Teresa Cremin: A 2021 Poetry Pledge

A 2021 Poetry Pledge

As poetry and fiction have their roots in everyday speech, our first experiences of poetry are often aural. From our earliest years we take pleasure in the playful, rhythmic nature of language which is poetic in nature.  This ‘memorable speech’ (Auden and Garret, 1935) often entices young children to participate orally in word play and encourages them to experiment with and absorb playground rhymes, songs, football chants, jingles, jokes and lyrics.

So as a New Year’s resolution, I invite you to commit to celebrating the power and pleasure in  poetry more regularly. Perhaps, like me, you’ll pledge to read a poem aloud each day during January? I’m going to give voice to verse daily, bringing ‘dead’ words on the page to life and tracking the consequences of this simple act on myself as an adult reader and on those around me. If you’re a teacher, as many readers of this blog are, I wonder what the impact of reading a poem a day will be on the young people? 

If you agree to join me, then I suggest making such a plan public – with the children, with family and even on social media- this is likely to ensure we sustain our commitment and help us pay close attention to any emergent consequences.

Might you set a particular time aside for this? I think I’m going to read aloud a poem just before or after supper, Mark, my husband, might listen in then. In classrooms, (in person or virtually),  I recommend selecting a space that has the capacity to stretch over time, i.e. not at the close of the day or just before a break – who knows what might happen?

What might you read? Personally, I’m going to make a pile of some old but gold, alongside some new and bold poetry collections, and revisit a range of forms and styles, seeking to move well beyond those which are explicitly created/framed to be read aloud.  In schools, maybe themed weeks will develop with female poets or verse about particular topics of interest – food, animals, injustice – and a recommendations table with teachers and children’s favourites bookmarked for reading time.  I guess I’ll be re-reading some too, to discern their nature or to taste them on my tongue again.

How might you share this time with others?  I imagine Mark will browse my collection if I leave them lying around, and my reading will prompt discussion, just as in school. Soon enough, I expect teachers will find children making requests and offering to read aloud too. If this doesn’t happen naturally, I’d trigger it and invite pairs or groups to volunteer to prepare readings or mini performances to share with the class. Developing this idea, Sadie Philips from a London primary school, brought in an old twig tree, introduced it as a special ‘Poet-Tree’ and invited children to copy their chosen read/performed poems onto a leaf ,(later laminated), for others to enjoy.  The children’s ownership of their Poet-Tree had consequences and triggered increased awareness, pleasure and engagement in the form.

Poetry deserves to be heard. Voicing a poem each day will help build poems ‘in common’ in homes and classrooms. Our research suggests that we live through such ‘texts in common’  together and when they are offered for the sole purpose of  shared enjoyment, they represent a rich resource for repeated readings, conversation and connections.  In addition, they nurture our pleasure in reading and play a particularly resonant role in helping build reading communities (Cremin, 2018).

Will you join me?

Teresa Cremin

Teresa Cremin is Professor of Education (Literacy) at the Open University. An advocate of developing teachers’ creative artistry, Teresa researches teachers’ and children’s literate identities and practices. Her most recent books include Children reading for pleasure in the digital age: Mapping reader engagement (with Natalia Kucirkova, 2020) and the forthcoming Teaching English Creatively (3rd edition).

Teresa leads a professional user-community website that supports over 100 OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Groups and 30 HEI partnerships across the country in order to support the development of children’s and teachers’ pleasure in reading. @TeresaCremin

Cheryl Moskowitz: The Wild Woods of Summer


The Wild Woods of Summer


The year speeds by
like a bullet train –
a ramjet, scramjet
supersonic aeroplane
streak in the night
bright meteorite
a shooting star
from where we started
to where we are.

And soon now soon now
very very soon
like a giant sized
helium balloon
big and bursting
(but lighter than air)
we’ll rise up high
and disappear.

You can search the sky
but we won’t be there;
we’ll be out of sight
we’ll be underground
we’ll be with friends
and heading on down
to the wild woods
of summer…

The poem which begins and ends this post is published in the current issue of The Caterpillar, a gorgeous magazine chock full of quality writing for children. The wild woods in this poem could be a real place, and also a metaphor for the imagination, the place where all poetry begins. I wrote it for a graduating class of yr6 pupils at Highfield where I was Poet in Residence for 3½ years, anticipating the summer along with them.

Now the May half-term is over, the month of May finished (and PM May’s term of office too), we are all, no doubt, looking ahead to our respective summers, wherever we are and whatever we may be planning to do.

Summer, with its long languorous days and warm, balmy nights. Summer, when it feels as if ‘life might be beginning all over again’ as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby says, ‘with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies’. Or the kind of summer which is ‘everything good to eat…’ and ‘a thousand colours in a parched landscape’ according to Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

For most children, the summer is a time for adventure, play, and time for rest. Away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom it is an opportunity to be by yourself, a time for being outdoors and enjoying a certain peace. For some, it is only when school ends and the summer holidays begin, they can feel free to be truly themselves. In summer it is not only everything around us in nature, but also the imagination that goes wild. No wonder so many great writers pay homage to this season in their poems and stories. Here are some links to three of my favourites.

Lewis Carroll – A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky
Emily Dickinson – As Imperceptibly as Grief
Eleanor Farjeon – It was Long Ago

Poems, summer poems especially, are often about place: the place we’re in, a place we long to go to, or a place we miss. ‘A person can only be born in one place’, writes Palestinian poet and author, Mahmoud Darwish. ‘However, he may die several times elsewhere.’ Darwish was referring specifically to the experience of exile, imprisonment or the way a person is estranged when their homeland is transformed by war or occupation. Childhood, with all its difficult transitions can be a kind of exile, making us feel like strangers, even to ourselves. Each new phase we enter can feel like a mini-death and rebirth. ‘Poetry,’ says Darwish, ‘is perhaps what teaches us to nurture the charming illusion: how to be reborn out of ourselves over and over again, and use words to construct a better world, a fictitious world that enables us to sign a pact for a permanent and comprehensive peace… with life.’

This time of year, with the pressure of exams and everything out of place with the end of term looming, encouraging pupils to read or write poetry may be low on the school or home agenda. However, for children, parents and teachers alike it might be that poetry is just the thing that is needed to establish a place for yourself and ensure a positive and productive summer.

Here are some opportunities (all FREE to enter):

1) Throughout the summer writers of all ages are invited to write poems about place, heritage and identity, and pin them to the Places of Poetry map. I’ve written some resources to get you started (KS1–KS5, plus teacher guides) available via the Poetry Society or the Places of Poetry website.

2) Betjeman Poetry Prize invites poems on the theme of ‘Place’ by 10-13 year olds.

3) Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award for 11-17 year olds invites poems on any theme!

4) The Winchester Poetry Festival runs the Young Poets and Artists Competition for children living in Hampshire aged 4-16. This year they want poems about ‘Seasons’ – why not write about summer?

The days unfold
like a three-toed sloth –
a crawlback, sprawlback
laze in the undergrowth
tar-drip slow
dreams of indigo
time to chill
from the end of your bed
to the windowsill.

So forget about school
(but not completely!)
break a few rules
but do it sweetly
and this time
when that home bell goes,
kick off your shoes
and wiggle your toes,
hang up your things
put your schoolbag down
turn the corner
and head on round
to the wild woods of summer.


Cheryl Moskowitz


Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, performer, playwright and educator. She studied Developmental Psychology at Sussex University and trained in dramatherapy and psychodynamic counselling. In 1996 she co-founded LAPIDUS (The Association for the Literary Arts in Personal Development) and taught on the Creative Writing and Personal Development MA at Sussex University from 1996–2010.

She writes for adults and children, runs workshops regularly in schools and is passionate about getting teachers and pupils to write their own poems. She runs writing projects in a wide variety of community settings often working with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. Currently she is working with Pop Up and KSENT, a three-year project bringing authors into schools to develop creative resources for use in SEN schools across Kent.

She is an editor for MAGMA poetry magazine, on the organising committee for the European Psychoanalytic Film Festival (epff10) and co-hosts, together with her musician husband, Alastair Gavin, The All Saints Sessions, a bi-monthly experimental music and poetry performances.

Publications include novel, Wyoming Trail, Granta (1998), poetry for children Can it Be About Me? Frances Lincoln (2012) and poetry for adults The Girl is Smiling, Circle Time Press (2012).

Cheryl’s Website.