On Monday 17 February 2020, at the Southbank Children’s Poetry Library, as part of Imagine Festival for Children, I read some poems with the editor of this wonderful book, Poems From a Green and Blue Planet, the lovely Sabrina Mahfouz. A recording was made by the National Poetry Library, an adventure into snowy mountains and deep blue oceans, celebrating the world we live in.
If you’d like to listen, it’s here: National Poetry Library.
Some of you may know, but maybe some of you don’t, that I have an assistance dog. A number of years ago, it was suggested by my consultant that I might want to have a pancreas transplant, due to the number of low blood sugars and unconscious episodes I was having, as I have no warning symptoms.
This made life a bit scary, especially going to sleep at night – I was never sure if I would wake up the next morning. Going out alone was always a bit of a trial, too. I looked into a pancreas transplant and decided not to go for one. Instead, I applied for a medical detection dog, and after being on their waiting list, Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes helped train Lola for me.
I’ve had Lola for 10 years now, and she has been brilliant. She lets me know before my blood sugar is too low or too high, so I can do something about it, and she has saved my life on a number of occasions. Nowadays I also have a sensor which also reads my blood sugar and sends a signal to my pump, and it also warns me – but it’s not as fast as Lola, and sometimes when it’s calibrating I don’t have it. Lola also alerts when I’m out, and can hear the alarms when I can’t, so she still earns her keep! She has enabled me to be a poet and to be able to go out to schools etc.
So – the reason for this post. Medical Detection dogs is a wonderful charity. Their dogs are the ones being trained to detect various cancers way before traditional methods used by medical science can. Dogs are also trained for a number of conditions like Ehlers Danlos syndrome where sufferers can collapse at any moment without warning. Their dogs alert so there is time to lie down safely, so the dogs’ owners are able to go out alone.
My daughter Emmelie is raising money for this charity by running a half marathon. If you have any spare pennies, and any amount would be welcome, do think of supporting her!
Thank you from Lola and me for reading this far!
It turns out that all the books I have done for Macmillan have a green theme… so I made a Christmas tree! Should you be searching for a Christmas present… Be the Change, the newest book, written with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, are poems to help you save the world. Each poem has a little tip at the end, a simple thing that a child can do to help save the world. Oh! And it’s on FSC paper and board, and has no plastic on the cover to go with the all sustainable poems!
If you’d like to know how how to make a Christmas tree out of any pictures, I used Word – images of the books, which I layered into the tree, making them a ‘behind’ layer or an ‘in front’ layer as necessary, and then under Shape Format on Mac, or Format on PC, I ‘cropped to a shape’ for the star and the top of the tree.
There is one thing which every writer acknowledges – to write books you must love books and if you love books you read books and if you read lots of books you can write better books.
Lola knows this. Here she is eyeing a cake hungrily at the recent North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards ceremony, at which there is always a lot of cakes (and a lot of books).
And here she is eating the rice paper I love books decoration. Because let’s face it, nothing says I love this sign more than eating it.
I am very pleased to have just become the Reading Patron for Chewton Mendip Primary School. I visited today and met all the children in each class, Rabbit, Hedgehog, Badger, Squirrel and Fox. What a lovely school! I read some poems, and was asked a lot of excellent questions. I took Lola with me of course and some of the questions were about her. I didn’t tell the children what a very tidy dog Lola is. I took Lola’s bed in case we needed it, and as soon as I had unpacked it when we got back home, she picked it up in her mouth and took it back where it belongs. I have no idea where this tidiness streak comes from. It certainly isn’t me.
Here are the pictures I drew for each class – they have a poem each, too.
I’m looking forward to working with all the children, and helping to make reading fun!
Tuffley Primary School came to Cheltenham Literary Festival to see Matt Goodfellow and I perform some The Same Inside and Be the Change poems, and afterwards they wrote some excellent climate crisis poems themselves – which I am very pleased to be able to share with you.
Paul, I really like the image of the world fading away before our eyes, because it is being hidden by pollution. ‘I really hate pollution because it is like the world is fading away’. Lovely imagery! And wonderful undersea illustration.
Buying food locally is a brilliant way of helping local people AND helping the planet, a great thing to explain in this poem. Your last line is wonderful, Emilia; ‘set your food free, save them, and save me’. Every life in the world depends on other lives in the world – the bacteria in the earth, the insects, the birds, the animals, the trees, we need to save them all to save ourselves.
Keelie-Louise, your poem has some fantastic poetic devices in it – repetition and alliteration and rhythm. ‘Hear me out, I’m gonna shout, I’m gonna shout’ – brilliant! Litter does indeed kill many, many animals. They can get stuck inside bottles, choke on plastic, and get caught in strings etc.
You mention dreaming in your first line Faraneh, and there is a lovely dreamy quality to the rest of your poem as well. ‘Motion’ and ‘ocean’ are lovely, rolling, dreamy words that make you think of the sea. What a good idea to put a series of worlds breaking apart in the illustrations going round your poem.
Chloe, the repeating lines of the animal names and ‘Save me! save them! in your poem are very powerful. Your use of ‘not for me’ – is like saying not in my name, a statement that you are not going to accept this and will try to stop it. I also admire the way your picture round the edge is alike a deep, deep ocean with the sand at the top, with a little turtle just coming out.
Diamond seas is a very evocative description, making me think of sun and sparkles and and happy times, Mya. Excellent point, too, about how cutting down trees will affect the oxygen levels in the world as the not only take in carbon dioxide but they also breathe out our oxygen. Your repeated ‘please’ at the end is like a chorus. The tree looks like it is crying leaves!
Krystian, I love the empathy you have with animals that shines so clearly from your poem. It is certainly true that cutting down on the meat we eat will help the climate crisis. This is very complicated, and people have very strong feelings on both sides of this subject. I like the way your people round the edge are sad then not happy or sad, unsure, and then very happy, changing in each drawing. Having something to say and an opinion and expressing it well is very important in writing.
Great simile comparing the climate crisis with the meteor that helped wipe out most of the dinosaurs, Farbod! And a very powerful illustration, too… I’d like to see your next illustration of a happy world, without knives hanging over it, because so many people are walking or cycling, choosing to use the bus, or even to share their cars on the way to work!
Most of your poem is about the terrible things that are happening, Jaycie, but your last lovely line is the one that will save the animals! You have used what is known as ‘slant rhyme’. Two words that use the same vowel sound but different consonant sounds – killer and river. Well done. I like the way you have a contrast in your picture, too – the dark sea in the middle, and the bright, happy, rainbow outside of the polluted middle!
There can be hundreds of creatures living in just one tree – it’s excellent that you have kept focussed on just one aspect of climate crisis in this poem, Daisy – chopping down trees will, in the end, kill the animals that live in them, and can bring those creatures to extinction. The line ‘It is their home’ is very emotive – it makes people think how sad it would be to not have their own home. The falling leaves all around your picture makes me think of the trees falling too – lovely!
What a great line, Malachy, ‘one hundred enormous factories burning up the sky’. Wonderful rhythm, too. Help it, help it, help it, is a great opening line, as well, it gets people’s attention because it is an imperative – an order. And what a lot you have managed to get into your picture – the burning skies, the pollution from the factory, and the little turtle about to eat a plastic bag.
Another poem full of love for animals, Joseph. It’s wonderful that you have such strong feelings – poetry and art are very good ways of catching attention, helping people feel empathy, and making them think about and perhaps question things. ‘Knives stabbing like sharks attacking their prey’ is an excellent simile. What a lot of expressive pig faces!
Tyra, this is a great subject for your poem! Water is very precious, but because it is so easy to get from the tap and by flushing, it is so quickly wasted. ‘It is like filling up a pool for no-one to go in it’. Fantastic point. I hadn’t thought of it, but is just like that! Excellent – perhaps you could write a little book of tips?
Wow, there is some smashing imagery in this poem, Cody. Pollution is a very powerful thing, even if we can’t always see it, it is there affecting our air and breathing, and eventually if it gets too bad, yes, nothing will grow, and because of climate crisis fires can make the sky go dark with smoke. ‘A factory blowing black gas like a dark, dark room’ is a wonderful line. I also very much like the first two lines in this poem, they make your message feel very personal.
You’ve got a great rhythm in this poem, Safaa. I particularly like the third verse. You could take that verse and make more using the same first and last two lines,’The oceans are as polluted as/The city of Beijing,/If you want to save the Earth/Help Stop Pollution, and just change the ‘The city of Beijing’ line to all sorts of great similes like that one!
Isabell, you have some lovely similes here. “leaves as green as green as freshly grown grass’. What wonderfully alliterative lines. And a fabulous word – interdependent! Great information too – I don’t think many people know that not only do trees provide places for animals, and breathe in CO2, and give us oxygen, and give us fruit and nuts, they also help make soil, keep the soil healthy, and keep the soil where it is, places without trees flood much more easily.
You have chosen to write about and draw one of my favourite animals, Liam. Your polar bear does look very sad! The arctic circle should be as cold and colder than our freezer, but some parts recently have been warmer than our country for periods of time. ‘the arctic circle is melting, there’s no way to save them’ would make a great repeating line about the animals if you are writing another poem about the arctic circle. It has the same rhythm as ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’!
Isa, ‘a forest is as massive as one hundred football pitches’ is a lovely rhythmic line. Did you know that the world lost one football pitch of trees every single SECOND in 2017? That’s a lot of trees. I knew they were important but I didn’t know they make 25% of the oxygen in our air, thank you for that fact. I like the two very tall, majestic trees either side of your poem!
What a wonderful idea, Lorna, all the other creatures in the world looking at us in disapproval! They certainly should be, shouldn’t they! ‘Turtles looking like emerald seaweed, fishes as smooth as silk’ – beautiful imagery and lovely alliteration in those lines! I like the fish in the top left corner saying ‘save me’ !
‘Recycle, recycle, save the turtles’ are fabulous alliterative lines, Naomi. You have another two great alliterative lines as well – ‘on a sunny, sandy seashore with ice-cream’. A lot of ice-cream wrappers get blown out to sea because people throw them down. Even those put in a bin can fly out in the wind into the sea. I expect you know it’s safest to take all wrappers home. The repeated recycle pattern round your poem is great!
Oscar, I love that you have thought about sounds in your poem. I have never thought about the fact that trees sound just like plastic bags swishing in the wind, what an original simile! I used to live by the sea when I was a child, and to me they always sound like the sea. You have drawn wonderful images around your poem of trees being cut down. Perhaps your school could find somewhere to plant some trees? The Woodland Trust can provide trees, free.
Milena, you have used rhyme very successfully in your poem, which is hard to do, well done! ‘We’re destroying the Earth, Cutting down trees, There’s pollution and rubbish, In all of our seas!’ are great, rhythmic lines. I’m also very impressed by how neat your trees are surrounding your poem – the whole page looks excellent.
Great use of rhyming repetition here, Keira, which is an excellent poetic device. I like the idea of reusing toys and making them new. Is that you polishing a scooter? Wonderful. I also like that you have used the word ‘reduce’ which is one of the very, very best ways to help the planet – reducing what you buy.
I like the focus of this poem just on pollution from cars, Freya-May. I also like the fact you haven’t accepted ‘no time’ as a reason not to walk! Did you know that children in cars breathe in a lot more pollution than children who walk to school, even if they are walking beside busy, polluted roads? I hope you can walk to school, when it isn’t too rainy! What a fabulous drawing, too, of pollution from the exhaust pipe of the car, and the black cloud of pollution above!
Congratulations, Tuffley Primary School on a wonderful set of poems and great knowledge base!
On Wednesday 9th October Matt Goodfellow and I were performing together for the first time, at Cheltenham Literary Festival, in the Sunday Times Garden Theatre.
This isn’t a dedicated children’s literary festival, like Bath, and the green room was quite a lot larger as it also hosts people who write for adults. The photo above, taken by our lovely editor, and super-poetry-champion, Gaby Morgan, is a small corner. Sadly I didn’t recognise anyone else in it as I never recognise faces, and the only person I knew well-enough at the festival to recognise (wonderful children’s author, Candy Gourlay) was performing in the same tent just before us, and was signing books as we were ushered in for sound checks etc.
Me – and Matt… during the sound check and light in your eyes check!
We used poems from The Same Inside, Poems about Empathy and Friendship, and Be the Change, Poems To Help You Save the World, about why it’s important to be a glitter quitter, and showing how to save 50,000 trees each Christmas. We’ve written both books together with our poet friend, Roger Stevens.
I don’t think it will be the last time we will perform together as it was GREAT FUN, and brilliant having someone else on stage with you – it can be a bit daunting facing 500 faces alone!
Here’s to next time.
Poem by Liz Brownlee, read by Liz Brownlee, thank you to Chris Riddell for the illustration.
I was sent this beautiful gif which features a verse from my poem, Snow Fox, by Hachette books. Poems From Green and Blue Planet is out tomorrow in a book shop near you, on #NationalPoetryDay!
I hope you are all going to share a poem with someone, any poem, or a truth poem (the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day) tomorrow!
This is a scheduled post. Today is Global Climate Action Day – and I will be taking action by marching in Bristol with our young people to protest the government’s inaction, and all governments’ inaction on this issue.
On the subject of sustainability, Be the Change has arrived, in the form of my, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens‘ new book of climate crisis poems. Young children are hearing a lot of doom and gloom, real doom and gloom of course, and many feel powerless. Each poem has a little ‘you can help’ tip underneath, small, real steps to help the planet, which are achievable by any young person. (I love the cover, by Anneka Sandher, thank you, Anneka!)
So – here is the ultimate poem in this collection. Humans already have the ability to fight climate crisis. All that is missing is our own interaction, our own action, our own coming together, our own cooperation, our own will. It only takes everyone doing something, every government liaising with every other government, to arrange a way to save us all. Will it happen? Perhaps it relies on every person asking their own government to do something. At the minute, we can only hope.
in lilting flight,
as cold as stars,
the soundless white
of drifting feathers
to sing the songs
that snowflakes sing,
of how small gifts
of peace and light
can change the world
in just one night.
© Liz Brownlee