Poetry picks, day 2

National Poetry Day this year is on Thursday 1st  October.  In this week before, I am aiming to post a poem a day, by a contemporary poet, choosing personal favourites that would be good to share with children and young people.


Today’s poem is Birmingham Roller, by one of my favourites: the Black Country poet, Liz Berry.  It’s a celebration of the beauty of nature within the harsh industrial landscape, of a way of life, of the gentleness of men who work hard with their hands, and of the beautiful, melodic, Black Country dialect.  A Birmingham Roller is a sort of pigeon with a distinctive and spectacular flight pattern – as shown in this YouTube video clip (1.10 minutes), with Liz Berry reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFujDNTBj1

Birmingham Roller

by Liz Berry

We spent our lives down in the blackness… those birds brought us up to the light. – Jim Showell, Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country


Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:

concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.

Ower streets am in yer wings,

ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,

yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust

in their tracklement cabinets.

Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men

whose onds grew soft as feathers

just to touch you, cradle you from egg

through each jeth-defying tumble.

Little acrobat of the terraces,

we’m winged when we gaze at you

jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through

the white breathed prayer of January

and rolling back like a babby’s yo-yo

caught by the open donny of the clouds.


For a glossary of the dialect words see here: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/poems/birmingham-roller/


Poetryline is the CLPE’s (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) online bank of resources for all things connected to poetry for children – and many of these resources would benefit secondary classes, too.  The site holds an extensive bank of poems for children and poetry teaching resources, videos of poet performances and interviews to support the teaching of poetry in the classroom.


Each year, to coincide with National Poetry Day, the CLPE awards the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award), which is the only award for published poetry for children in the UK. Established in 2003, the annual Poetry Award encourages and celebrates outstanding poetry published for children.  This year’s shortlist will be announced on National Poetry Day.  The CLiPPA 2020 winner will be announced in a very special Festival Poetry Show on Friday 9th October 2020.


Finally – some news from the world of children’s literature: David McKee has been awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Book Trust.  The Book Trust if the UK’s largest reading charity, and previous winners of this prestigious award include Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr, Raymond Briggs, Helen Oxenbury, John Burningham and Jan Pieńkowski.  McKee is probably best known for his Elmer books, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide.  The wonderful Not Now, Bernard recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and has sold more than 5 million copies.


On Radio 4’s Front Row last night, Samira Ahmed interviewed David McKee about his life, work, and winning the lifetime achievement award – listen here.

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