This is a copy of a post form my 2018 A-Z of Extraordinary Women, in celebration of JanDean, whose poem this is, and who is retiring this year.
Ursula Le Guin image by Gorthian, by CC Licence.
This special entry is again by one of my fellow authors of my new book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls – the wonderful and talented Jan Dean! The Wizard of Earthsea was one of my favourite books.
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2015, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honours and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. In 2003 she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of only a handful of women writers to take the top honour in a genre that has come to be dominated by male writers.
This poem springs from UKL’s ideas in her book ‘The Wave In the Mind’. Its title refers to her famous children’s trilogy ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ where magic works through the power of understanding the real names of things and speaking them purposefully.
she makes worlds
from words and mindspit
knows that what she speaks
first rises in the soft machinery
of brain cells
flows through rivers of nerves
to become clicks sighs of speech
understands the science of sound
the bash of air molecules
thumping against an eardrum
the pulse of eardrum
flicking noise back up
into another brain
which reads those quick electric ticks
all that stuff – the way sound moves
the way it is one thing
that joins the speaker to the listener –
she knows that
and so she makes worlds
with words and the sudden explosions
of ideas in her head
(let’s call it mindspit)
she does it because it matters
that we join together
it matters that together we imagine
how things could be
if we were kinder
if we were more human
more like family ought to be
© Jan Dean
Ursula Le Guin is extraordinary. So is Jan Dean.
If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!
The Poetry Book Shop, Hay on Wye is apparently a very good place to find poetry – and children’s poetry. My friend Debra Bertulis went in today and found my book on the counter. CLEARLY a book shop of fine opinions and good sense of taste.
Thank you, Debra for sending me the picture, and thank you The Poetry Book Shop! I am particularly proud of this book, published by IRON Press, illustrations by the lovely and talented Rose Sanderson.
In September, The Same Inside (written with Roger Stevens and Matt Goodfellow) and Apes to Zebras (written with Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens) were shorlisted with two other books for the poetry section of the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards – here is Mungo the dog modelling Apes to Zebras!
On Saturday, Sue Hardy Dawson, Roger Stevens and my self joined many other authors at the award ceremony – this is an annual award voted on by teachers all over North Somerset of course, but also from all over the UK.
Apes to Zebras, an A-Z of Shape Poems won, and Sue, Roger and I are absolutely thrilled.
Thanks you teachers who voted for this book – we value regard from you most highly.
Here we are just after receiving the award, and still feeling quite pole-axed!
The North Somerset Teachers put on a WONDERFUL spread of cakes. Really quite extraordinary. Children read out the winners – the whole ceremony is delightful, and we can’t thank them enough for the effort they put in to these awards, and for their enthusiasm for children’s books in general. Not to mention the best book raffle EVER.
And here is the lovely award itself:
I also won this award last year with Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan for Reaching the Stars – better write another excellent book for next year!
On Saturday 28th September I was in the Forest of Imagination in Bath’s Kingsmead Square, reading poems from Apes to Zebras, to unsuspecting members of the public, both adults and children, who came to explore the Book Den (which was stocked by the kind authors attending Bath Children’s Literature Festival). Luckily everyone seemed to enjoy the book and the readings… it was great fun and a lovely way to spend the run-up to National Poetry Day.
Here’s some more photos:
Children and adults are always as fascinated by animals as I am!
Altogether a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
This wonderful book(Otrer-Barry) is full of poems by the National Poetry Ambassadors on the theme for National Poetry Day of Change. I’m one of them, and my poem is below with the teachers’ notes which were prepared by the WONDERFUL CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). I really recommend this book, the poems are gorgeous, and you can download the teachers’ notes for all the poems here.
In the Arctic summer
the cloud-grey fox
listens for prey
in the low shrubs and rocks
hidden and still
as the permafrost ground
his senses vivid
with scent and sound
when lemmings are hidden
under the snow,
the wild geese are flown
and biting winds blow
a horizon-less white
shrouds the Arctic fox
in clouds of snow fur
from tail tip to socks
he haunts frozen sea
as thin as the air
hoping for scraps
missed by polar bear
or curls in his tail
from the star-cold white
chewing on hunger
through long arctic night
and waits for spring sun
and pale Arctic day
to melt tundra snow
and his white coat away
© Liz Brownlee
Here are the teaching notes for this poem, prepared by the CLPE.
Read aloud Snow Fox by Liz Brownlee
Have the children ever seen an Arctic Fox before? Share the following video so that children can explore language and concepts from the poem in context: Arctic Fox Video.
Re-read the poem, with a large copy of the text displayed for the children to see whilst you read. Discuss the language and concepts used more fully, clarifying unknown language, relating to what children have seen in the video. Look at how the poem is presented on the page, a narrow column surrounded by white space giving a sense of the fox alone in the “horizon-less white” landscape.
Give time for the children to respond more deeply to this poem. How does it compare or contrast with other poems studied? What feelings do they associate with the poem? How do they feel about the fox? What is its life like on the Arctic tundra? Either as a class or in smaller mixed groups, allow time to make notes and observations around a large copy of the poem.
If you want to study this habitat more widely as part of cross-curricular work, the BBC Nature website has a suite of videos and information at: BBC Tundra Habitat Video.
Now read aloud Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field which Liz Brownlee chose as a companion piece to her poem.
Something Told the Wild Geese
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
What similarities are there between the two poems? How are they different? They may begin to make connections between the two poems read, for example, noticing how both poems follow an ABCB rhyme scheme. Gain some initial responses to the poem. What do the children think it is about? What do they already know about animal migration? Watch some videos that will help explain the process to the children such as: BBC Snow Geese Video. Watch geese in flight at: Wild Geese In Flight. You can also find out more about snow geese, including their relationship with Arctic foxes at: Snow Geese and Arctic Foxes.
Re-read the poem and allow time to discuss the language and concepts used more fully, clarifying unknown language, relating to what children have seen in the video. What feelings do they associate with the poem? What questions do they have about the poem? How might it feel to see the sudden take off of all these geese?
(This is me – here is a wonderful poem by Susan Richardson, read by Slavka Liskova, which describes Wild Geese as well as their flight, with thrilling words, at the bottom of this post after the CLPE notes.)
Either as a class or in smaller mixed groups, allow time to make notes and observations around a large copy of the poem. Now allow time for the children to watch videos of the Arctic fox and geese again, this time using notebooks or whiteboards to write words and phrases about the animals in action, doing this yourself as a teacher-writer alongside the children. Model how to build these up into a poem of your own about either the fox or geese. Allow time for the children to do the same, constructing their own group or individual poems. When the children are happy with their compositions allow time for these to be published in a variety of ways, for example as audio recordings, video performances, or written or typed up for display.
Wild Geese Poem, Snow Geese Solstice, by Susan Richardson
Do you have one of these yet? EVERYONE needs one! Packed with poems from the National Poetry Day Ambassadors (I am one) and with poems chosen by the Ambassadors to complement their own.
And NPD have launched a teaching sequence sharing how schools can use the NPD anthology across the primary years. Download it for free!!! here: http://ow.ly/tlFb30lKdX1
Want to write for children and teens? DON’T FORGET to join me and two other published graduates from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People –Fleur Hitchcock, Mel Darbon, as we discuss our creative processes with MA Course Leader and author Julia Green. Join us afterwards for a friendly drinks reception for a chance to mingle and ask questions – of us and other local published authors. 4th October, Guildhall, Bath, 7pm.
It’s NATIONAL POETRY DAY, and I’m a National Poetry Day Ambassador, so you will definitely hear some poems!
Lola will be there, hope to see you, too! SEE BELOW!
Do you want to write for children and teenagers?
I’m appearing at Bath Children’s Literature Festival #BathKidsLitFest with two other published graduates from Bath Spa Uni’s MA in Writing For Young People, Fleur Hitchcock (Murder at Twilight, Nosy Crow), and Mel Darbon (Rosie Loves Jack, Usborne Publishing).
We will be discussing our creative processes in conversation with Julia Green (Professor of Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University and author of 17 books including her latest, To the Edge of the World, OUP).
Held at the beautiful Guildhall in Bath, at 7-8pm, Thursday 4th October, there will be a friendly drinks session afterwards for asking questions – link to tickets here.
Hope to see you there!
I’m very proud to be able say that I’ve been shortlisted for Apes to Zebras, an A-Z of Shape Poems, along with Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens, and also for The Same Inside, with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, in the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards 2018!
Here are the wonderful announcement photos from the #NSTBA team!
This is Lady:
And this is Mungo:
How fabulous is that, We are all so excited! There are two other books in the shortlist by Zaro Weil and Matt Goodfellow, good luck to all! The winner is announced on the 10th of November.