Young people often ask me how did I start out as a poet. Well my first job was a librarian, but I was interested in poetry from an early age and writing all the time. Then I started out running occasional poetry workshops and readings as part of my job of librarian. Then I became a part-time librarian and a part-time poet. The last place I worked as a librarian before becoming a full-time poet was Beverley Library. 25 years later I found myself today performing my poems to children from St Nicholas Primary School at Beverley Library as part of the East Riding Festival of Words. We also wrote two group poems with guitar accompaniment. One was a poem celebrating the school and the other was all about Halloween. It was great to return to Beverley and it brought back a lot of happy memories. Thanks to everyone who I worked with today.
I hope you have all had wonderful holidays. Teachers will be thinking about going back to work, planning a few lessons, probably. I hope you will be thinking about some poetry orientated lessons for National Poetry Day, which is coming up on Thursday 4th October. If you need a little help, there are some FREE LESSON PLANS and other resources for National Poetry Day on the NPD website.
The theme this year is CHANGE. There are some poems about change on the NPD website here: https://nationalpoetryday.co.uk/poems/change-poems/
I still have some availability that week, if you want me to come to your school to perform and run workshops, but contact me soon to avoid disappointment.
This is a poem of mine that I have recently written on this theme, which might be suitable for KS2 and above to read and discuss.
us playing bat and ball,
my daughter and I,
under an ever changing sky
(sun – clouds – sun)
for year after year.
We played on this familiar beach
with those bats, and that ball,
which I’ve now passed on
to a couple of friends with a son
still young enough to have some fun
my daughter and I,
(she being grown up
and busy busy busy)
had left them for I don’t know how long
among the cobwebs in memory’s forgotten cupboard.
to see them being used again.
In May a group of poets got together and recorded some videos of our work. Thanks are due to Liz Brownlee for organising it and to Pete Brownlee for recording and editing the videos.
This is me performing my poem, Love Is Blind:
This is the out-takes from all of the videos:
I’ve done a lot of work over the years in schools promoting the Road Safety message using poetry. People ask me how does that work? Well, the Road Safety officers of the council block book me and then make the arrangements with a number of schools where they want to get the message across about things like crossing the road carefully, riding a bike wearing a helmet, encouraging adults not to speed (20 is plenty)… I visit with the Road Safety Officers and we have a fun time with a serious theme. Examples of some of my poems that I use for these kind of workshops are on my Road Safety Poems page, but we also get children to write and perform their own.
I’ve had 2 such weeks in June funded by Durham County Council and I have another in September. So far I’ve visited the following Durham and Barnard Castle primary schools: Finchale, Framwellgate, St Godric’s, Blue Coat, Green Lane, St Mary’s RC and Montalbo Nursery and Primary School.
It was such an enjoyable time with great work from the pupils and enthusiastic teachers. We produced some particularly good class poems with music accompanied by guitar.
As part of this block of work, I also performed and led a workshop at a Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSO)* event at County Hall in Durham, with pupils and teachers from 12 Durham schools, officers from Durham County Council, the Mayor and Ron Hogg (the Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary). It was a fantastic celebratory event of the work of the JRSOs over the past academic year. We split up into 3 groups with 20 JSROs from the different schools in each. A Road Safety Officer facilitated each group, and 3 group poems were produced in under 30 minutes and then performed at the event. The standard was excellent.
* Schools nominate a minimum of two Year 5 and 6 pupils to be junior road safety officers for their school. Their job is to spread road safety messages by running competitions, speaking in school assemblies, creating noticeboards and organising campaigns. (https://www.durham.gov.uk/article/6548/School-road-safety-schemes)
I’ve recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Eric Ode (ericode.com), an American singer/songwriter and poet. I knew he’d be the perfect person to read my poem “Wanted Alive: New Teacher For Cowboy School”. This poem appears in my new book, “What Are You Like?”. I think he has done an excellent job for me. Thanks, Eric! I thought it would be a good one for the theme of National Poetry Day this year, which is “Change”. National Poetry Day is on Thursday 4th October 2018.
If you click on the orange arrow in box below, you should be able to hear Eric reading my poem with his wonderful cowboy drawl.
On 22nd May, the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack, I am looking forward to a day of creativity with E-ACT Blackley Academy to celebrate everything great about Manchester.
I’ll be performing some of my poetry to the whole school at the start of the day, then working with Reception children to compose poems celebrating Manchester.
In the afternoon I will be with a group of KS2 children and the plan is to write a school poem celebrating Blackley Academy itself.
Our thoughts will, of course, be with all of those who were affected by that awful event.
I Love Manchester CC-BY-SA Transport Pixels https://flic.kr/p/arpsFZ
Bees CC-BY Duncan Hull https://flic.kr/p/XRyGmV
National Poetry Day, your chance to enjoy, discover and share poems you love, will take place on Thursday 4 October 2018. This year’s theme is Change: use it to start thinking about your celebrations now. Maybe you would like a poet to visit your school and help things along (if so, contact me)? For more information about National Poetry Day and useful resources see: https://nationalpoetryday.co.uk/
Here is a poem of mine for people who are thinking they might like a change of career. This poem is in my new book of poems for children ‘What Are You Like?‘.
Career Opportunity: Knight Required
Are you brave, honourable
Do you like wearing metal suits
and enjoy being called Sir?
Then this could be the job for you.
Your duties will include
wielding a sword, jousting
and clanking about.
Preference will be given
to those candidates
who come equipped
with their own warhorse and squire.
If you think
you’ve got what it takes
turn up for an interview
and show us what you can do.
NOTE: Candidates will be left to fight
it out amongst themselves.
Castle Management accepts no responsibility
for loss of life or limb.
I had the pleasure of meeting Christina Gabbitas at the Between the Lines Children’s Literature Festival in Sheffield on 24th February. We were both leading sessions. She asked me to be one of the judges of a poetry competition that she is organising, and I agreed. The competition is open to young people aged 7-14. The closing date is 30th April. Schools or individuals can submit poems. Selected poems will be published in a lovely book. Full details are here: http://www.christinagabbitas.com/competition/
I don’t choose cheese or chicken
I don’t touch marzipan
Chocolate’s my addiction
I indulge whenever I can
I gobble it for breakfast
I guzzle it for tea
Choc-a-block with chocolate?
Send for me
I may not have my own teeth
I may be overweight
But as a chocolate-chewing chomper
I’m not just good – I’m GREAT!
Please don’t prohibit chocolate
Don’t impose a chocolate ban
‘Cos I’m a chocoholic
A desperate dangerous man
And I need chocolate – NOW!
This poem is in my new book, ‘What Are You Like?’. For signed copies of my book, please contact me via the form on the books page.
Some more chocolate pictures to make your mouths water: