This video was filmed for National Poetry Day 2015 – but is all about VISION as well as light. Bright Spark, written by Michaela Morgan and performed by Eleanor Trapp in John Lewis’ lighting department – thanks to John Lewis, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol!
Here is the first of my NPD poems – this one was especially written for NPD 2020 on the theme of Vision. It’s called Who Knows, and it is about an owl.
You can find this poem and many more on National Poetry Day’s website which also has downloadable educational resources. Print out all you like and stick them in your window or on your wall. My poem is there! And it’s not too late to share their toolkits, posters and lesson plans. To #ShareAPoem, take a picture for Twitter or Insta, tag #NationalPoetryDay.
Have a lovely National Poetry Day!
The brilliant thing about National Poetry Day is that it does not need to be covid-cancelled. Poetry lends itself wonderfully to showcasing using an array of online opportunities, and the day will go ahead on October 1st.
This year’s theme is vision – my poem on the subject is below, also available on the NPD website. I’m very proud to be a National Poetry Day ambassador, and you can see all the ambassadors here with their poems for National Poetry Day, too!
If you have a poetry event planned for any age, you can add it to the National Poetry Day events calendar.
Don’t forget you can book a poet to do a Zoom or Skype or other online event for National Poetry Day – including me!
Who knows what the owl sees
with its yellow planet eyes
shuffling moonlight in its feathers
under aubergine night-skies
who knows where the owl sees
hiding in the clambering trees
from the doorways of the leaves
who knows how the owl sees
as the scrambled ground protects
the taps of tiny heartbeats
where evening dark collects
who knows who the owl’s seen
when its vision paths its flight
passing like an exhaled breath
until lost inside the night
© Liz Brownlee
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.
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.
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.
Gerard Benson is one of my favourite poets who wrote for young people. He sadly died in 2014. Here is a link to one of his wonderful poetry books for children: To Catch an Elephant