Monthly Archives: May 2013

Capital letters in poems

I love playing with capital letters and punctuation. These are both important ingredients in a poem.

The great thing about writing a poem is you get to choose what you want to do.

Some poets begin every line with a capital letter.

Some poets never begin a line with a capital letter.

Some poets use capital letters in a poem like they do in a story to show the beginning of a sentence.

If you use capitals down the side all the time it can stop the flow of the poem. Nowadays poets are less likely to do this.

Sometimes young poets give a capital letter to a word in the middle of a line. This can make it stand out. Think about why you want to do this.

Think about why you use capitals down the left-hand side. Do they look good? Do they shout a bit at the reader? Do they add to the rhythm? Do they stop the flow?

Be consistent. Once you make a capital-letter choice it helps the reader if you stick with that choice throughout the poem — unless you want to write a poem that misbehaves with punctuation (some poets do! although not that often).

Have fun choosing!

OOH! I am so excited because I am off to visit schools in Christchurch in August thanks to the New Zealand Book Council. I visited Christchurch last year with my  Dear Heart book tour but I didn’t have time to do any school visits. This adventure is perfect for me as Christchurch has been one of the biggest supporters of Poetry Box.

Apparently there is only one spot left so if you are keen for me to visit (primary, intermediate or secondary) and are a Book Council member you will need to get on to it pronto!).

This has made my day!

Peter Bland talks to Poetry Box about wandering, drawing and hops and skips

Peter Bland is one of my favourite poets for children. He lives in New Zealand but has spent his life living between here and England with his family. His poems are on all kinds of subjects but the words always dance and dart, swing and skate as though they are in playground. Peter knows how to play with words and he knows how to write for children.

images-1  images-2  images-1     images-2

Peter has published two collections of poems for childrenThe Night Kite (Mallinson Rendel, 2004) and When Gulls Fly High (Penguin, 2011). His daughter (Joanna Bland) painted pictures for one and his son (Carl Bland) painted pictures for the other which makes these two books pretty special. I have so many favourite poems in these books that it was hard choosing one to post here! You will have to hunt for his books yourself. The poems are always playful and will take you to all kinds of places and put you in all kinds of moods.

4      5   5

Peter has kindly given me permission to post one of his poems. I picked ‘The Bed Boat’ as I love the way an ordinary thing (like your bed) can become so much else. I also love the words on the end of the line and their tricky rhymes.

The Bed Boat

My bed is a boat.

The mattress won’t leak.

My head-board’s a rudder,

my sail is a sheet.


I sail every night

exploring my room,

past wardrobes like ships,

past mirrors like moons.


As I drift into sleep

my bed-boat sails on,

though where it sails to

is known to no one.


But when I wake up,

my voyage safely done,

I throw back the curtains

and let in the sun.

© Peter Bland The Night Kite Mallinson Rendel 2004

Peter kindly answered these questions for Poetry Box:

What did you like to write when you were little?
I wasn’t encouraged to use my imagination or write anything as a child. I mostly did drawings of battleships and fighter planes and buildings getting blown up. This is because I was brought up in England during the last war. As a ten year old I began drawing things from nature … fossils ans mushrooms and birds and ponds. I also invented maps leading to buried treasure.

What else did you like doing?
I was left on my own a lot, so I took to the wandering through the surrounding countryside exploring.

Do you have any favourite children’s poetry?
I liked Walter de la Mare‘s poetry because it was lonely and spooky and full of mystery.

Do you have three tips for young writers?
Always write about what really interests you.
Have fun with words. Be as silly as you like with them. Learn to speak your own poems to yourself as you’re writing them. Voice is the way a poem comes into the world.

What do you think is important when you write poems for a children’s book?
Try not to offer advice or instruction. Be playful and imaginative and full of physical relish. Children’s poems have to be immediately accessible and bursting with energy and invention. When you write a poem for children it has to take you by surprise as you write it. I wrote a lot of my poems for my own children to read to them at bedtime. This was in the 50’s and 60’s before television. I enjoyed that shared experience so much I’ve gone on writing them. Grown-ups seem to like them as much as children. I think this is because it brings back to life the forgotten child in their own nature. Children have a wonderful ability to be fully at home in the moment, and poetry is very sympathetic to this. It likes to hop and skip.

alarm clock challenge

Ewen W from Fendalton Open Air School sent me this poem. She told me started writing it to relieve her boredom. I like the ieda of poems being little boredom munchers. I kept following along the clang in the poem and was surprised by what it turned out to be.

In a Circle

I twirl my pencil

round and round

my mind is blank

I’m truly bored.



What was that?

Nothing to bother.


What was that?

Nothing to bother.


What was that?

Now it must be something.

I deposit my pencil down

onto the black glossy table

and peered out the window.



What was that?
nothing to bother.

Ewen aged 10, Year 6, Fendalton Open Air Primary School

marshmallow snow

In summer when I go to the beach

the wind flips the ocean across the sand

like marshmallows, but this morning

the winter wind whipped the sea foam

into freezing chunks of snow

(or so it seemed!).


We don’t get snow on Auckland’s west coast. But I love the snow when I visit the South island. There was so much sea foam on the sand this morning it looked spectacular. The wind was gusting it everywhere. What does the snow look like to you? Send a poem to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include the name of your teacher and their email address if you like.

Check out my photos from this morning:

IMG_3193 IMG_3194 IMG_3195 IMG_3196 IMG_3197 IMG_3201 IMG_3204


Poetry Play is Going Backwards

Now that we are in the mood for memory poems I have thought of a mini challenge for you all!

Some of you are busy talking to older people so you can find a memory for a poem.

But what about you? Sometimes when I have visited schools I have asked students to think back to early memories. Think back to before you started school. What can you remember?

What is your earliest memory? You could do this if you are in Year 2 or Year 8 and anywhere in between!

Find one of your earliest memories.
Make a list of words about it. See how many words you can find.
Sounds? Weather? Things? Details?

You don’t have to write it all.

Play with the words on the line.

Listen to how each word and each line sounds.

Give your poem a title.

Send to Include your name, age year and name of school. You can include the name of your teacher and email address if you like.

Sophie and Jack and the Beanstalk

I set you a challenge to write a poem version of a story or a picture book after the Kate De Goldi interview.

Sophie from St Kentigerns’ Girls School has turned Jack and the Beanstalk into a poem and changed it a bit. Sophie has become Jack. She has some great lines (slither, scrape and clamber) and a good rhythm. I like her repeating verse that keeps changing just a bit. She also has some deliciously echoing words on the end of lines (own and bronze). I also like the ending (I like temptation echoing with bean!) .

If you have a go at this challenge you could put even more of your own life and place in the poem, but I really enjoyed reading Sophie’s version. I like being more in the head of Jack than I am in the usual story. Fabulous job Sophie. I will pop a book in the post for you this week.


Jack and the Beanstalk

I made the worst decision

And traded all I had

For the beggar’s magic beans

It made my mother mad!


She threw them out the window

Little did we know

They were really magic

And upward they did grow


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done


I woke up very early

And went outside to see

If I could find those three beans

To feed my mother and me


When I saw the beanstalk

I nearly did pass out

It stretched into the heavens

I had the urge to shout


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done


I wanted so to climb it

My feet did all the work

Even though I was so scared

For dangers there did lurk


Slither scrape and clamber

Sweat trickles down my face

The sight was not that pretty

This was such a sinister place


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done


I looked at my surroundings

The strangest thing of all

Was the size of the owner’s mansion

It was so very tall



The beanstalk seemed inviting

But my legs carried on

My hand moved on its own

To knock at the door of bronze


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done


My knock rung out so loudly

The door swung open wide

I swallowed my fears quite quickly

And boldly stepped inside


I think I choked on my fears

I suddenly feel ill

I so want to go back down

I’m moving against my will


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done



There were piles of rubies and sapphires

The halls were filled with gold

But it didn’t seem that inviting

I’m no longer feeling bold


I suddenly heard some stomping

And turned to hear him say

“Fee Fie Fiddley Fum”

The giant was coming my way


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done


I threw a gem at the giant

It hit him between the eyes

He looked like he would pass out

He jumped back in surprise


As soon as the giant was snoozing

I grabbed a bag of gold

And tried to move without jingling

Harder done than told


I love myself for this

This is why I’ve come

How I could do this

This is what I’ve done


When I finally made it outside

I breathed a sigh of relief

But I still had to climb down the beanstalk

This was not going to be all that brief


Slither scrape and clamber

Most of the way back down

But though I was hidden from sight

I could easily see the ground


I love myself for this

This is why I’ve come

How I could do this

This is what I’ve done


I spied upon my village

And this is what I saw

My mother looking distressed

And reading through the laws


My mother was rapidly arguing

With two policemen at her side

But the unhappy party all looked up

When they heard me slide


I love myself for this

This is why I’ve come

How I could do this

This is what I’ve done


Slithering twisting and slipping

All the way to the ground

My mother was so happy

That I had been found


But jocund though she had been

When she first caught sight

Of me coming down the beanstalk

I gave her an awful fright


I hate myself for this

Oh why did I come

How could I do this

Oh what have I done



So I found myself grounded

Even though I brought home gold

It didn’t solve all our problems

Or so I have been told


Here is the end of our story

Not as heroic as it may seem

Remember to resist temptation

It can disguise itself – as a bean

poetry heaven

Well dear young NZ poets, I have read all your poems once for The Fabulous Poetry Competition
and there were between one and two thousand!

Now I have a pile of hundreds that I love. I now have the very hard job of picking five for the book and some more favourites to post on the blog.

The poems have filled me with the joy of words. They have covered a huge range of topics and styles. I am really impressed!

So keep writing and sending in poems for the challenges I set. Yesterday I got an unexpected surprise – a young poet did the Kate De Goldi challenge. She has worked on her poem for ages, I can tell. I will post it later today! This is what makes Poetry Box worth doing. Getting your writing, so thank you!

memory is poemagic: tips and starting points

I am very excited about this challenge.

Now that you are on the hunt for a childhood memory of your grandparent or parent here are some ideas to help you search:

Ask some of these questions to help find the memory for your poem.

Did you ever see anything that got in the newspaper or on tv?
Did you ever see anyone famous?
What was different when you were little? At school or at home? Food? Transport? Toys? After school time? Holidays? Clothes?
Did anything funny ever happen to you? Or strange? Or exciting? Or scary? Or kind?

Sometimes the best memories are very ordinary. I loved talking to Great Nana about her life as a girl. I think the memories of old people are like little treasures and poems are a great way to keep them safe.

Some tips for memory poems:

Stick to one memory.
Or make a list poem of all the things that were different.
Put real things in your poem to make it come alive.
Hunt for things you see or hear or smell.
You don’t have to fit everything in.
Your poem might flow like a conversation. The words might match the way you talk.
Your poem might flow like a little story.
Find words that shine on the line.
Use some of your Nana’s (or Granddad’s) words in the poem.
How many words will you put on the line?

Try taking a poem of the wind for poetry box

This morning we were the only people on the beach. Check out my red nose after the poem!



The wind was frothing
the ocean across the sand
like white southern snow.

It was flicking sheets
of black sand in my eyes,
and hail was biting
my cheeks.

I was running into
a stinging pillow of weather
and I felt so awake.

What is the weather like where you are today?
Have a go at writing a weather poem. Send to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can also include your teacher’s name and email address. You can even send a photo!