Tuesday, 22 February 2011

10 Random Facts About Jan Dean (Part One)

The first poem I wrote was called 'Spring'. I was 8. In the first year of juniors, after the Easter holiday we wrote a poem called Spring. Then we didn't write another poem until the following year, when we wrote a poem called - you guessed it – Spring.

My favourite poem is River God by Stevie Smith. (This is a too hard a question really - I love so many poems for so many different reasons). Stevie Smith’s poems are really strange. She's not like anyone else.

My favourite soup is Atlas Mountain soup. Who wouldn't like that?

My favourite time of day is twilight… but not so much in the winter when it never gets light.

My favourite writer? Pullman's fabulous. So are David Almond and Mark Haddon. I like books that make worlds so I love the spy world in John Le Carre's books - but he often writes enormously long sentences so you have to be very awake when you read them.

My favourite sport is bog snorkelling (I don't do it - I just love the name).

My favourite obscure fact? Starfish have evertable stomachs.
Isn't evertable a great word?
My favourite football team is Stalybridge Celtic. My Dad supported them.
When I was 14 I made a large papier-m√Ęche elephant money box for
some fund raising thing they were doing.
Favourite two words that rhyme? I'm not picking just two - I don't want the others to feel left out.
Favourite quotation: Every time I learn new stuff it pushes some of the old stuff out (Homer Simpson).

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Writing in the Bath

Following the notebook theme – we were sent this by ace poet John Foster. (Watch out for a review of his fantastic new book of poems coming soon.)

If writing in the dark is difficult, how about writing in the bath? The paper gets wet and soggy and soapy and the water turns blue where the ink leaks into it. And everyone in the family complains about the blue stains that won’t wash off.

Actually, the bath is where you can have a good think, until someone starts banging on the door because they are desperate for the loo! You can let your mind wander into places like The Land of the Flibbertigibbets. By the way that’s the title of my latest book of poems. It’s published by Salt publishers. Here’s one of my favourite poems from it:

A Cheeky Boy called Robert Rung

A cheeky boy called Robert Rung
Was always sticking out his tongue
At everybody that he saw
Passing by the village store.
Till one day he went too far.
A driver, leaping from his car,
Shouted out, ‘You little toad!’
And chased Robert down the road
Into a farmyard nearby,
Where Robert slipped and, with a cry,
Fell headlong in a steaming pile
Of manure, squelchy and vile,
So that cheeky Robert Rung
Was covered, head to foot in dung.
Which is why when you are young
You never should stick out your tongue.

So Robert Rung needed a good bath. Served him right for behaving like that!
Anyway, why not take a notebook into the bathroom with you. You never know - the bath may be the place where you get your most brilliant idea. But you might want to put the notebook in a waterproof folder. I dropped mine in the bath once and you don’t want your ideas floating off down the drain as mine did.

John Foster

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Taking Your Notebook to Bed With You

Roger Stevens

You never know when you’re going to get an idea for a story or poem. When they get an idea some writers jot it down on scraps of paper or bus tickets. But I think ideas can easily get lost that way. I much prefer a notebook. A notebook has been my constant companion for around twenty years. I even take my notebook to bed with me. Sometimes we share a hot milky drink.*
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an idea? Maybe an idea for a poem or a story? Or maybe a new formation for the school football team? Or perhaps the answer to world peace? You wake up and think Wow! Yes!! That’s it!!! What a brilliant idea!!!! But then, when you wake up in the morning, you’ve forgotten it. The idea’s gone. Has that ever happened to you?
Well, if I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea I write it in my notebook. I don’t forget it then.
The only trouble with this is Jill, my wife, sleeping soundly beside me. I once turned the light on, to write a brilliant idea in my notebook, and woke her up. Waking Jill up suddenly is not a good idea. She used to be an acrobat in the circus.
Although half asleep, she grabbed me, lifted me above her head, spun me round three times and threw me out of the bed. It was a warm summer’s night and the window was wide open. I went flying through the window and landed upside down in the goldfish pond.
The goldfish still talk about that night, even today, several years later. It will probably be one of those stories that are passed down from generation of goldfish to generation. Do you remember the night a poet fell from the sky and landed in Cousin Carp’s pondweed soup? Or something like that.

*Usually drinking chocolate

Monday, 7 February 2011

10ish Random Facts About Me

Liz Brownlee

I’d like to complain to myself that these facts are not random, they are all about ME. Which is the same subject.

FACT ONE: The first poem I wrote that I can find is inside a birthday card for my mum. My mum kept everything and I know I was 6 as she has labelled it: Liz wrote this when she was 6.
Mummy I am saing (saying)
I hope youll be glad
your the best mummy
Iv (I’ve) ever had.

The most embarrassing, written as a teenager, contains the words: ‘I made myself trendy’. I’m afraid the rest has recently been lost.

FACT TWO: Which is my favourite poem? It changes quite a lot. But since I was a child I have loved Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Munro. It made goosebumps stand up on my arms then and still does.

My favourite poem for an adult is sometimes Sonnet XVll by Pablo Neruda, and sometimes This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams - I like the poem, and the parodies of it by Kenneth Koch always make me howl with laughter.

FACT THREE: My favourite fish is a Hebrew fish. Did you know that in Hebrew, the word which means fish sounds like our word for dog? Oh yes, my favourite dog is my dog Lola.

FACT FOUR: My favourite two words that rhyme? Who asked these questions? All rhyming words together are wonderful, they make an extra zing in a poem. Got ‘em and bottom are always fun to hear together. And buffoonery and panataloonery are quite exciting and delighting. Danglingly, stranglingly is a bit alarming. Phosphorescing, salad dressing is also alarming in a slightly different way. I think I’d better stop now or I’ll get carried away and start writing...

FACT FIVE: My favourite quotations are:
‘Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read’, possibly by GROUCHO MARX.
‘It takes less time to learn how to write nobly than how to write lightly and straightforwardly’, by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
‘If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it’, by ELMORE LEONARD
‘Be obscure clearly by’, by E. B. WHITE

FACT SIX: Coffee is my favourite hot beverage. No, tea is. No coffee. No, tea. I think I like coffee and tea equally.

FACT SEVEN: Oooh, I love insects. I think they are possibly the most beautiful animals on the planet. My favourite and possibly the most exquisite is the mirror beetle.

FACT EIGHT: The people who make me laugh most include Michael MacIntyre, Steve Martin, Miranda Hart, Reginald D Hunter and David Mitchell.

FACT NINE: My favourite TV programme is Frasier, by a long way. Followed by anything with detectives in.

FACT TEN: My favourite authors include, for adults, Aldous Huxley, John Wyndham, Anne Tyler... for children, David Almond, Jerry Spinelli, Elen Caldecott, Ursula Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, E Nesbitt, Andrew Norris and many, many more. Maybe I don’t have a favourite here either, just a long list of wonderful writers.

FACT ELEVEN: You want an obscure fact about myself? That’s tricky as I know everything about me. It’s terribly hard to know what is obscure under these circumstances. I’d have to be someone else to do it properly. Oh hang on! My memory is an obscure fact. Very obscure, even to me. It is not good and I forget a lot of things like what I’m supposed to be doing and what I’ve just done and where I’ve put my glasses. Very hard to find as I can’t see them either when they aren’t on. For this reason I try not to wash my face too often. Another obscure fact! And one more is that I am very bad at maths and cannot reliably be counted on to count.

Why not try writing a poem with the longest rhyming words you can find?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Every Kind of Puppy

Puppy Poems chosen by Gaby Morgan (Macmillan) £4.99

… so I pass this book to my mother. (She's nearly 91 and the one who introduced me to poetry, making me love it as much as she does.) She always starts at the back, so the first poem she reads is one of mine. About my long gone, still loved Labrador, Matty. She moves on through the book and holds up another page, and smiles to show she's found me again. Then she really starts dipping in and enjoying “every kind of puppy in this gorgeous collection of poems” as the back cover blurb declares. And it's right. Terrific poems fill this delightful book cover to cover. If you love your dog, you walk him or her every day, yes? Buy this book, and you can enjoy a doggy poem, again and again. Sniff the same poems; lift your leg at your favourites. My mother's just laughing out loud (she's too old to LOL). Which poem is she chuckling at? It's Roger Steven's 'Stick' on the back cover. Off you go to the library or book shop … whether you're nine or ninety, you will love this book!
PS The book includes poems by every poet on this blog: Roger Stevens, Jan Dean, Liz Brownlee, Bernard Young, Sue Hardy-Dawson and me (Celia Warren)

(review by Celia Warren)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Where Did Lemony Snicket Come From?

Jan Dean

I've been reading some of the poems we did in school when I was 10.
(This is a long time ago... about a hundred years...)
All the poems rhymed. Poets were writing non-rhyming poems then, but teachers didn't use them in school.
Today I've had a great time reading George: Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of Considerable Dimensions. by Hillaire Belloc. (Great name, eh? and a great title for the poem.)
If you have a minute and can find any of Belloc's Cautionary Tales you could perform one for your Mum or Dad - or tie your little brother to a chair and perform it for him (just kidding).
These poems are such fun to read out loud; they have fabulous words in them and the plots are dark and funny.
Incidentally, when you read these poems you can see where Lemony Snicket came from. Everything that seems new has come from somewhere, writers are fed by what they read and new poems grow from all the stuff that's in their heads. Things you remember, things you've seen, things you've been told and things that have happened to you - all that stuff gets used by a poem that's growing in your head. And things you've read are part of that too. In my opinion, Belloc's poems are definitely ancestors of Lemony Snicket.