Book review: Poems new and old to celebrate National Poetry Day

Poems new and old to celebrate National Poetry Day
Poems new and old to celebrate National Poetry Day

Stanza to attention! It’s National Poetry Day and there’s no rhyme or reason why everyone can’t enjoy a piece of the action.

Today is the 21st birthday of the annual mass celebration of poetry and all things poetic, and the theme this time around is Light with proprietors of power stations and lighthouses, opticians, photographers and firework-makers among the professions participating.

In fact, Lancashire’s principal resort of Blackpool is one of this year’s leading lights as tonight it emblazons across its famous Illuminations the best responses to a Make Like A Poet digital poetry challenge.

Youngsters are also breaking the tyranny of prose by plunging into poetry via Chatterbooks book clubs in schools and libraries across the country. And to help get those creative juices flowing, here is a selection of inspirational poetry books to calm, entertain and amuse whether you are two or 92.

The Emergency Poet: An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology Edited by Deborah Alma

There could be no better way to de-stress on National Poetry Day than take a leaf out of Deborah Alma’s brilliant new anthology of poems, her perfect prescription to chase away the blues.

This collection of much-loved classics and undiscovered gems has been selected to suit every mood and malady, and bring a poetic brand of solace to the nation’s troubled souls.

Alma has become known as the Emergency Poet, the world’s first and only mobile poetic first aid service. Combining a mix of the serious, the therapeutic and the theatrical, she travels in her 1970s ambulance, accompanied by Nurse Verse.

Wearing a white coat and stethoscope, she visits schools and colleges, hospitals and care homes, festivals and libraries, pubs, weddings and conferences, offering consultations emotional pick-me-ups to refresh, calm, guide and fight feelings of isolation.

This thoughtful and moving anthology distils her warmth and wisdom into ‘verse cures’ aimed at a variety of ills from insomnia and stress to sadness and the burdens of grief, allowing readers to dip into their favourites as and when the mood takes them.

The poems are organised into sections that follow a life through its challenges and hard times. Some might be looking for the right words to understand the bittersweet emotions of parenthood and the mixed blessings of growing old, others might seek to share the elation of love and the joy to be found in life’s most ordinary things.

Marvel at the wonderful poems of classical greats like Christina Rossetti, WB Yeats, Gerald Manley Hopkins, William Wordsworth, Edward Thomas and the brilliant ‘Peasant Poet’ John Clare, or discover the verse of newer names like award-winning American poet Jane Hirshfield, Northern Ireland’s Derek Mahon and Birmingham’s Roz Goddard.

Their poems speak intimately to us, like a best friend, with intelligence, warmth and accessibility while the rhythms of the verse soothe and sustain.

Best accompanied by a glass of wine, a pot of tea or a comforting hot chocolate, these poems really are just what the doctor ordered!

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £9.99)

Age 7-9:

Spooky Poems by James Carter and Brian Moses

‘This book may well disturb you,

it will creep into your dreams,

for nothing you read in this book

is ever quite the way it seems…’

Get ready to be spooked, quivered, shivered, hollered and howled in a super scary (well quite scary!) selection of poems from best-selling children’s poets Brian Moses and James Carter.

There are over 50 spooktacular poems here, brought to hilarious life by Chris Garbutt’s gallery of superb black and white illustrations and specially written to celebrate all things creepy.

Positively groaning with ghosts and whispering with witches and wise warnings, the poetic partners’ spine-tingling verses serve up a chilling concoction of ghosts, ghouls, bats, witches and vampires.

From a Loathsome Lullaby and the Night Train To Transylvania to Scenes From A Nightmare and The Ghoul School, Spooky Poems is guaranteed to raise hackles… and plenty of laughs!

(Macmillan, paperback, £4.99)

Age two plus:

Vikings in the Supermarket by Nick Sharratt

Six Vikings on a madcap shopping trip is just one of six action-packed nonsense poems perfectly formed for your budding young poets.

Nick Sharratt, an award-winning writer and illustrator, works his special magic through words and fabulous illustrations in six funny and addictive poems which are ideal for reading aloud and as an introduction to the wonderful world of rhyme.

Young children will adore this colourful collection of characters and animals, and their crazy and creative antics. Meet a tartan-patterned cat, a clever little mermaid, a naughty vampire bat with nasty bite, a queen who is really fond of green and the pirate Tidy Clyde who likes nothing better than vacuuming and dusting.

Beautifully packaged and brimming with fun, excitement and adventure, Vikings in the Supermarket is poetry in motion.

(David Fickling Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age two plus:

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Hold onto your hats, the witch and her cat are taking off on a high-flying broomstick adventure!

One of the most successful author/illustrator teams in children’s books, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, creators of the perennially popular Gruffalo, return with another of their much-loved rhyming stories.

Room on the Broom is as fresh, funny, clever and bewitching as when it was first published in 2002. The tale of quick wits and friendship features Donaldson’s irresistible verse and Scheffler’s spectacular and lively illustrations, and cannot help but capture the imagination of young children.

The witch and her cat are never happier than when they fly over forests, rivers and mountains on their broomstick but one stormy day the wind blows away the witch’s hat, bow and wand. Luckily they are soon retrieved by a dog, a bird and a frog, and each animal asks for a ride on the broom. Once on board, the broom becomes so heavy that it snaps in two and what will happen next as they tumble into a bog and meet a greedy, fire-breathing dragon?

With its classic cast of good guys – and one bold baddie – this gorgeous, rollercoaster ride with the lovable, warty witch and her amazing animal pals is a feast of rhyme and colour… and the ideal way to teach youngsters the joys of verse.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young by Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell

How about a picture perfect poetry collection for the very youngest children?

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and inspirational illustrator Chris Riddell, the current Children’s Laureate, combine their talents in a gorgeous book fizzing with playful sounds and scintillating pictures.

A Great Big Cuddle is packed with rhythm, energy and laughter, and it’s due in no small part to Riddell’s warm and winsome illustrations which help to capture all the excitement of babies and children as they discover the fascinating world around them.

Toys and games, animals and made-up creatures, youngsters’ likes and dislikes, fears and foibles are all vividly conjured up in the most basic of repetitious poems designed to give babies and children their first introduction to poetry.

There are amusing tongue twisters, plenty of nonsense rhymes and a few cautionary classics to amuse and bemuse… and, best of all, the big, bold pictures to match all those wonderful words!

(Walker Books, hardback, £14.99)