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 A to Z Challenge 2019

AtoZ Challenge: N is for Now That I Really Think About It by Shauna Darling Robertson

Shauna Darling Robertson’s 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 lovely website is here.

This is the fabulous poem she has sent for the Poetry Feast:

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Now That I Really Think About It

 

My friends all say I think too much.
I think they could be right.

I think my way throughout the day
and think myself awake at night.

Outside, I think of ways back in.
Once in, I think things out again.

I chat with John and think of Jane.
In rain, I think about the sun.
When Jane comes round, I think of John.

At school I think of going home.
When home alone, I think of friends.
If blue, I think of red or pink – it never ends
and now I’m thinking hard about
how much I tend to think.

I tell all this to Jane, she says,
your brain must have a kink.
But John, he looks me in the eye,
asks why I think so much.

I think about it deep and long,
then round and square
and down and up,
then left and right
and like and such

I really make a meal of it
but think it’s best I don’t reveal
the reason that I think I think.
(I’m not sure how I feel.)

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© Shauna Darling Robertson

 

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Posted in A to Z Blog Challenge 2018

D is for Children’s Poet Shauna Darling Robertson, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA

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Shauna Darling Robertson

Shauna Darling Robertson was born in Northumberland in 1968 and now lives in Somerset. She’s had lots of different jobs over the years but none have involved either jazz or maths (this sentence will make much more sense once you’ve read the poem below). 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.

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Here is one of Shauna’s great poems:

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HERE’S A LITTLE JAZZ NUMBER

 

Jools the jazz saxophonist

longs to be an accountant.

 

But belongs to a family

of maestro musicians.

‘No son of mine,’ moans Dad,

‘is going to be a number cruncher.’

‘Maths?’ hoots Mum. ‘Don’t

be daft, son. Music’s far more fun,’

as she tunes her harp

for the hundredth time

in half as many days

(Jools did the sums).

 

Jools is a family asset, a one-in-a-million

capital saxophonist. He’s also top-brass

on trumpet, keyboard, drums, bass,

but needs to face up

to his ache to deduct,

divide, round-down, subtract.

 

These are taxing times –

Jools tours the world

and drowns in applause

from adoring fans.

He watches them, bored,

and counts their hands.

 

Reckoned up, Jools has penned

ten thousand, seven hundred and forty four autographs,

appeared on

two hundred and twenty six television chat shows,

and blown his horn in

a trillion towns covering seventy-six per cent

of all credit-rated countries.

 

But here’s the rub –

 

jazz sax

isn’t filling his cup.

He just wants to sit at a desk,

adding up.

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© Shauna Darling Robertson

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#NationalPoetryDay Poem by Shauna Darling Robertson

NO UNAUTHORISED VEHICLES

(poem for a sign on a gate)

 

So authorise my vehicle.

Then rubber-stamp my car.

I’m done with steering oh-so-near,

I long to motor far.

 

But every time I venture out,

I’m halted by a sign:

Keep Out. Be Gone. Just Go Away.

This Road is Mine, All Mine.

 

But sir, it’s you who’ve made this

the road where I must go,

by putting up your tempting sign –

the one that tells me, NO.

 

 

© Shauna Darling Robertson