We are very fortunate in having the support of a number of distinguished writers and poets who have agreed to be Patrons of the Children's Poetry Bookshelf. All of them think it is important to make good poetry available to children so that they can find out for themselves how uniquely enjoyable it can be. We are extremely grateful for their support.
Andrew has been Poet Laureate of England since 1999. A prize-winning poet and biographer, he has worked indefatigably as a champion for poetry. His most recent collection is Public Property and he is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College. A memoir, In the Blood, was published in 2006. He is uncomfortably aware of the difficulties of getting poetry to children: "It may be that poets themselves are to blame, or the alluring mass of other entertainments available to children. But whatever the reasons, the fact remains that the majority of people still feel poetry is 'not for them', in a way that few people would feel fiction isn't, or film, or the theatre" but there is hope for children as "their most likely first experience of poetry is in the playground, chanting - delighting in rhythm and rhyme for its own sake, discovering how memory enjoys like-sounds, and finding how the clear sight of familiar things, let alone their rearrangement, can lead to wonder."
Andrew has been a supporter of the CPB from the very beginning, declaring that 'this is a wonderful initiative' when it was first launched. We are delighted that he is still on board and giving us the benefit of his enthusiasm and support.
Ian McMillan, affectionately known as 'the Bard of Barnsley' is widely known across the UK for his tremendous enthusiasm and drive. He has been a poet, broadcaster, commentator and programme maker for over 20 years. He is a tremendous performer, not only compulsively watchable but also full of surprises. A terrific television personality, he has also hosted The Verb and performed regularly on many other radio and TV shows. Sue Arnold in the Observer called him 'without doubt the funniest, quirkiest, sharpest presenter in the business". It's a joy to watch Ian performing for children, who adore his outrageous and hilarious stage show.
Ian's children's poetry is published by Macmillan and titles include The Invisible Villain, Elephant Dreams and The Very Best of Ian McMillan. Adult titles from Carcanet include I Found this Shirt and Dad, the Donkey's on Fire. He is a tireless supporter of children's poetry, whose irrepressible humour and enthusiasm have led countless numbers of children to discover they enjoy reading and writing poems.
Ian thinks that: 'Poetry is essential to the lives of children (and adults!) from the rhythm of mother's heartbeat to the nursery rhyme to the nonsense song to the way to describe the moon to the verse for Granddad's birthday card to the rap to tell someone you love them; the Children's Poetry Bookshelf helps to foster a love of poetry and is creating a new generation of readers and writers and that has to be a wonderful thing!'
Valerie Bloom is a distinguished writer and children’s poet. Born in Jamaica and living in the UK since 1979, Valerie writes poetry both in English and in Jamaican patois. Her desire to create stories emerged the moment she could write and she was already entertaining her siblings with her tales and poems from the age of 8 or 9.
As a great advocate for the power of the spoken word, Valerie regularly performs her work and is immensely popular in schools. Children love listening to her poems and her performance often includes a crash course in patois. The rhymes and rhythms of her beautifully crafted poems soon have children joining in. Valerie also runs courses for teachers and librarians and has performed her work throughout the world, on television and radio.When asked about themes which come through in her poetry, Valerie replied that ‘somebody pointed out to me that a lot of my poems are about food.’ Indeed, her appetite inducing descriptions of fruit, cakes, and sandwiches, many of which are recalled from her childhood in Jamaica, really get under your tongue and stimulate the taste buds. Other preoccupations are plants, animals and, more seriously, people who have experienced oppression. Her wonderful lilting rhythms remind us of the dynamic between poetry and music, that "part of the beauty of poetry is the music in the words, and a vital part of music is often the poetry in the lyrics". Her latest poetry collection is ‘Whoop an’ Shout’, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
Michael Rosen is a prolific writer and broadcaster whose talent for capturing the imaginations and language of children made him the ideal choice for the Children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009. A familiar voice on radio as presenter of shows such as ‘Word of Mouth’ on R4 and ‘Best Words’ on R3, he has also published over 140 books, including many poetry collections for children such as ‘You Wait Till I’m Older Than You’, ‘Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy’ and ‘The Bear in the Cave’. He is a charismatic performer with tremendous energy and an ability to hold children captive in awed silence one moment and have them laughing riotously the next.
Michael is tirelessly committed to encouraging the creativity in every child with poetry that is both entertaining and inspiring: "I see children using my writing like a catalyst, tuning into its small hurts, jokes and fantasies as a means to explore their own. I have always believed that poems should leave a gap after they have finished within which children are left free to roam in their own imaginations.’
In his support for Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, Michael explained that ‘poetry gives children a great opportunity to reflect on who they are, where they’re coming from and the world around them. There isn’t just one way to write a poem - there are thousands -and discovering any of these is a superb way of finding out something extraordinary that language can do’.