Lorraine Mariner: Playing with Poetry – Events and Exhibitions for Children

It’s a year since we relaunched our Rug Rhymes session for under-5s as part of Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival, and for 2023 our Day of Poetry for Children in the National Poetry Library is back, for the first time since 2020. On Monday 13th February we’re delighted to be welcoming acclaimed children’s poet James Carter to lead a special Rug Rhymes and a reading for ages 5-7, Poems Go Zoom! that will also include a chance to write a poem together. James will be joined at a reading for 8-11 year olds, Poems With Pizzazz! by rising star Alex Wharton, and Alex will be leading a poetry writing workshop for ages 6-10, At the Magic Hour.

Tickets are going fast but, as well as our poetry events, Imagine also includes Rhymes LIVE, a free workshop and performance led byLondon Rhymes who have been reimagining and reinventing the ‘nursery rhyme’ with help from families and young children since 2015; Tales from Acorn Wood, Julia Donaldson’s beloved rhyming lift the flap books brought to life live on stage; Family Fun with Michael Rosen, a chance to hear national treasure Michael Rosen perform stories, poems and rhymes; and former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s family-friendly dance-theatre retelling of Rapunzel, presented by balletLORENT.

We’re also thrilled that artist and author Sam Winston, whose exhibitions we’ve hosted in the Poetry Library over the years, has designed the One and Everything Family Trail for Imagine to tie in with his new picture book One and Everything, inspired by the Endangered Alphabets project, which ties in with our own Endangered Poetry Project which we launched in 2017. Sam’s practice explores language and he is renowned for his distinctive use of typography and One and Everything employs different scripts from around the world in letterform and colour. The trail introduces children to some bouncing alphabets, two young brothers who invented their own way of writing and some exciting ways for families to tell their own tales.

The trail is free and we hope it will lead families to discover the National Poetry Library in the way that our recent exhibition Poetry Games did. Curated by Nick Murray and exploring the intersection between poetry and games, both board and video, it was a wonderful way to engage children and young people with poetry without them realising! Nick explained in an article for The London Magazine that, “What the Poetry Games exhibition aims to do is address the common misperceptions of both poetry and games. That games are light, entertainment focused toys, and that poetry is the inaccessible and stuffy side of literature.” I had got very used to the click of a joystick at weekends as children jumped their way through Philippe Grenon’s Émile et Moi and landed on word platforms that created a new poem.

A legacy of the exhibition is that we’re now the proud owners of The Amazing Push Poem Machine, the latest iteration of a game that has been played since 1976 when it was named by Carol Ann Duffy.

It brings all the fun of the fair to poetry writing with children as you take it in turns to throw a ball to randomly select a letter, which you then use as the first letter to write a word, the words becoming a poem. We’ve had great fun using it during school visits over the past few months and look forward to using it with visiting groups in the future.

Please follow this link to see all the Imagine events taking place in the National Poetry Library and Southbank Centre from 8-18 February 2023.


Lorraine Mariner

Lorraine Mariner is an Assistant Librarian at the National Poetry Library and has published two poetry collections for adults with Picador, Furniture (2009) and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014), and two pamphlets Bye For Now (The Rialto, 2005) and Anchorage (Grey Suit Editions, 2020).