems live on the page as well as they would in the mouth.

Some of the poems are almost unbearably poignant. As I read it I could feel myself going hot and cold with remembered angst; but also sadness at many of the new challenges our young people face nowadays.

It also made me laugh out loud. This book and these poems are well overdue, there is so little that is pertinent and specifically for this age-group. Very much recommended, teachers.