‘Light’ Poems at Tithe Barn Primary School (Heaton Mersey, Stockport) on October 5th

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I spent a great morning with a fantastic Year 6 class and their poetry loving teacher. I performed some of my poems and then got them writing. We kept to the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Light’ (which complemented the work they’d been doing in science).

As their teacher regularly gets them writing poetry I found they needed very little stimulus. I began with a short exercise based on the senses (e.g. If you could taste light what would it taste of? If you could hear it and it spoke to you what would it say? One answer was I’m faster than you!).

I then gave them a few writing options and suggestions to trigger their poems.

Light Bulb Moment – If you had a bright idea what would it be? What might you invent?

Trick Of The Light – I thought it was a…..(table?, tree? )
But it was a….(dog?, ghost?)

Lights Out – When the light goes
What lurks in the shadows?

Before lunch we managed to hear their new poems and fitted in a Q/A session where they asked me about writing and my life as a poet. A very satisfying morning. Thank you Tithe Barn for such a warm welcome. I left feeling quite light-hearted.

Don’t forget National Poetry Day: It’s a tough job being a Poet!

Man at desk with title text It's a tough job being a poet

Tough

It’s a tough job being a poet.
I’m surprised it’s not better paid.
Perhaps there should be guided tours of workshops
so non-poets can see how poems are made?

There’s no respite if you’re a poet.
You’re working all the time.
You have to get on it if there’s a call for a sonnet.
And people expect you to rhyme.

It’s more demanding than being a surgeon.
It’s harder than digging a road.
We deserve much longer holidays than teachers.
It can be stressful writing an ode.

We sometimes work until lunchtime
if we need to complete a quatrain.
Yes, it’s a tough job being a poet
but you’ll never hear us complain.

Remember a poet can be an enthusiastic inspiring addition to your classroom all year round, not just for National Poetry Day. If you’d like to know what I can do in your school, please contact me.

Lesson Planning For Next Term? Inviting A Performance Poet To Your School?

Bernard Young in a school arms in air

A poet in your school? Why not? The right poet (I mean me! but there are lots of us) can offer an exciting start to your school day (I include guitar and just enough joining in during my morning assembly performances). The children head off to classes with loads of writing ideas already in their heads and I then work with all ages throughout the day.

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Teachers tell me that having an enthusiastic practitioner of the art in the classroom has a tremendous effect on them and the children. Together (teachers, children, poet) we produce fantastic new poems and usually share them before home time. After that we all go home (apart from the teachers who have yet another after-school meeting to attend).

For some ideas for bringing poetry in to the class room see my collection of blog posts on the subject – classroom ideas. Another way is to have a look at some of my videos on YouTube. They can be used for a sing along break during the day, or as a springboard for other poems using the same patterns. If you want to discuss what I could do in your school and what it will cost, please contact me.

New video for KS1 Poetry classes – I like what I like I do

I’ve used this song for many years and find it works very well as a template for children to work on their own ideas, putting in the things that they like and looking for rhymes. As a special Christmas gift we’ve turned it into a video.

UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy reads a Human Bee in Hunmanby

Portrait image of Carol Ann DuffyI was very fortunate to be one of 120 people in the intimate audience at Hunmanby Community Centre last night for a poetry evening. Carol Ann Duffy, one of the most significant names in contemporary British poetry, read a selection of her older and more recent work, accompanied in a couple by the very entertaining woodwind musician, John Sampson, who also performed in her breaks on an abundant array of older and more recent woodwind instruments.

As I’d had the tickets for some time, in preparation, I had been rereading my Carol Ann Duffy collection, and was pleased to hear her perform some that were already familiar to me. I was enlightened by her introductions, explaining where she drew her inspiration and what references and nuances there were in the words.  I particularly like her use of list-like poems and admire her word craft, how she places rhymes in less formal spaces… and her comic timing. I hadn’t realised that “The Counties” (in “The Bees”) was a protest inspired by the Post Office’s campaign to lose the county from postal addresses, because of its distraction from the post code.

But I want to write to the National Poet of Wales at Ceredigion
in celebration
and I want to write to the Dorset Giant
in admiration
and I want to write to a widow in Rutland
in commiseration
and to the Inland Revenue in Yorkshire
in desperation

I’m sure I’ve drunk in a lot of the traditional pubs listed so fluidly in “John Barleycorn”. Carol Ann read quite a few others from her last published anthology (“The Bees” 2011), which has a thread running through of the environmental concerns of the loss of bees. “The Human Bee” (in the title of this post) refers to people in China who have the job of pollinating fruit trees by hand because they have no bees to do it any more.

I became a human bee at twelve,
when they gave me my small wand,
my flask of pollen,
and I walked with the other bees
out to the orchards.

Time to Wrap up and Rap

Cat wrapped in a blanket
Image Copyright Karen Cropper
Since the season of cold weather is upon us, here’s a poem for you to rap as you go about your business. Might warm you up. Particularly if you perform a little dance at the same time.

Wrap Up Rap

When the wind is blowing
And snow is on the way
Get your woolly hat on
Wrap up warm today

And sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up rap

Find a scarf and good thick gloves
Don’t forget your coat
Be prepared for the attack
When Jack Frost grabs your throat

And sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up rap

Here comes thunder
Here comes hail
Hear the thunder
Dodge the hail

And sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up rap

Hat for head
Socks for toes
In your scarf
Bury your nose

And sing the wrap up
Sing the wrap up
Sing that wrap up rap

Bernard Young is an experienced performance poet who is available for workshops in schools, particularly primary age. He is based in Manchester, but will travel further afield. Over the years he has also worked successfully in partnership with Road Safety officers, combining the road safety message with creative writing. For more info, see the Contact page.

Winter Weather Warning – It’s going to be seasonally cold!

I’ve seen some posts on facebook about the fact that cold weather in winter is no surprise, it happens every year. It reminded me to share a poem about it.

A Cold Spell

Take a misty morning
A foggy night

A snuffly nose
A snowball fight

An icy road
Warm woolly tights

Add chilblain pain
A wind that bites

Then summon sleet
Think thoughts of white

Now look outside
It’s winter. Right?

Church just visible through fog
Image copyright Bernard Young

Bernard Young is an experienced performance poet who is available for workshops in schools, particularly primary age. He is based in Manchester, but will travel further afield. Over the years he has also worked successfully in partnership with Road Safety officers, combining the road safety message with creative writing. For more information, see the Contact page.

Bonfire night: fireworks, sparklers, toffee and poems

All the fireworks popping in the sky where I live makes me think what a stimulating time to be creating poems. So I’ve written a new poem for children for bonfire night that doesn’t appear in any of my books (since I wrote it today).

Choosing Fireworks

I bet
you’d like
a Confetti Canon
and a Crackling Comet.

I’m sure
you’d go for
a Jumping Jack
and a Flying Saucer.

I guess
you could handle a Sparkler
and get a thrill
from a Roman Candle.

And you’d feel
fine watching a Catherine Wheel
go round and round and round
wouldn’t you?

But what you don’t want,
you really don’t want,
because it’s definitely no good,
is a…

DUD!

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Some other bonfire night poetry resources

And a Video about the origins

Poetry all year, please, not just for National Poetry Day!

Image of a closing down sale board uotside a shop

Closing Down

Haiku – in a bin
at the bottom of the aisle
next to the sonnets.

Limericks have had their day
It’s clear they’ve got nothing to say
Some find them rude
Vulgar and crude
They’re free if you’ll take them away

Free Verse is draped all over the shop.
Although it’s free
there is a modest charge
for each clump of words.

Cinquains
are down aisle five.
You can hear them counting
their syllables. Eight in this line.
Buy two?

Highcliffe Primary, Guisborough 31st October & 1st November

Thanks for making me welcome. I enjoyed my two day visit very much.

Day one started off in the hall with a performance to the whole school. Great joining in on Brilliant and Ref Rap kids. Loads of poems were written. Individual and group ones. And a few class ones (with added guitar) when I worked with Reception and Yr 1 & 2.

Great to start with Reception on the morning of day 2 and finish the day with a yr 6 session. There were poems about pirates, swimming, dancing, teachers, football (of course) and a lump in the throat one about a soldier going to war.

Days like these remind me why I love being a poet who visits schools.