Zaro Weil: A Glimpse; Adult Poetry and Children’s Poetry

A few years ago, after a talk about children and poetry, I was asked about the difference between adult poetry and kids’ poetry.

A Cheshire cat grin rolled over me. I didn’t have to think twice. ‘There really is none,’ I replied with a smile. ‘A good poem is a good poem is a good poem. Of course themes and language will be different. Age and emotional suitability may vary. But poetry for children is not – at its heart – different from other poetry.’

Let’s take a glimpse at the basics. Just a glimpse.

What is it we expect when we read a poem?

The first thing is simple. There is an invitation. Something in the title or opening line says, Come on in. I have an idea you’re going to like.

Sounds good. We decide not to close the book or turn the page. We read further. The poet is communicating a vision we intuitively like. He or she is talking to us the way a friend might.

Zaro’s Cherry Moon won the CLiPPA Award for Children’s Poetry this year.

From that first invitation a good poem offers, the child is often more than willing to suspend what they already think and allow themselves to be transported into another world. Indeed, kids are often more eager and open than adults to step inside and treat the poet as a new friend.

But the words themselves must also spark magic; the swing and sway of the rhythms, meter and sound need to be dynamic. And feel right. It is the poet’s craft with words which creates excitement and meaning for us. Because our brains buzz and light up when the exact right words both sound great and go together. Like they were meant to be.

As for sound musicality and language acquisition, these are the child’s very own domain; one filled with the joy of rhyme, the thrill of rhythm and the love of onomatopoeia to name a few.

And what is it the poet says to us? Is it clear and sunny enough that we can relate to it? Are the words bright enough in the lines we read for us to ‘get’ it.

Next we ask if this poem inspires us. Do we feel the poet’s unseen presence in his words? Does the poem burrow down to ignite those misty moon-lit thoughts we have but don’t know very well? The thoughts that are deeper and richer than our everyday words and ideas. The ones that allow us to imagine a new way of seeing things.

For imagination relies upon the senses; of what we have seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled and remembered. A good poem creates the words and sensations that call upon the reader’s personal memory store and then graciously offers up the possibility to re-imagine, re-pattern and re-position the reader’s own understandings.

Children grow in the ambiguity of light and dark. In the bright logic of facts and ideas about the world. But they also grow in the belief that there is something else. Something unknown, dark and uncontrollable. Being close to and accepting the mysterious plays an important role in a child’s development. A child is open to being moved by a poem.

And precisely because children play and because imagination is the currency for this play, a good poem can ignite a child’s mind. And as children are close to both their sensory understandings and memories, a good poem has the potential to fly them into a universe pulsing with possibility.

To finish my reply to the question, I think we all, at every age, respond to the same human impulses; the ones which lead us to better understand and illuminate the world we find ourselves in.

And that is why my Cheshire cat can’t help but smile.

Zaro Weil

Zaro Weil lives in southern France with her husband and Spot Guevara Hero Dog, alongside a host of birds, insects, badgers, wild boars, crickets, donkeys, goats, hares and loads more. She has been a lot of things; dancer, theatre director, actress, poet, playwright, educator, quilt collector, historian, author and publisher. Zaro’s two poetry collections, Firecrackers and Cherry Moon were widely praised; with Cherry Moon being awarded the CliPPA Poetry Award for 2020.

Nikita Gill: Slam!

Slam!

All poetry is real poetry.

Walk into a room and ask anyone for their definition of poetry.

No two people will be able to give you the same answer. Poetry’s

become the fastest growing art form in Britain and that isn’t just

from traditional poets or from printed collections. It is in no

small part due to the resilient and powerful work of performance

poets and spoken word artists.

When I write poems, I approach the mediums I place them

on with equal importance – whether I put them on a blog, on

Instagram or submit them to literary journals. It never occurred

to me that posting my work in a certain medium would mean I

would then be defined by that medium. This is why I find such a

kinship with performance-based poets.

To define a poet who performs their work as a ‘slam poet’,

and to suggest that ‘slam poets’ aren’t ‘real poets’ is a myopic

misrepresentation of the work they do. There is no such thing as

slam poetry – simply poetry that works in slams. There are no slam

poets, only poets who, with immense craft, have the added the skill of

performing their work in a way that enthralls an audience. One

kind of poetry is not superior to another due to the format it is

produced or shared in.

For years, poetry has been misconceived as an area of elite

literature which is for the privileged few to craft, learn or teach a

certain way. It has been sequestered to the classroom as something

that made us groan as we studied and peeled layer after layer off

Milton’s work in an attempt to understand just what he meant.

But what if there was a different version of poetry? What if we

let it out of the classroom and put it on stage? What if poetry is

remembered to be what it is: the language of fire, fury and freedom?

What if, and bear with me, poetry was for everyone again?

This is exactly what performance poetry is about. It reminds us

of the revolution poetry incites. People from all walks of life flock

to venues or YouTube to watch their favourite poets perform on

stage, using language they can relate to, incorporating humour with

tragedy in an almost Shakespearean way. Slams are an inclusive,

open space, giving poets from under-represented communities a

supportive environment to share their truth, and presenting it in

a format so easily accessible and unpretentious, that people who’d

never engaged with poetry before are finally able to

Slam!, the anthology curated this year, is a manifesto for

change in many ways. It is a manifesto for performance poetry,

the craft and beauty of it and the way it resonates with millions of people. It is a manifesto for

poetry itself, as poets are natural truth-tellers and bring us face

to face with honesty in a time where fact is being dismissed for

opinion. It is a manifesto for compassion and how important it

is in a world that is ever more divided.

The poets in this book are awe-inspiring. Their work is

transcendent, both on the stage and on the page. Without them,

poetry would not be what it is today: empowering, immensely

emotive, approachable, wise, humorous – and all of this whilst

being stunningly and thoughtfully constructed.

As it has been said by our ancestors in

art, let the work speak for itself. After all, poetry is not a luxury,

certainly not in the world we

live in today. It is a war cry – a battle song. And you’re gonna

wanna hear this.

Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and poet living in the south of England. With a huge online following her words have entranced hearts and minds all over the world. She is a passionate advocate for poetry in all forms and her collection of rewritten Fierce Fairytales along with her latest book of poetry Wild Embers have taken the world by storm.