Poetry for Children
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After five years' teaching in two Melbourne high schools, I taught English in Paris during the 1970s. Returning to London in 1979, I taught in various London schools. Post-1990, I've taught creative writing, especially poetry. I started writing poetry for children in 1985.

Qualifications - B.A., Dip. Ed. (1963) - University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3052, Australia.
From 2001-2008, I was Education Officer for Writers Inc. Writers Inc, a London-based poetry and fiction writing, performance and workshop group presented a very popular and wide-ranging writing programme and competition for many years. Unfortunately, at the end of 2007, Arts Council funding was cut and Writers Inc can no longer continue.

PUBLICATIONS - Poetry for Children

Anthologies:
The Poetry of War, 1914-1989(B.B.C.,1990)
Poetry Street 3(Longman, 1991)
Sing Freedom! (Faber, 1991)
Other Worlds(BBC, 1991)
Shades of Green(Julia MacRae Books, 1991)
Science Poetry(Wayland, 1991)
Can You Hear? Poems for Oxfam(Pan Macmillan, 1992)
Houses and Homes (Wayland, 1992)
The Much Better Storybook (Red Fox, 1992)
Them and Us (Bodley Head, 1993)
Wordplay (B.B.C., 1993)
The Longman Book Project (1994)
It's Raining Cats and Dogs (Blackie, 1994)
A Trunkful of Elephants (Methuen, 1994)
Otherworlds (Faber, 1995)
Through a Window (Longman, 1995)
Paws and Claws (Hutchinson, 1995)
Somewhere in the Sky (Nelson, 1996)
A Glass of Fresh Air (Collins, 1996)
A Noisy Noise Annoys (Bodley Head, 1996)
Wordwhirls (O.U.P., 1998)
The Unidentified Flying Omelette (Hodder, 2000)
The King's Pyjamas (Belitha Press, 2001)
The Apple-Raid (Macmillan, 2001)
Ramshackle Rainbow (Macmillan, 2001)
Toothpaste Trouble (Macmillan, 2002)
Poems for Year 4 (Macmillan, 2002)
The Works 2 (Macmillan, 2002)
Hubble Bubble (Hodder Children's Books, 2003)
Jumpstart (David Fulton, 2004)
Page to Stage (David Fulton, 2005)
The Poetry Store (Hodder Children's Books, 2005)
The Works 4 (Macmillan, 2005)
The Big Book of Christmas (Macmillan, 2005)
She's All That: Poems About Girls (Kingfisher, 2005)
The Works, Key Stage 1 (Macmillan, 2006)
The Works, Key Stage 2 (Macmillan, 2006)
Heinemann Poetry (Harcourt Education, 2007, Australia)
Read Me At School (Macmillan, 2009)

Radio:

1992-1993 - Writing and presentation of 3 Wordplay children's programmes (7-9 years) for B.B.C. Radio 5.

Workshops:

Poetry workshops with children during my teaching career (1964 onwards) but especially since 1990. . .
  • W.H. Smith/Poetry Society Poets in Schools' Scheme, 1990-1995.
  • Tate Gallery, Word and Image Project - October, 1994.
  • Haringey Literature Festival - Railway Fields, multi-media event: ecologically-orientated. - 1st Saturday in July - 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.
  • Middlesex University/Haringey Arts Council Poetry in Schools - working in various Haringey schools on a theme - June, 1997, June, 1998, June 1999, November 2001 - May, 2002.
  • Railway Fields' Writer in Residence, July-October, 2002.
  • Bruce Castle Museum, N17, February, 2003.
  • Railway Fields Poetry Day – July, 2007
  • Numerous Workshops in Schools and Libraries.

The Word Festival - Workshops
Poetry in the Garden/Sculpture Project in conjunction with the Carving Workshop, Cambridge - Town Quay, Barking, January-March, 1999
Poetry and sculpture - engraving poems written by children on stones or other surfaces is a delightful way of involving them in neighbourhood projects. In January-February, 2009, I worked with pupils from two Barking Schools - St. Joseph's and St. Margaret's, and sculptor Harry Gray of the Cambridge Carving Workshop to provide poems for the Town Quay Garden Stones as part of the Barking and Roding Valley Partnership Regeneration Project and The Word, the London Festival of Literature.
The object of the Town Quay Garden Stones Project was to create an outdoor performance space next to the River Roding and near the Barking Abbey ruins and historic 13th century St. Margaret's Church.
To arrive at the required poems, (only 210 letters were possible), the aim was to produce lines that were evocative and that would speak to everyone of all ages, particularly future users of the space. However, given that so few actual lines of poetry were required for the lettering, I decided to concentrate on haiku - minimalist but resonant, to concentrate meaning. At the same time,it was decided to expand the project to take in poems for performance, so we worked on longer poems as well. We workshopped themes of Barking in its modern context - especially the students' own view of it. Each class wrote on-site and made notes of what they could see, touch, smell, hear and taste. Back in class, from their notes and following discussion, they wrote poems from which I had the task of choosing pieces for the stones. Included in the workshops was the history of Barking - for example, its being a Saxon settlement as far back as 666 AD; its being a one-time residence of William the Conqueror while he was waiting for the Tower of London to be ready, and also the Barking Abbey ruin. We also had site visits to this ruin and explored the cemetery with its motifs and pointers to the seafaring past of Barking as one of the biggest 19th century fishing ports in Britain.
The poems chosen take in the history - Barking,/ Town Quay,/ Ghost fishing-fleets

and the site -   A circle of stones
an island of grass
beside the Roding 
An old iron gate
leading to the Abbey ruin
stepping into history 

  Gulls soar
over the icy water 
Smell the sea,
feel the silky air -
feel it going through your hair 
     

Unfortunately, only a small amount of the poetry produced could go on the stones, but the students worked with great enthusiasm, imaginative flair and commitment - proud of Barking and this performance site which they had remembered as a petrol station. And it was wonderful to see their performance on the opening day, March 27, 1999. Transformations . . .

Lea Valley Regional Park Authority
Collaboration with Anita Rivera, sculptor; workshopping with junior school children - preparation of and presentation of poems for Sun Scroll spiral path at Tottenham Marshes - May-June, 2000

North West Ealing Partnership Eic Action Zone Schools' Festival
Participation in the 7th North West Ealing Partnership Eic Action Zone Schools' Festival - Poetry, Music, Theatre - March, 2009

Barnet Poetry Competition
The 2009 competition was launched at the Bull Theatre, March 21, 2009. Adjudication for this Competition - 13th March, 2010 at 10 am. Details: http://www.barnetarts.org.uk
Each year, this Competition discovers young poets of great promise and enthusiasm.

Readings:

Readings in many Book Weeks, Festivals and Workshops.


 
A Selection of my Children's Poems
 
 
  A Girl's Head
At the School Camp
A Spell to Make Father Xmas Arrive Early
Count-up to Planet Bed
Wally Wallaby
Jessie, Nessie, Bessie and Hessie
Feline
Nomad
Books
Tree-Planting at Alexandra Park
Space Riddle
Fog
Tanka
Conkers
Bonfire Night
Silly Shifts
Death of an Addict
For My School Lunch
Dinosaurs’ Breakfast Special
Humpty Dumpty
Near Keith, South Australia
Unknown Soldier
Bullies
 
 
     


A Girl's Head

(after the poem, 'A Boy's Head' by Miroslav Holub)


In it there is a dream
that was started
before she was born,

and there is a globe
with hemispheres
which shall be happy.

There is her own spacecraft,
a chosen dress
and pictures of her friends.

There are shining rings and a maze of mirrors.

There is a diary
for surprise occasions.

There is a horse springing hooves
across the sky.

There is a sea
that tides and swells
and cannot be mapped.

There is untold hope
in that no equation exactly
fits a head.

(Published in Page to Stage, David Fulton, 2005, ed. James Carter)

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At the School Camp


In our hut, I’m first awake.
I peer through the curtains -
nothing's stirring out there
except for three blackbirds and a crow
looking for their breakfast –
maybe a worm or two??
Haven’t they slept? It’s only six o’clock!
Everyone in this hut is still asleep.

Then suddenly I see the sun
climbing, climbing, ever so slowly -
a faraway orange
that I can't reach.

(Published in Read Me at School, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2009, ed. Gaby Morgan)

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A Spell to Make Father Xmas Arrive Early


Kerfuffle kerfuffle
Reindeers-a-shuffle

Shaking and shergles
Bells’ warbly gurgles

Mad hurly-burly
Let him be early

Skywinds and firestorms
Moonrays and wavelore

Turbulence wiggle
Minutes-a-tiggle

Mad burly-hurly
Let him be early

Quavery cavery
Sleigh-shine and shegly

Giddy paced choppy
Tear the sky hoppy

Mad hurly-burly
Let him be early

Dabracadabra
Cosmic metabra



Count-up to Planet Bed


I'm one for the window
and two for the door.

I'm three for the ceiling
and four for the floor.

I'm five for the morning
and six for the night.

I'm seven for the stairs
and eight for the light.

I'm nine for a story
and ten for my bed.

Now I'm off for a dream
to hold in my head.

(Published in Toothpaste Trouble, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2002, ed. Nick Toczek)



Pigeon-Watch


The pigeon struts
along the ledge:
he never gets
too near the edge.

(Published in The King’s Pyjamas, Belitha, ed. Pie Corbett, 2001)



Wally Wallaby


Wally Wallaby
cannot fly.

He doesn’t
know why,

and
neither
do I.

(Published in Wordplay, BBC., 1993)



Jessie, Nessie, Bessie and Hessie


Jessie has a tortoise
whose name is Nessie.

Bessie has a rabbit
whose name is Hessie.

Sometimes Nessie and Hessie
like to play on the lawn.

They’re always quite messy
but Jessie and Bessie

adore Nessie and Hessie.



Feline


A coathanger body
arching tall

A multi-coloured fuzz
on a garden bench

A mewling voice
in a chorus-line

A pair of disco eyes
to hex the dark

A tiger-chase
waiting for the call

A ball of fur
in a circle of sleep

(Published in It’s Raining Cats and Dogs (ed. Pie Corbett, Blackie, 1994)



Nomad


A blousy tent
on a slow-go trail

A leathery balloon
swaying jungle-free

A sail-eared face
playing cascades

A house on stilts
trimming waves of air

(Published in A Trunkful of Elephants, Methuen, 1994, ed. Judith Nicholls)



Books


Our house is clock-a-block
with books. This is crazy -

it's impossible to read them all
but they're part of the family.

Sometimes when I'm hunting out a title,
I find one I'd forgotten.

We greet like old friends - then
I forget what I was searching for.

Occasionally I discover a book
I've forgotten to give back.

Oh dear...If one day
I can't be found, I expect

I'll be somewhere in the house,
squeezed between the covers of a book.

(Published in Poetry Street 3, Longman, 1991, ed. David Orme)

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Tree-Planting at Alexandra Park


(for Julien)

Five-year-olds plant an oak,
press the roots firm, their gift.
Late-autumn cold chills, distracts
but they fight back
with cheers and hugs
down their conga-line.

They are making a pact
for all the trees of their lives:
chosen forests,
trees they will draw and colour,
fill with birds and flaring-golds
that they will climb

stand under in the rain
and be hidden by,
that they will keep
to gird rainforests:
mantled, drenched in a lattice
of undergrowth and light.

(Published in Shades of Green, Julia MacRae Books, 1991, ed. Anne Harvey)



Space Riddle



My face
is as wide as a mountain.

When I give orders,
I roar in thirty languages
and the stars blink.

I live on thin air
and sleep with my eyes open.

What am I?

Answer: Nobody knows.



Fog



Fog,
why must you hog
the road,
Toad?



Tanka



Last night, the full moon
hung like a papery lamp
over my quiet road.
I savoured the chilly sky –
the moon tagging my shadow.

(Published in Poems for Year 4, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2002, ed. Pie Corbett)



Conkers



We searched the park's waving grass,
sticks, wet bark, hunting conkers.
They lay half-hidden, waiting
to be discovered, shone again
in the neighbourliness of a child's pocket.

Gathered like prizes, they were:
deep-umber, singular, burnished, smooth,
there for the taking, curving each to each
their new wholeness. We combed that place.
Autumn nuggets - who would find the most?

Later some were threaded, hung loosely
on strings, to be taken to school.
Days after, they'd outlived their
first interest, mere leftovers
from a school-game - wrinkled,
shrunken to old copies of themselves.

(From Fish-rings on water, Forest Books, 1989)



Bonfire Night



Smells of bonfires,
backyards burning:
all the leaves have
finished turning.

(from Circus-Apprentice, Arc Publications, 2006)



Silly Shifts



All traffic jams jump questions.
No one can lose a dog in a hurry.
Therefore every day has a shape.

******

All fires have a starting point.
There is only one sky.
Therefore clouds surrender at will.

*******

All squares have four corners.
Fish rarely swim in circles.
Therefore the ocean may look flat.

********

(Published in The Works, Key Stage 2, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2006, ed. Pie Corbett)

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Death of an Addict



E P I T A P H

Here lie the remains

of Squerulous Square-Eyes

who died on duty

before the Box

1.10 am., September10, 2007

Switched Off



For My School Lunch



Sometimes I like . . .

big bouncing brown bendy burgers
marvellous melting midget maverick melons
average angled spangly ample apples  

or . . .

serene solid silver sleeved sandwiches boiled batter best broccoli bacon bits peppery pieced piled peanut pitta  

but never . . .

chunky chilled cheap chilli chocolate testy twined tiny top tomatoes slippery sieved silky soda sprouts  

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Dinosaurs’ Breakfast Special



Urns of slime
and reptiles’ heads,
giants’ feet
and mouldy breads.

Icy hearts
and mountain eggs,
a ton of tongues
and turtle legs.

Frogs and beetles
chewed to gristle,
old pine cones
all spiced with thistle.

Snake-flesh paste
and baby whales
slowly stirred
with heads and tails.

Blackfish eyes
and stingray skin
mixed and mixed
till slimy thin.

All gulped down
with spidery glue
which sleepy dinosaurs
forget to chew. . .



Humpty Dumpty



Humpty Dumpty
jumped in the sea.

Humpty Dumpty
sank instantly.

All the young mermaids
and their mermen

couldn’t get Humpty
to surface again.



Near Keith, South Australia



I turn off the highway, follow signs
to a mud-brick cottage
tapestried with bearded grass, hollyhocks,
lavender, geraniums, pigface, sage.

My great-grandmother
who smoked a clay-pipe and bore eight children
lived like this, within bowed walls,
a track up to the door.

Today everything's locked, the single window
rations light. I peer in, picture a family
here in two rooms, children taking turns
to move closer to the fire -

throwing on logs to break the frost
while parents hungered for the promised
good year.

(From Fish-rings on Water, Forest Books,. 1989)

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Unknown Soldier



We have covered him with real flowers
and taken him from country to country.

It's always the same journey -
people standing in the streets
silently saluting
as we carry him by.

And our hands tremble
under his weight,
our eyes are shocked
by the riddle of tongues
presenting the same paradox
in every country -
the whole human voice as background
shrilled to fever
about keeping the guns at bay.

(From Passengers to the City, Hale & Iremonger, 1985,)



Bullies



With the eye in the back of his head,
he sees them coming,

eight-year-old breakers,
baby-hard, baby-soft.

Their space-machine, so elegant
could swallow him,

drown him once and for all
in a dish of air.

No use trying to rewrite the law:
they are the masters

skills bred in the bone.
He freezes -

they expect it,
though a voice inside him squeaks

I ... Words cut his tongue,
weigh in his mind like a bruise.

(Published in Them & Us (Bodley Head 1993, ed. Jennifer Curry)


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Katherine