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World Poetry Day, 2018

March 20, 2018

World Poetry Day 2018 is a great time to celebrate an often neglected area of our literary heritage through reading, writing, performing and sharing favourite poems.

I was delighted to be invited to judge this year’s poetry writing competition open to students at New College, Stamford, Lincolnshire. It’s always exciting to read the fresh voices of young writers. The competition’s theme – ‘environment’ – offered broad scope of interpretation. It was over-ridingly evident that all entrants enjoyed writing their poems – this came across in their work. I won’t announce the winners here, but will congratulate those who took the top three places, especially the First Prize winner.

Here in South Devon our environment has been layered in deep snow – a rare occurrence in England’s West Country – but to happen twice in one month is amazing. This time around it stayed long enough to be enjoyable, but thawed quickly enough to avoid being too much of a nuisance: perfect!

aftermath of snow collage

Today the thaw began. It reminded me of one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets, perfectly describing today, the first day of spring:

Thaw – Edward Thomas

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

PS   *** If you had snow over the weekend, did you build a snowman? ***

They don’t last long, do they? And maybe it’s just as well. Have you read Roger McGough‘s poem The Trouble with Snowmen? It’s poem #26 in my Schofield and Sims anthology A Time to Speak and A Time to Listen. It’s a poem to make you think!

 

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World Book Day – Write your Own!

March 1, 2018

School’s closed because of snow.
On World Book Daywrite your own!

Think of a setting – Under the sea?
Inside a sofa? Climbing a tree?

Plan a good character: Girl? Boy?*
Pick their pet hate, their greatest joy.

Decide an ambition your character has.
Create something or someone that stops them.

Consider some ways their wish can come true.
Find them friends, but obstacles, too.

Write their adventures – some chuckles, some screams
on their way to fulfilling their dearest dreams.

© Celia Warren 2018

* or an animal, a mythical creature, an alien, a live toy or YOU!

Good luck!

A Nice Day … for Ducks!

January 24, 2018

It’s a grey, wet and windy January day. I’m in the third week of a severe cough and cold, and I’ve lost my voice. But one of the great things about being a writer is that, actually, you never lose your voice: the printed word on the blank page IS your voice!

tractor trail muddy puddle field Strete.jpg

Those of you who are familiar with my writing will know that I love playing with words. So today I am going to share a couple of poems with you – one new, and one that I wrote a few years ago, but that was inspired by my feeling miserable and poorly with a virus. Writing it made me feel better. And if you have a bad cough or cold, then reading it might make you feel better, too.

The first poem first: I should explain that, when I was at school a zillion years ago, there were two words that were more or less banned from our writing. One was ‘got’ (still a word I don’t much like) and the other was ‘nice’. “There are always better words than nice,” teachers told us.

In all living languages words change their meaning. ‘Nice’ originally meant ‘precise’ or ‘refined’, so a ‘fine distinction’ (between two things) might be a ‘nice point’. Nowadays, it can mean anything from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘pleasant’ – or ‘very nice’ – highly enjoyable! It can be used to enhance another adjective – ‘nice and friendly’, too.

I found writing this poem quite nice!

A NICE WORD

Despite my teacher’s wise advice,
I do use ‘nice’ – I find it’s nice!
“Exciting adjectives add spice.
There’s often better words than nice.”

Yet ‘nice’ is useful – so precise!
It’s nice and nice to use it twice.
I daresay it’s a dreadful vice,
But as words go, well, ‘nice’ is nice.

And even when the weather’s sunny
(Although to you this might seem funny),
“Nice day!” I’ll say, because it’s … nice!
(Unlike a day of gales and ice).

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it twice:
I do use ‘nice’ – I find it nice,
Despite my teacher’s nice advice
that ‘nice’ adds little zest or spice.

© Celia Warren 2018

And here’s my other poem that I hope will strike a chord with any other sufferers from viruses that are not very nice!

VIRUS

Virus does right to begin with a V,
Virulent, violent, vile.
It crosses a virtual invisible line,
It’s wicked and wasting and wild.
V is for victory over each vein,
Each vestige of life it will visit with pain,
DNA-variant, vagabond, vice,
Vengeful, vindictive, a viper with verve,
Verminous, vomitive, cruel as ice,
Vigorous villain attacking each nerve.
I vehemently fight, but it’s vanquishing me:
Virus does right to begin with a V.

© Celia Warren 2018

As with all text and images on this site, copyright belongs to the author. You may only publish or reprint any poem, text or image with express permission from
Celia Warren.

Wishing time away, is not a good thing,
Yet I can’t help thinking Roll on Spring!

Wishing you a sunny month whatever the weather!

first snowdrop colour-popped.jpg

Past, present and future

January 1, 2018

New Year's Day Start Bay + text

New Year’s Day is a time to look forward, but I’m briefly looking back to discover that it is now over ten years since I joined ‘OEDILF’. This is an online international poetic project that sets out to create an online dictionary where every word in the English language is defined by way of a limerick. This popular poetic form is considered an easy form to write in, at least for those who have a good sense of rhythm and rhyme! Each limerick on this social site is required to define a word and its database will soon hit 10,000 limericks and counting …!

Started by American Chris J Strolin, the site has attracted thousands of writers over the years, many still regular contributers. It is an addictive pastime and as members workshop each other’s writing, we aim to write the best verses we possibly can. Current contributors include writers from many English speaking countries across the globe as well as some from France and Germany, where English is not their first language.

Over the past decade I, personally, have contributed 1400 limericks to the dictionary’s database, while our most prolific writer wrote well over 11 thousand verses. (I did mention it’s addictive!) Recently, our Editor-in-Chief was interviewed for a paper in his native US, and already this publicity has drawn some new contributors to the project. You can read the interview here, and learn more about its aims. It’s a fun and friendly site. Whether you write limericks yourself, or simply enjoy words for their own sake, why not pop your head round the door and see that the Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form (OEDILF) is all about?

And for those who are only just waking up to the realisation that a new year has begun:

You do need to catch up! Where’ve you been?
Don’t you know it’s now 2018?
Wish you Happy New Year
(Though you’re lagging, my dear),
By which, wealth and good health’s what I mean.

© Celia Warren 2018

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

 

 

Helping Hands?

December 2, 2017

… No, it’s more like “Helping Wands“! Read on …

Christmas Poem 2017

… That last line gave me particular satisfaction as most poets will tell you there’s nothing rhymes with ‘dolls’! I do enjoy a challenge!  🙂 I hope you like my new poem, but as with all the poems on this site, it is subject to copyright. Please do not publish it elsewhere without written permission. Thank you.

Hope you’re enjoying the countdown to Christmas. I’ve begun buying presents and a number of people will be receiving copies of Allie Esiri’s wonderful new anthology. I’m proud to have contributed one of the 366 poems in this exciting new hardback book!

SP mono+poetrybook_colourpop

Wearing different hats!

October 24, 2017

​”Poet, anthologist AND author?!” someone recently commented, as if I couldn’t be all three. Well, yes, I am! Admittedly, some of my stories are very, very short – stories for early readers, aged just four or five. In many ways, though, they are the hardest to write. For these an author cannot use many words, which means that the pictures have to ‘carry’ some of the story. That means that the author has to write notes on what the artist should draw on each page. This is called an ‘illustration brief’. It applies to poetry books, too. For example, it isn’t enough to say, “drawing of a mother and child out for a walk”. It may be important to include extra details – What the characters are wearing, What are their facial expressions – surprise? contentment? grumpiness? What else is in the picture, What time of year it is. It might be that there’s an extra character – human or animal – who is important to the plot of the story, but who never appears in the text, only in the pictures.

I’m sharing these thoughts as I’ve just written an article for the Poetry Roundabout website. It is about editing poetry books – how I go about deciding which poems to choose and – harder – which to leave out. My article only touches briefly on illustration and yet, for children’s books in particular, this is an essential aspect of preparing a book. As an author, I can write illustration briefs. I can look at, and comment on, the artist’s ‘roughs’ – the early sketches they produce before embarking on the finished illustration, but it is the publisher who selects the illustrator, in consultation with the author. Some publishers even have ‘in-house’ illustrators, that is artists who do drawings to each book’s requirements especially for that publishing house. Others have favourite artists whose work they know well and whose style they feel will suit the book.

For those of you who didn’t realise that I was an author (of stories) as well as a poet and anthologist, below is a selection of some of my favourites. Have you read any of these books in school or at home? If so, which was your favourite? (Scroll to the bottom for more about these titles and a little puzzle.)

Meanwhile, If you’re interested in reading my article on editing anthologies, Click here!

Here are just a few of the more than one hundred books that I have written, together with a short quiz.

“Poles Apart” was translated into French, when it was called Aux Antipodes.
What tells you this is my favourite? (No, you’re not seeing double!)

Can you guess which other English title here was produced in a French language version?

I wonder if you can work out which of these stories was a retelling of one of Aesop’s fables?

One of these titles changed its title to Tim and the Toy Tooth when it was published in America.
Can you guess what its UK title is?

Which might be a good read for Hallowe’en?

A Time to be Free …

September 6, 2017

Freedom can be seen as a basic human right, but none of us is wholly free all the time. We may be prisoners of fate or illness, commitment to others, the school classroom or the workplace, or prisoners of our own conscience or through the result of our own misdeeds and the law of the land. Freedom is the theme of this year’s UK National Poetry Day on 28 September.

My Schofield and Sims anthology, A Time to Speak and a Time to Listen offers many poems that talk about freedom and/or its absence. Here are some suggestions of poems to read and discuss to kick off your poetry day, or maybe inspire you to write poems of your own, at home or at school. You can find each poem easily as the numbers in brackets after each poem tell you which of the 100 poems in the anthology it is.

1. Explore how a lack of freedom – including freedom of choice – can highlight the benefits of being free.

Read A Final Appointment – Eric Finney (4) & The Tree and the Pool by Brian Patten (100)

In the first, the character Adbul tries to exercise his freedom. What does he try to avoid, only to walk straight into it? In the second, many different characters find their plans and wishes thwarted … by what?

2. Consider how we often more free than we think. All that holds us back is our own fear or lack of belief in ourselves. Imagine if you believed in yourself – believed that there was nothing you couldn’t do. How much might you achieve in your life?

Read Target by Rachel Rooney (25) and Taking a Chance by Roger Stevens (51)

Make a list of some things that you would like to aim for. How can you make yourself free to follow your hopes, aspirations, desires? Discuss what you might change to make better use of your free time?

3. Much of our lives we spend rushing … to catch a bus, to be in time for school, to buy something urgently before the shops close. It is helpful to free our minds of clutter and stress, and relax. Even sitting on a stationary train and looking and listening through the window (or in a traffic jam on a motorway) we can experience freedom beyond us. Stopping to look and listen at any time is worthwhile.

Read Adlestrop by Edward Thomas (99), where the speaker, trapped on a train, becomes aware of the birds’ freedom.

Now read Leisure by W H Davies (17) and Daffodils by William Wordsworth (43). Then Dandelion Time by Sue Cowling (61) and Where Go the Boats? by Robert Louis Stevenson (71)

Think of a place where you like to go to relax. Make notes of some of the sounds you can hear, sights you can see, smells you’re aware off. Now try and turn those images into a short poem about freedom. Try to convey the idea of being free (like Sue Cowling’s dandelion seeds flying freely by, or Edward Thomas’s birdsong), but write your poem without using the words ‘free’ or ‘freedom’.

4. Imagine not being free to walk out of your own front door. Imagine having no choices in your life. If we enjoy freedom and want it for ourselves, is it right to take freedom away from others? Discuss this with friends after reading this extract:

Auguries of Innocence by William Blake (91)

If you have the chance to look at these poems and ideas before National Poetry Day, think about creating an assembly for the rest of your school, with the theme of Freedom in Poetry.

If you don’t have a copy of this anthology in your school library, ask your teacher to follow this link. (There is an accompanying Teacher’s Guide, packed with ideas for enjoying all the 100 poems in the book.)

If you missed my most recent post (Free as a Bird) on this website, scroll down to find it and read some new poems that I have written especially for National Poetry Day 2017.