What Does A Children's Poet Actually Do?

28/02/2017 @ 16:05:00

 

A children's poet in the UK is a rare beast – there aren't very many of us. But what on earth do we actually do?

Well first of all, most of us have been writing children's poetry for a very long time. Children's poetry in the UK really kicked off in the early 1990's when the likes of Macmillan and Oxford University Press decided to start publishing an increasing number of anthologies and began to cast their nets around for content. The idea was that reading poetry would not only be fun, it would also improve children's literacy and instill a love of reading into them without them actually realising it! At the time I was attending a writing class and my tutor, Mike Johnson (who was already known for his children's work) invited me to have a go at writing for a new Macmillan children's anthology called Ridiculous Relatives. I went home thinking, 'Now who can I write about?'

Luckily for me, inspiration wasn't difficult to come by since my very own Auntie Betty was something of a colourful character. Here's a picture of her, drawn by my friend, Dennis the Menace cartoonist David Parkins, and then very first children's poem I ever wrote:


 

AUNTIE BETTY THINKS SHE'S BATGIRL

Auntie Betty pulls her cloak on
And the mask - the one with ears
Almost ready, check the lipstick
Wait until the neighbours cheer.
Through the window. What a leap!
She lands right in the driver's seat.
Off she goes with style and grace
To make our world a better place.


Mike sent Auntie Betty to Macmillan and luckily they published it, alongside lots of other people's work. Gradually we all began to write regularly for a handful of big publishers on a myriad of very silly and entertaining topics. And on the back of that, many of us started to go into schools to perform our work and even teach children how to write their own poetry! Inspired by other children's poets, I also self-published my own collection of children's poems called Grandma was Eaten by a Shark! which subsequently sold into schools and libraries.

But what does a children's poet actually do? Well, probably the only disadvantage in writing poetry is that there isn't any money in it and never has been. So what children's poets actually do is…something else! Yes, plenty of poets go into schools, but we also teach or write textbooks or produce educational material or, as I do, write books and blogs and articles for adults. You might even find us stacking the shelves in Sainsbury's to make ends meet. None of us ever gave up the day job, that's for sure!

WHERE TO FIND CHILDREN'S POETRY

If you go down to your local library today you'll find a surprising number of fantastic children's poetry anthologies full of wonderful, funny, inspirational, and inspiring work - and borrowing books is completely free! You and your children (or grandchildren) can also read some of my children's poems here.

And here are a few more links to other children's poetry websites you'll love:

Amazing performance poet Roger Stevens' website Poetryzone contains hundreds of poems. Submit your own poems too!

Watch videos of famous poets reading their work at the Children's Poetry Archive.

Read hundreds of children's poems at Giggle Poetry.

Read poems by fantastic performance poet Paul Cookson here

Read poems by fantastic performance poet Brian Moses here.


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