Poetry Box review: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An animal poem for every day of the year

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An animal poem for every day of the year, selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, Nosy Crow, 2020

This is one of the most sumptuous poetry anthologies to arrive in my letter box. When I got an invitation to include my tūī poem in a book of animal poems for children published in the UK, I said yes immediately. I had no idea what the book would be like, who would be in it, but I loved the idea of tūī singing their hearts out on the other side of the world. Plus I was an editing a children’s anthology of animal poems to be published in Aotearoa next year.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! is a substantial work of art: lovingly produced, lovingly edited, lovingly illustrated. When I held the gorgeous book in my hands, I was so very moved knowing I had a poem inside, along with a couple of other New Zealanders. The illustration for my tūī poem is magnificent:

You will find a year of poems from poetry luminaries such as Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy, William Blake, Dick King-Smith, Ted Hughes, Grace Nichols, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Spike Milligan, Adrian Mitchell, Jack Prelutsky, Masaoka Shiki, Valerie Worth, Matsuo Bashō along with Ruth Dallas, Patricia Grace and Margaret Mahy. There wasn’t room in a book of this size, but I would love to know where all the poets come from, so many poets unfamiliar to me, to know the book’s global reach.

I have other anthologies that offer a poem a day for a year, but I am really keen to read a poem a day from Tiger, Tiger in 2021. The book offers wild animals, domestic animals, poems that purr and howl, and poems that creep and leap. There are poems to eat in one bite and poems to savour slowly. I was especially delighted to see three Valerie Worth poems here. She has written utterly magical poetry books for children – the sort of poems that make you gasp with delight. And to discover a poem by Margaret Mahy, whose word agility and imaginative stretches made the very best poetry for children. One of the best ever poems by Margaret was selected:

Poetry does many things. It makes you laugh and sing, wriggle and jiggle, puzzle and ponder. Poetry can connect us with all kinds of experiences, people and places, and can lead us outside the world we know. It can be of the greatest comfort, but it can also challenge us, get us thinking and feeling. So to have such a magnificent animal anthology arrive in the world is a precious gift. One poem that really caught in my throat was ‘The Doves of Damascus’ by Ftoun Abou Kerech. The poet is trying to remember the country they have lost, settling upon a memory of doves and how they scattered. Some poems are like little jewels such as Gaki’s ‘Little Frog’. Three lines that evoke such a luminous frog image. It is a poetry treasure trove – so much joy to be had dipping and diving until I start my year of reading on January 1st 2021.

I was also delighted to see Patricia Grace’s poem in both English and te reo Māori:

How I love this book.

Tiger, Tiger is a celebration of what words can do, and how important it is to share what words can do with children. Thank you Fiona, Britta and Nosy Crow for bringing this beautiful book into the world.

Fiona Waters was born in Edinburgh and has always loved reading. At the age of seven she fell in love with poetry when she heard Gabriel Woolf reading ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on the radio. Fiona has been a bookseller, publisher, author, reviewer and most recently the Editorial Director of Troubadour, choosing the books for book fairs in schools. Now retired, she has travelled to ‘all the fairytale places she dreamt of as a child, like Russia and Japan, reading even more books with her two cats and still very much enjoying compiling anthologies’.

Britta Teckentrup grew up in Wuppertal in Germany. In 1988, she moved to London to study illustration and fine art at St Martin’s College and the Royal College of Art, and stayed in England for 17 years. She has created over 30 books, translated into 20 different languages. Her illustrations have also appeared in magazines, on homewares, clothes and packaging. Britta now lives and works in Berlin with her artist husband, young son, Vincent, and their cat.

Nosy Crow page where you can watch a cool trailer

Allen & Unwin page (NZ distributor)

3 thoughts on “Poetry Box review: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An animal poem for every day of the year

  1. Joanna Ludbrook

    Yes, Tiger Tiger Burning Bright takes pride of place in the Poetry section at Chicken and Frog Bookstore, Featherston. It’s a magnificent production.


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