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Tuesday 30 March 2021


I mentioned in a blog post last week that I had recently visited Palmers Green High School which, in spite of the name, includes younger pupils too. I was delighted in that post to share some fantastic poems from Year 3. Ms. Conlon, the wonderful librarian, has just sent me some more poems, this time produced by Year 4 during my workshop. I am really excited to be able to share them in this blog post. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and can appreciate the development and complexity of ideas when compared to the (equally fantastic) Year 3 poems. Check em out!

Sunday 28 March 2021


I’m just a ponky woem

in a bonky little wook. 

I know you sink it’s thilly

but just lome and have a cook.

My bords are rather wackwards

and my stread is not on haight.

Yes mome sight steem me dupid

but en thothers gray I’m seat.

Ly mexicon jis umbled.

Ly metters are askew. 

I know you wink I’m theird

but I’m gather rripping too. 

I save to hay crime azy 

and against all tommon caste. 

I’m just a ponky woem

and sy mense bas heen plismaced.

Friday 26 March 2021


A great authority

whom I like and admire

once said that all poets

are only ever allowed to write

one poem about poetry.

Any more, I suppose,

would be too much of a cop out

or too slyly self-referential

or perhaps simply

too easy. 

I’m not sure

how I feel

about that.

Wednesday 24 March 2021


Dust off your thingummy!

Grab that doohickey!

Diddle your doodad - 

it’s not very tricky.

Give us a cheer

and holler ‘Hooray!’

It’s #NationalSomethingDay

Go and recover

your thingamajig!

Your whatnot is in

for a wonderful gig!

slap on a smile

and don’t feel grey!

It’s #NationalSomethingDay

So gather your gismos 

and wangle your whatsit!

Muster your kit

from the back of your closet!

Those whatjamacallits 

are here to stay!

It’s #NationalSomethingDay

Tuesday 23 March 2021


Last week I did some workshops with Palmers Green High School. This was the third year in a row I have worked at the school, and I am always impressed with the quality of writing they produce. Their fantastic librarian, Mrs. Conlon, recently sent me a selection of worked produced by Year 3 (despite the name, PGHS has primary school pupils too). Here are three wonderful poems, each focused around a different emotion. Enjoy! 

Friday 19 March 2021


This short piece is intended primarily for people who work with young children, by which I mean roughly Nursery, Reception and Key Stage One, and would like some ideas for how to make them laugh. It might prove useful to poets and other practitioners who visit schools and would appreciate some fun ways to engage and amuse children. I should begin by saying that I am far from an expert: I do not have children of my own (although I do have a niece and a nephew), and I have not done anything approaching ‘research’ into the ‘science’ of what makes children laugh. I think it is an art rather than a science anyway, and with this in mind I would like to share some tactics and techniques that, in my experience as a professional performance poet, seem to work for me. If these ideas seem incredibly simple, it’s because they are!

Wrong Nursery Rhymes

All children know nursery rhymes. They find it highly amusing when an adult attempts to sing a nursery rhyme, but gets the words wrong. I find this such a successful technique for eliciting mirth that I have even included a poem in my next book that is a mangling of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. The first verse goes:

Baa baa blue sheep

Have you any bread?

Yes sir, yes sir,

On my head

When I sing this, the children find it very funny. There is something about adults getting things wrong that seems to really tickle them. And they find it even funnier when adults get things wrong repeatedly: the poem mentioned above has four verses, all incorrect renderings of the original rhyme. Children seem to love it when adults, ostensibly the harbingers of truth and authority, get things wrong! They love having the tables turned.

Wrong Names

Similarly, if I am doing a poem about a mango, say, children find it very funny when I hold up a mango and say “ a strawberry!” As above, the more I get it wrong, the funnier it becomes. And the sillier the ideas get, the more the laughter erupts. I might end up, for example, saying “this…. is a pair of alien’s underpants!” The key to the joke is this: they know what it is, and I don’t. Again, the typical adult-child power dynamic has been inverted; the tables have turned. You can do this with anything: hold up a toy bear and announce in a booming voice: “THIS….IS A CROCODILE!” Oh, the joy.

The Opposite Game

Here is a fun game. When you say ‘sit’, the children have to stand; when you say ‘stand’ they have to sit. Do this a few times, and pretend to get really frustrated when many of the kids (inevitably) get it wrong. Pretend to cry - children find that funny. You can then add another instruction: the children have to jump when you say ‘clap’, and clap when you say ‘jump’. Make this game increasingly elaborate, incorporating loads of instructions that are too difficult for most of them to keep up with. The fact that they can’t keep up with it is why it is fun! You can make this go on for as long as you like (perhaps if you need to eat up some time), and the longer it goes on the sillier and hence funnier it gets.

The Three R’s 

The little tricks above apply to anyone who finds themselves in front of a group of small children and wants to entertain them. When it comes to poetry specifically, there are three things that I always keep in my toolbox for the little ones: rhyme, rhythm and repetition. I find that as long as a poem includes a healthy dose of all these things, one can’t help but experience a room full of smiling faces. It doesn’t even particularly matter if the content is inherently funny (more on that in the next section); the mere use of these techniques seems to tap into something very primal within the children, and makes them grin, nod along, tap their feet, and generally have a whole heap of fun. And with regards to repetition, the longer it goes on the funnier it gets. You can repeat something loads and loads and loads and loads and loads...and loads and loads...and loads (you get the idea) of times.

Wonsense Nords 

What about the material? Well, there are some obvious things that make all young children laugh. Toilet related things. Bodily things. Yucky things. People who seek to entertain, educate and inspire children can fall into one of two camps: embrace toilet humour wholeheartedly, or puritanically avoid it. I think I am somewhere in the middle. It is simply too easy to rely purely on toilet humour for a laugh, but a carefully inserted ‘bum’ can elevate a performance. Another thing that really tickles children, I have found, is nonsense words. An example of this is my poem ‘Ooshus Magooshus’. I always tell children not to laugh at this monster’s name (of course, telling them not to laugh is a guaranteed way of getting it to happen), but they can’t help it; it just sounds funny, doesn’t it? Repeat it. Say it in different voices. It is highly amusing. So if you want to make young children laugh, why not have a stock of nonsense words at your disposal.


Writing the word ‘conclusion’ just now reminds me of when I used to write essays at university. It has been a long time since I’ve written an essay. Actually it hasn’t been that long, as I did two MAs after my undergraduate degree, with the aim being to postpone getting a proper job for as long as possible. And I still haven’t gotten one. Another thing that amuses children of all ages seems to be when I go on long, rambling tangents like just then. Anyhoo, back to the original point: making small children laugh. As I mentioned at the beginning, I definitely do not consider myself to be an expert. The ideas above are merely those that have worked for me in my eight years or so as a children’s performer. They may or may not work for you. Hopefully, at least, I have provided some useful tips for those who are thinking about working with and entertaining young children. Good luck, and may Ooshus Magooshus McSquooshus be with you!

Thursday 18 March 2021


Do you dare to be happy?

Do you dare to climb into bed

and get up close and sweaty

with What If? and I Don’ Know?

Do you dare to kiss Paradox on the lips?

Do you dare to see the doughnut, not the hole;

to see the pitch, not just the goal;

to eat the cornflakes from life’s bowl?

Do you dare to be happy?

Do you dare to deem the voice in your head

to be just another note

in our noisy death metal cacophony?

Do you dare to be happy,

to tuck yourself in tight with the tigers

of your days?

Do you dare to enumerate the ways

you could be tripped up

but keep skipping anyway?

Do you dare to be happy,

to jump into the dark with Joy

having married her?

Do you dare to be happy?

For what, after all,

could be scarier?

Saturday 13 March 2021


During lockdown, our cat Bluebell has been as indispensable source of comfort. What better way to celebrate and acknowledge this than by writing her a 'thank you poem'?


Thank you for crawling across my laptop when I’m tying to work

Thank you for always knocking things off the shelf

Thank you for running outside, realising you don’t like it,

and then running back in

Thank you for curling up like a little cinnamon roll on the sofa

Thank you for scratching at the carpet at 3am

Thank you for ‘christening’ your litter tray as soon as it has been cleaned

Thank you for always cuddling my wife and never me

Thank you for perpetually making me think you might be about to cuddle me

Thank you for your blue eyes and golden coat

Thank you for rolling on your back for belly rubs

Thank you for always being there

Thank you for you

Thank you for being Bluebell...

I am also delighted to share the work of Ms. Binks, with whom I worked at Cypress Primary School a couple of weeks ago. Here is her thank you poem to her cat, Pickles. Why not write a thank you poem to your own pet(s)? It's super easy and fun, and they will definitely appreciate it!

Thursday 11 March 2021


looks like you.

He wears the same kind of clothes as you

and goes to the same parties.

The monster listens to the same records as you

and has similar opinions

on the merits of various bands.

The monster may even support

the same football team as you

and be as highly regarded in his workplace

as you are in yours. 

In fact, if someone saw you and the monster

side by side

one wouldn’t be able to tell

which was the monster

and which was the nice bloke. 

And of course you are

a nice bloke

aren’t you?

(serving police officer arrested on suspicion of murder, 11/03/21)

Wednesday 10 March 2021


There was an old snowflake called Piers

Who dished out his dogshit for years

But when someone came

And played him at this game

He careered from the cameras in tears.

There was an an old fart, name of Morgan

Who had all the charm of a gorgon

He bashed Princess Meggy

And now, with face eggy,

He sits home and bashes his organ…

Tuesday 9 March 2021


I would like to share two very different poems from pupils at Tanfield Lea Primary School in Co. Durham, whom I have had the privilege of working with today. The first is a group effort by children in Year 1. I was particularly impressed by their use of rhyme, which is a very difficult skill to master at such a young age. Here is Year 1's fantabuliferous poem: 

The next poem was written by Romola, in Year 4. The challenge here was to write a poem based around an emotion. I actually gave this class the instruction not to rhyme, but Romola was a maverick and ignored this advice. (I secretly love it when this happens and pupils take ideas in their own direction!) Again, I was impressed with Romola's skill at constructing a rhyming poem that not only makes sense, which is difficult enough in itself, but does a wonderful job at conveying emotion and passion. Here is Romola's wonderfulistic poem; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Feelings by Romola, Year 4

I walked home from school

And sat on my bed

With one thousand thoughts

Burning in my head.

I thought about fights

Between mum and dad

As I listened to the fight

I got more and more sad.

My happiness flowed through

My finger tips

My eyes, my nose

My brain and my lips.

Then the sadness came

Just batting through

“I don’t like him or her

Or even you!”

No way will I

Talk about my class

The strictness, the rules

The playing of brass.

The bullies were coming

Right for me

“NO!” I’ll conquer you bullies

You wait and see!

I no longer dwell

On worries or fears

I’ll tell everyone

And I’ll gather my peers.

No-one will stop us

Not even my friends

For together, here and now

Friendship never ends.

Monday 8 March 2021


Last Monday I visited Cypress Primary School. This was the third year in a row I have visited this fantastic school. My abiding memory of the previous two years is of wheeling a suitcase full of books up a frankly monstrous hill in order to get to the school. Thankfully this time the visit was virtual, so no such physical exertion was necessary. I was delighted when Mr. Shipley got in touch to share some of the brilliant work his pupils did as part of my workshops. The task was one I often use: to produce love poems to food! This works well with all ages, and enables pupils to develop their creative and imaginative skills in the service of a rather wacky task. Here, then, are some of the wonderful poems produced by Mr. Shipley's class. I hope you like them as much as I do!

Saturday 6 March 2021














(MPs announce paltry 1% NHS pay rise, amounting to a pay cut in real terms)

Friday 5 March 2021



Think of her.

Small, alone and afraid.

Abandoned in a dusty, forgotten corner.

The joy that once flooded through her

Has now been drained away. 

The people who once loved her

Have now cast her

From their minds. 

Think of her. 

Will you give her a home?

Will you pick her up

And caress her

With your caring hands?

Will you show her she’s wanted

And help her remember

That a book is for life

And not just World Book Day?

*Royal Society for the Protection of Books

Thank you to Steve Weatherill for the lovely illustration

Thursday 4 March 2021


I have to confess to a bit of nepotism in this blog post: Olivia is my niece! She is 6, and I think she currently has a nascent awareness that her uncle Josh is, in fact, a Very Important Poet. It was in this spirit that her mother (AKA my sister) sent me the fantastic poem below. This is, to my knowledge, the first poem Olivia has written; it's certainly the first one that makes any kind of sense! And I love the fact that it rhymes too. Check it out!

And here is Olivia on her first day of lockdown schooling. She insisted on donning her school uniform!