Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot … Poetry

Kim Hill had a terrific conversation with Patrick Ness on National Radio on Saturday. When asked that tricky question on what YA fiction is Patrick suggested that teenage fiction is fiction that is enjoyed by teenagers (or something along those lines). Which makes it gloriously open and gloriously real.

I have been pondering the same issue on what children’s poetry is (a highly pertinent question while I am editing an anthology of children’s poetry). As a writer, when I write poems for children that is always my primary audience. I want children to pick up my books and want to read them. If they do, game, set, match.

Poetry can ignite word sparks for children, even the most reluctant reader and writer, in ways that are utterly magical. Poetry can lead a child back to their own world and find surprising and wonderful pathways through. It can lead a child back into memory and it can take a child into the productive world of the imagination. It can do all these things and more, but what makes it such a tool for children is that it can render words delicious. Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot. Words are the playground extrordinaire (to shift metaphors) when that playground is full of poetry beams and mats and jungle gyms and whirligigs.

So, yes, a children’s poem is a poem a child wants to pick up and read and then maybe but not necessarily have a go at writing their own. Other poets have other ideas on this of course and rightly so!

One of the biggest thrills I have is when a child comes up to me (or writes) and tells me they have loved one of my poems. This is bigger and better by far than awards or reviews or sales. I am sure other children’s authors will agree with me.

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