Andrea Reece: P is for … Reasons to be Cheerful

P is for … Reasons to be Cheerful

The last time I wrote a blog for the Poetry Summit it was January, eight months and a different world ago. Who would have thought way back then, that the ‘p’ word defining 2020 would not be poetry but pandemic?  My diary (I’m old-school and use a paper one, don’t @ me) is full of crossings-out: the whole of the Oxford Literary Festival including events I’d organised on the children’s and young people’s programme  with (gulp) Nikita Gill, Rakaya Fetuga, Jinhao Xie, Troy Cabida, and another with (gulp again) Allie Esiri, Samuel West, Diana Quick, Hugh Ross and Gina Bellman; a big scribble blots out 13 July, which should have been the date for the joyful and inspiring extravaganza that is the CLiPPA award ceremony at the National Theatre.

Looking back though, even if our year has been marked by a peculiar silence, for me as for many I’m sure, it has been punctuated by poetry. Moments I’ll remember include sitting in the garden listening to Roger Robinson’s new recordings for the Poetry Archive; the brilliant Forward Meet the Poet sessions featuring readings from the ten books shortlisted for the Forward Prizes and question and answer sessions with the shortlisted poets; Laura Mucha’s Dear Key Workers thank you poem to the NHS, created with the help of children cheered me hugely (and still does).

Now though, after all the cancellations and postponements, there are real reasons to be cheerful, amongst them the news that the CLiPPA Show will go on.  Thanks to a new partnership between CLPE and The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, the CLiPPA will be celebrated in the Festival’s programme for schools and families, and the winner announced in a very special Festival Poetry Show on Friday 9 October. The Poetry Show will be introduced live by CLiPPA judges, Valerie Bloom and Steven Camden, and will feature performances by the shortlisted poets.  Schools across the UK and beyond will be able to watch the show for free, and then, thoroughly inspired, join in a special post-event shadowing scheme and create their own poetry performances.  By the way, the shortlist will be announced on National Poetry Day, 1 October, another big date that’s certainly not going to be crossed out.

If that isn’t enough, just take a look at the autumn poetry publication schedules – there are some extraordinarily good collections coming out.  Many of my favourites are highlighted in the National Poetry Day recommended lists, including The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice by A F Harrold and Mini Grey, SLAM!, the collection we were so excited to celebrate at the Oxford Literary Festival, and She Will Soar, a superb new collection edited by Ana Sampson, but The Girl Who Became a Tree (Otter-Barry Books) by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Klaus Flugge Prize winner Kate Milner, is heart-stoppingly powerful, a mesmerising exploration of grief and renewal, while I haven’t stopped thinking about Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam and Ibi Zobo since I read it this summer.  HarperCollins will publish in the UK on 1 September, make sure you get a copy.

And one other thing that’s making me happy: in my last blog on here, I’d suggested that as part of the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Books for Keeps, the UK’s leading children’s books review journal, we might create a new BfK Poetry Guide, and we’ve decided to do just that.  It will be published on National Poetry Day – when else? – and will be packed full of features, interviews with poets and of course reviews of the outstanding new poetry being published for children. You can get in touch to find out more or with feature suggestions (andrea@booksforkeeps.co.uk), and sign up for our newsletter to get it delivered to your inbox on National Poetry Day. (PS if you missed our July issue, there’s a great interview with Joshua Seigal by Liz Brownlee that I highly recommend).

Andrea Reece

Andrea Reece is Managing Editor of Books for Keeps.

Andrea Reece: Celebrating Poetry from the CLiPPA Until National Poetry Day, 3rd October

Celebrating Poetry from the CLiPPA Until National Poetry Day, 3rd October

National Poetry Day was honoured to attend the award ceremony for the fabulous CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) at the National Theatre on 3rd July. And what an afternoon it was! An excited audience of poetry fans enjoyed superb live performances not only from the shortlisted poets – Steven Camden, Kwame Alexander, Rachel Rooney, Eloise Greenfield and Philip Gross – but from the pupils of five primary schools who had each shadowed the award. Groups of children, plus one solo performer took to the stage to give enthusiastic and accomplished performances of favourite poems from the shortlisted collections. By turns funny, touching, revealing, poignant and powerful, these poetry performances effortlessly filled the huge auditorium of the Lyttleton Theatre. Here again is proof of the creativity that poetry releases in children not to mention the confidence (the Lyttelton seats over 800) and of course the sheer joy.

We at National Poetry Day want every child in the country to experience that same rush of excitement that performing poems for others brings. Equally importantly, we want to encourage every young person to write their own poem ready to perform on National Poetry Day. That’s why we were delighted to announce the launch of #MyNPDPoem as the culmination of the CLiPPA ceremony.

Created in association with CLPE and with the support of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), #MyNPDPoem encourages schools everywhere to create poems, performances, displays and even special books.

This year’s National Poetry Day theme is Truth, and #MyNPDPoem invites students aged 6 to 13 to express the truths that matter to them, in poems. Topics might be the truth about your family, or your school; nature might provide inspiration, provoking a poem about the truths the natural world reveals; perhaps you’ll want to share a hidden truth about yourself and the way you feel about the world; or maybe you’ll want to explore the opposite of truth – lies!

National Poetry Day ambassadors Michael Rosen, Rachel Rooney, Joseph Coelho, Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Karl Nova have created special films filled with tips and poetry writing prompts all of which are available now on the NPD website nationalpoetryday.co.uk while a resource pack by CLPE gives teachers everything they need to get the most out of this new project.

Once children have written a poem or poems on the theme of truth, schools or teachers can share the best on National Poetry Day by tagging pictures on
Instagram or Twitter with #MyNPDPoem. We’d love it if schools choose to hold their own poetry show on National Poetry Day by inviting everyone to perform their poems aloud and there’s a special certificate for every young poet available for download from the National Poetry Day website. Schools who really want to celebrate their pupils’ writing can even publish the poems as a book for pupils to take home to show their friends and families, using Scholastic’s We Are Writers scheme.

This year is the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Day, and we’d like to make it the biggest ever. Every school who takes part in #MyNPDPoem will be part of those national poetry celebrations, celebrations that began at the CLiPPA, and that might just carry on for lifetimes.

Andrea Reece

Andrea Reece works for the Forward Arts Foundation as manager National Poetry Day. Andrea is the one in the middle in the top picture!

National Poetry Day Website.