K is for Children’s Poets Alan Katz, Mike Kavanagh and Jacie Kay, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoA
Jackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. Jackie writes for adults as well as children; her children’s titles include Strawgirl (Macmillan) and Red Cherry Red (Bloomsbury), available here, which won the CLiPPA (CLPE Poetry Award). Alongside books, Jackie has written extensively for stage and television; her play BRINK was performed at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester. She is also Chancellor of the University of Salford and Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002 and was awarded an MBE in 2006. More recently, in March 2016, Jackie Kay was named Scots Makar—the National Poet for Scotland. You can read more about Jackie here.
This is her moving poem:
My Face is a Map
I was born with a map of Australia on my face;
it was beautiful, my mother told me –
there was nobody like me in the whole wide world
who could trace the edges of down under
on the raised and grafted song line of her face.
I was connected to the upside-down people,
to those who loved the bush and the kangaroo.
I could never smile or frown or weep
in case my special map fell off my face.
My face was pulled tight, so that nobody got lost.
I held my head steady and I held my head high.
When people gaped and gawped and gawked
I thought they were trying to find Alice Springs,
to work out where they wanted to go, where they’d been.
And when somebody stared for a very long time
I would simply ask if they’d been down under:
the hardest human heart melts when it sees a koala bear.
My words were slower than other children’s
because my map was stitched to my mouth:
every time I managed a whole sentence
I imagined a small boat floating out of Sydney harbour.
Yesterday there was talk of peeling my map off,
changing my face, so that it looks like others;
my mother said I should have a long think,
and that maybe life would be easier…
I am thinking now, staring hard into the mirror.
I trace the hard edges of the world in my face.
I know the hard stares of some people.
Without my map, will I be the same person?
Will I know where I am, where I have been?
© Jackie Kay (From Red Cherry Red, Bloomsbury, winner of the 2008 CLiPPA award)
Michael Kavanagh was born in Toronto in 1971 and studied at Queen’s University in Canada, and University of Glasgow. He lives near Oxford, with his wife and four children. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as Read Me At School (Macmillan), and Michael Rosen’s A-Z, The Best Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah (Puffin). He founded and edited a children’s poetry magazine called The Scrumbler which has since stopped publishing.
The Scrumbler was a wonderful magazine – I’m hoping for a revival! Here is one of Mike’s poems:
For warm summer weather
mix Dandelion and Heather.
For everlasting sweets
mix Wisteria and beets.
For exploring a forest path
mix bark and rotten leaf.
For days off school, playing in snow
mix Hawthorn and Sloe.
For winter days to pass
mix Night Shade and frosted grass.
To disappear without a trace
mix Old Man’s Beard and Mace.
To get your own room
mix Rose and Lemon Balm.
For late nights, TV, staying up
mix Daffodil and Buttercup.
If you plan to run away
mix sedge and hay.
If you’re ready to come back home
mix Snowdrop and Teasel comb.
To sit and be your very own age
mix Forget-me-nots and Sage.
© Mike Kavanagh
Alan Katz is a six-time Emmy-nominated writer for The Rosie O’Donnell Show and other talk shows, animated series including PBS’s new Pinkalicious, Nickelodeon series and specials, and game shows. He has also created hundreds of comic books, trading card sets, web series, and other special projects for kids. He has written more than 35 books for young readers, including his newest picture book, an ode to dads and kids illustrated by Chris Robertson, called If I Didn’t Have You. His poetry collections include OOPS! and Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking (both Margaret K. McElderry Books, illustrated by Edward Koren). His website is here.
Here is one of Alan’s funny poems from OOPS!
It wasn’t isn’t.
It isn’t wasn’t.
It can’t be shouldn’t.
It shouldn’t be doesn’t.
It mustn’t be wouldn’t.
It wouldn’t be mustn’t.
It mayn’t be mightn’t.
It mightn’t be mayn’t.
I’m skipping this homework.
To go out and playn’t.
© Alan Katz