Friday 3 August 2018

Thoughts on writing poetry for children

by Addy Farmer

I've been thinking a lot about poetry recently. I don't know why, maybe because I'm writing something long with all the long thinking that involves (UPDATE - I'm nearly finished and the slog has been worth it). Maybe it's because I've been doing poetry workshops for children. Check out the awesome video I made (don't panic, it's only just over a minute long).

Or maybe because writing poetry is a bit shorter than writing stories. Hem-hem.

I really do love writing poetry and find that it adds to my writerly range and incidentally to what I can offer in schools. 

Does it have to rhyme? 

Poetry in primary schools is sometimes regarded as something mysterious which can only be handled with RHYME. Whereas, poetry should mean the freedom to write what you feel and ...

if that involves rhyme,
at the end,
of a line
 then fine, 
but if not that is equally okay. 

There are so many different ways of presenting poetry from the simplest circle poetry where there is just an infinitely repeating pattern of words through mesostics and diamanté poems to poems based on the Fibonacci Sequence (I've not yet given that a go). Or why not just go freeform and write like the wind, about the wind and

t o s s
 ThIs WaY
 tHaT wAy

and see
how they

There is poetry in everything if you choose to find it. Here's one I wrote earlier.

I wrote a poem for, Look Out! The Teachers are Coming! It's short and fun and it goes like this:

Please check out who I'm next to ...

What is a poem exactly?

I think of poetry as the nearest I can get to being a visual artist. Poetry can be playful; lyrical or anything you like, so long as it speaks to a brilliant idea or an important occasion or a place you love  or the person you adore. Poetry is evocative. Poetry should leave a picture in your reader's mind (not literally for those with aphantasia) and a feeling in your reader's bones. At the risk of sounding a bit up myself, I quote the following from The Little Prince.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry  

In other words, poetry need not be obvious but it should make the reader FEEL - giddy or angry-pants or sad or elated or yes! that's it! Or something


If you want to read poetry defined, then read one of my absolute favourite picture books, 'This is a poem that heals fish' by Jean-Pierre Simeon and Oliver Sorman. 

It is unpretentiously beautiful and quietly profound. It offers a playful and profound answer to the question of what a poem is and what it does. And as it does that, it also answers  the larger question of what we most want in life and how we give it shape.

Or try Michael Rosen, he know a very great deal about poetry for children.

Want to write poetry for children and get it published? 

Me too.

As with writing stories for children, you MUST do your research! Read poetry and then read some more. You can do no better than starting with Em Lynas's wonderful resource funEverse poetry. Ooo, by the way I was a guest poet there!

Try the Poetry Foundation site for great poetry and inspiring articles.

Whist Interesting Literature this site advises 10 classic children's poems ... it is equally advisable to read up to date children's poetry and you MUST read Michael Rosen or let him read to you.

There are probably children's poets out there screeching at this blog and just crying out to give great advice along the lines of ...

You silly little poodle
Why don't you use your noodle
And jot down a little doodle
but do not make it rud-le
(we're writing for children after all).

Please published poets, show us the way! Any advice will be gratefully received - people may even write odes to you.

odenoun [ C ] poem expressing the writer's thoughts and feelings about a particular person or subject, usually written to that person or subject
"Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" are poems by Keats.
UK  /əʊd/ US  /oʊd/

Advice for getting your poetry published

  • Write stonkingly great poems. One would think this goes without saying. ...
  • Research markets.
  • Choose 3 to 5 of your best poems for submission.
  • Format and proofread your poems.
  • Write your cover letter.
  • Put your submission together. 
  • Keep track of where you send your poems. 
Get ready to do it all again.

I found a couple of places you might start.
The first is The Caterpillar magazine and another is a writing website with some great advice on writing poetry and getting it published. 

By the way, I do offer poetry workshops for primary schools both indoors and outdoors. 

Poetry workshops are fun
in the rain!
Except for ...
wet paper
which makes your words run
'til they wobble and wibble
and dribble 
sopping and drip-
off the s-o-g-g-y page 
and ...
it's nicer in the sun, really.

I wish you the very best of luck and hope you will share your thoughts and experience!


  1. Encouraging post - and useful too, with a nice dollop of humour.
    Thanks, Addy.

  2. Thanks for the plug, I owe you a hug, for that and an interesting post. Although I like rhyme, which isn't a crime, I appreciate your point that it isnt always needed and sometimes just going with the flow can be lots of fun and should be tried - from time to time.

    1. It would be a crime, not to rhyme, from time to time. Though

  3. What a lovely post! Though I have written poetry I feel quite intimidated by it. I might give it a go!

    1. Do it! It's just more lovely words! Fly free!

  4. I love playing with poems! DId you know, I moonlight on the FunEverse too?

    1. I did! A moonlighting poet - how wonderful!


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