John Hegley was in good form yesterday at the South Bank, acting as Master of Ceremonies at the National Poetry Live event, and performing a few of his own poems. I enjoyed his cajoling of the crowd to move forward and fill empty chairs at the front. Photos of the performing poets will follow in a separate post.
Here Hegley, with assistance from The Poetry Library, which he plugged more than once yesterday (and quite right too), chooses a Top 10 children’s poetry books:
I’d like to think that these ten titles would make a good pile to give a youngster. There are few duplications in the compilations; there is cause for wonder, pondering, delight and bemusement and there are some very nice pictures…
My thanks to the staff at The Poetry Library on the South Bank, London, for their reading recommendations and hunting out from the shelving. All ‘top-tenners’ can be found in this library for reference and delving, if not for borrowing. It’s free and it’s easy to join.
A finely stitched mix of poetries; the right between the eyes sort, the more in-between-the-lines sort. And some sorts in between. I look forward to re-reading the hard ones with apples in, by Yeats and Kavanagh. Emily Gravett’s lightness of touch in the drawings contrastingly sits well with the weightier poems. ‘I like that stuff’ as Adrian Mitchell says. 3 of the 101 are by this man – plus works by Jackie Kay – HOORAY.
Instructive, inquisitive, mischievous word jiggling, which includes a celebration of the author’s Jewish family and the Jewish lingo. And the bagels. Often comical and colourful with good use of the grey tones in the drawings. Sometimes in the poems, ‘It’s the moment when the cheery stuff stops.’
3. Paint me a Poem by Grace Nichols
As a result of her residency in The Tate, as was, Grace Nichols throws some sharp shapes ‘on the dance floor of painting.’ There are sculptures too, in excellent reproduction and poems from children who work-shopped with her in the residency. They stand proudly alongside the spare, plain-speaking lines of their leader. Includes excellent workshop exercises.
A shrewd assemblage of the Greats, lesser known ones by the Greats and ones by lesser-known Greats (to this reader anyway.) John Agard’s Spell to Bring a Smile is a reminder that poetry is a tool for the creation of human well–being. These poems are FINE for boys.
5. The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts by Hilaire Belloc
As well as providing the beastly bits, Hilaire gives the bad children a Bellocing. Wry and dry, rather than Hilarious. A little gem.
Lovely palette and very lively balette of language. Stories for girls and boys and Moomins of all ages.
Bob quite agreed. ‘A mightful fress! Hite quorribly foncusing! Whoever’s glaying pames with us, they’re linning and we’re wusing.’
Cheery wash of watercolour and seaside splashing dog tale. A warming walk with the words, ‘Three other dogs think that our dog has done wrong to them. Sure that the Frisbee really belongs to them.’
The Caterpillar is a magazine of stories, poems and art for kids. The latest issue has poems, which include a Christina Rosetti riddle and Julie O’Callaghan’s mean sardine celebration. Caterpillar reminds me of Ann Thwaite’s magazine in book form, from way back ALLSORTS, which I would also recommend.
9. To Catch an Elephant by Gerard Benson, illustrated by Cathy Benson
A most well-made parade of poems with a mixture of moods. I much like the bike one and the meditation upon not being able to ‘guess an elephant’ from its bones.
10. Earthways, Earthwise: Poems on Conservation edited by Judith Nichols
A thriving diversity of poems concerning nature. Some of them concerned about nature. I have not this volume to hand but there is a stirring quote from a tribal Native American asserting that people belong to the Earth and not the other way wrong.