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Friday 13 December 2019


I don't know who is going to read this, but I am writing in a fleeting moment of clarity in what has been one of the most difficult few months of my life. Since September I have been struggling badly with my mental health. This has been having an understandably negative effect on my marriage, and lately it has also been having a detrimental impact on my work as a performance poet. I have been finding it very difficult to pick up a pen and to garner any kind of inspiration, but harder still have been the school visits that I undertake as a crucial element of my job. I am an introvert at the best of times, and I have been finding these increasingly difficult. I am unbelievably privileged to be able to do this as my job, and when I am feeling well doing school visits is an honour that I am extremely grateful for, but to stand up in front of groups of children for several hours a day, when my mind is doing everything it can to play havoc with me, is hugely stressful. For the first time in several years I have had to cancel or postpone school visits because of my mental illness. This is having a detrimental effect on my confidence and my finances. My wife is the kindest person in the world, but it is impacting her deeply too.

I write this in the hope of encouraging greater openness and transparency with regards to mental health, and the effect it can have on the work of otherwise creative and lively people. If you are struggling too then the best I can do is express some kind of solidarity. I also express immense gratitude for everyone who has and continues to be supportive of the work I do.

Peace and love,

Monday 18 November 2019


I'm delighted to share these group poems, written by Year 4 classes on the back of my recent visit to Twyford School. It is easy to write a poem like this: think of a special person, and describe them using metaphors. Enjoy!

Tuesday 12 November 2019


Max Is Not in School

Today the sun shines
a little bit brighter.
Today the wind has lost
its bite, and the air
hangs less heavy
in the classroom.

Today Max
is not in school.

Today my ears are not stung
by barbed words.
Today my ribs don’t tighten
in my chest
as taunts lash out
across the playground.

Today my books
are in my bag
and not torn up and scattered
across the floor.
There’s a small oasis
in the wide parched desert;
a faint rainbow
in the winter storm.

Today I can breathe
just for a while

because Max
is not in school.

Image result for anti bullying week 2019

Saturday 9 November 2019

FIREWORKS - simple idea for KS1

Here is a fantastic poem written recently during one of my workshops in Key Stage One:

Writing a firework poem is very simple, and can be achieved in the following three steps. 

(1) write down five different colours

(2) develop these into similes

(3) intersperse each line with some onomatopeia (e.g. 'whoooosh!')

Why not give it a go?

Wednesday 6 November 2019


I recently spent a fantastic couple of days visiting the International School in Florence. I am delighted to be able to share the following wonderful poem, which was produced during one of my workshops. I often ask workshop participants to describe a person they love using various objects as metaphors, such as I do in this poem here. The interesting thing about the student's poem was the way he inverted my idea, and kind of took it off in his own direction. I love it when this happens! Here is the poem:

YOU by Marco 

You are the virus
to my laptop;

You are the bacteria
to my health;

You are the storm
to my sailing boat; 

You are the homework
to my summer;

You are the ISF
to my bank account

but I love you.

Actually, the poet crossed out the last line, but I thought it worked really well so am including it here. And, for good measure, here is the view from the classroom in Florence:

Thursday 3 October 2019


Happy National Poetry Day one and all! I have just had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of KS3 pupils. The theme for National Poetry Day this year is 'Truth', and, using the starter 'I'm made of...', each pupil had a go at expressing the truth of who they are, of what makes them them. I am delighted to share the following selection of super fantastic poems from pupils at County Upper School, Bury St Edmunds.

I’m Made Of by Morgan (Year 8)

I’m made of a cosy Christmas morning
as the smell of candles fills my nostrils. 
I’m made of chicken, its taste so succulent. 
I’m made of music, its sound a comfort
on the early morning bus rides
and long trips to the airport and to 
grandparents’ houses. 
I’m made of lime green, the colour of a lime, 
so rough and bitter. 
I’m made of jokes and if you don’t
laugh at them I take it personally
as the sound of silence
plays in the background.
I’m made of friends
and I’m made of me…
and mostly water. 

I’m Made Of by Mia (Year 8)

I’m made of the happiness
when I see the vibrant colour yellow,
beaming down at me from the shining sun. 

I’m made of the warm, sweet sensation
when I take a bite out of a soft, delicate doughnut,
staring at me from the box. 

I’m made of the feeling of love and safety
and the beautiful walks with my family 
underneath a sky of all different colours. 

I’m made of the exhilarating energy
when I’m running in a game of football,
dodging the defenders and going up to shoot. 

I’m made of the refreshing, calm feeling
when taking a lick of ice cream, swirls of
chocolate sauce hypnotising me. 

I’m made of the enjoyment of sitting on my bed
letting my imagination run free, picturing
different fantasies from the book mum reads. 

I’m made of the carefree feeling of galloping
across the grass, under a blood-red sun,
feeling the wind blow through my wild hair. 

I’m made of all these things. 

I’m Made Of by Lathifa (Year 8)

I’m made of 

All the holidays that come around each year
My body gets pumped when one comes near
Excitement races through my brain
At the thought of having free days again

I’m made of 

Magenta from the sunsets and inky felt tips
Red from the blood after biting my lip

Light blue like the ocean in the summertime [poem unfinished, but amazing nonetheless]

Sunday 29 September 2019


I left a book in the staff room. 
Not just any book either; it was
a self-help guide for anxiety. It was
something to fill in the cracks
of the day, a flicker of a bulb
to help guide the way, but I worried
that this part of me that I’d left behind
didn’t display my most admirable side.
Would the teachers who found it
know that it was mine? And did this mean
that they would think twice
before inviting me back next time?
Would they peak through it
and see the bits I’d underlined,
highlighting the areas where
my problems reside?
I felt like what I’d left was something akin
to a naked picture, my bits
dangling for all to see -- 
a stark image
of a distorted me.

Of course I could have denied
that it was my book. Or I could
have hoped that no one would notice
or look. I could have not gone back 
to claim it, leaving everyone wondering
which member of staff it was with issues,
who wasn’t quite right in the head,
who was fit for the funny farm.
I wondered if it might cause alarm
that I was seriously ill, and that
even though we’re generally better
than we were at mental health, 
I was still not to be trusted with kids.

So I hunched into myself outside the door
as creatures debated inside my head,
weighing up whether to go back in,
my mind a see-saw, when suddenly
that bulb again: I saw
that if I can’t be myself 
then who can I be?
If I can’t be myself then what’s the point
of all the poetry?
What’s the point in helping others
find their voice when my own cowers
in the shadows? Why blunt the teeth
of my tiger while the other ones roar?
What is it all for?
And before anything else,
behind the labels ‘poet’, ‘entertainer’, 
‘workshop leader’, there is a more
fundamental reality: I am a human,
with all that that entails.
Sometimes strong and sometimes frail.
I needed to break out
of this jail and not run away
from who I really am.

As a bush is to thorns,
as a rainbow is to rain,
as a sprawling metropolis is
to its grimy backstreets
so are we to our weaknesses.
As a ladder is to the gaps
between its slats, 
so are we to our flaws.
I did go in to get the book, 
shoulders held back, 
spine as straight as I could make it, 
and if there’s one thing to take from it
I would say this:
Whatever you’ve left behind,
unloved and untamed, 
go and claim it. 
Let others read the book
of who you truly are, 
see the scribbles in the margins
and the places where the pages
have been folded down.
Let your bits hang down for all to see.
Let your world be scribbled on
by the poetry of reality.
Let others think and say
whatever they want
as you leave your books
in staff rooms, classrooms, 
meeting halls, offices,
bars, pubs and streets.

Your word is your world.
Let them read.

Thursday 5 September 2019


I am delighted to be an official Ambassador for National Poetry Day on 3rd October 2019. This is the fourth year I have been an Ambassador, and I am always struck by the imaginative work that pupils in my workshops produce on the given theme. I was partly inspired to write the following poem by reading Rachel Rooney's piece Nobody Knows on the CLPE Website. What interested me was the title, and the notion that each of us might contain a truth (real or imaginary) that nobody else knows. What I did was take this idea, and write the following poem, which is exclusively for NPD 2019 and this years theme of 'Truth'):

Nobody Knows This

Nobody knows this
but just beneath my skin
a volcano is preparing
to blast. 

Behind these eyes,
inside the prison
of my ribs, magma
bubbles silently. 

Smoke is filling
the cavern of my chest
as fire flicks the basement
of my tongue. 

As I sit still
to write these words, 
nobody knows this. 
But they soon will.

Why not have a go at writing, or encouraging others to write, a poem using 'Nobody knows this' as a prompt? The ideas could be as meaningful, metaphorical, profound or as playfully silly as you like! Perhaps start by exploring some possible ideas as a class. Ideas might be along the following lines:

- nobody knows this, but when I smile I'm really sad
- nobody knows this, but my dad turns into a dinosaur at night time
- nobody knows this, but I can fly
- nobody knows this, but I am actually a spy

If anyone has any ideas, or would like to contribute a poem using this theme, please do get in touch (either by email or using the comments section below) and I would be delighted to add your poem to this blog post! Here are some examples sent in so far by by fab poets:

Misunderstood by Philip Waddell

When they tell me to behave
And ask me crossly, ‘Why?’
And, hands on hips, they roll their eyes,
Nobody knows I try.

When they jab their fingers
Snapping, ‘Look me in the eye!’
And threaten me with this or that,
Nobody knows I try.

When, exasperated,
They shake their heads and sigh
And swear they’ll give me, ‘ONE LAST CHANCE,’
Nobody knows I try.

And when I’m in detention
Staring outside at the sky
I really cannot understand
Why nobody knows I try.

Ten Things Nobody Knows by Philip Waddell

Nobody knows when the earth will quake
Nobody knows how to cure heartache
Nobody knows what the great whales sing
Nobody knows what next year will bring
Nobody knows, quite, how birds migrate
Nobody knows what will be their fate
Nobody knows what their God intends
Nobody knows who’ll be lifelong friends
Nobody knows what made Einstein shine
Nobody knows much of Auld Lang Syne

Nobody Knows by Liz Brownlee

Nobody knows this
not the friend
that didn’t come
to play yesterday

that didn’t share
the chocolate
I didn’t have
or play the Xbox

I’ve never owned.
Not the friend
I don’t have
in the playground

that doesn’t come
to help when
bullies taunt or push
or call me names

not the friend
I dream of in my sleep
the one who doesn’t
take my lunch

or shares a joke
instead of making
jokes of me
and of my family

nobody knows this
but I am seldom
here at all, not
in the playground

nor classroom
corridor or hall,
on the bus or street
I am nowhere

no one knows
I am nobody
think nothing
know nothing

no one knows
I am nobody at all.