If children’s Fiction can become more gritty, realistic and relevant, then why should children’s Poetry not follow the same route? Brian Patten’s poem ‘The Border’ has a serious tone with its connotations of control and security, but at its heart lies the freedom of nature, of animals, co-existing with the freedom we humans deny ourselves. John Lyons tackles a subject even less suitable for old-school children’s poetry, in ‘AIR RAID PRECAUTION’. Though living in the Caribbean, as a child, he was still affected by World War Two, which, although largely a European war, included volunteers from the Caribbean Islands.
Sometimes, the old ways still work wonders. American Children’s Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt, takes a more traditional approach, proving there is life still in romping, rousing rhymes; his poem ‘Olympic Granny’ is already set to become a mainstay in Mexican schools. Former American Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, is less intrusive with rhyming and creates a memorable proverb in ‘Great, Good, Bad’.
by Brian Patten
The border-guard is asleep.
The moon passes over the border.
He does not notice it.
A little bird sends messages across the border.
Its song, a Morse-code he does not hear.
The crickets leap from clump to clump of grass.
They cross the border with ease.
The badger digs up worms
This side, that side of the border.
They do not know it is there.
AIR RAID PRECAUTION
by John Lyons
War was not far far from Trinidad
when I was nine in thirty-nine.
Street lights went out sudden sudden;
siren alarm wailed loud loud loud
and helmeted ARP men shouted:
“Out deh lights,
out deh lights!”
Pitchoil lamp-lights, like twinkling stars
against the silhouetted hills of Laventille,
went out one by one, there and there and there………
“Ah tellin allyuh, out deh lights;
put out deh lights!”
The war was never far far away
when the bullfrogs’ belly-bass croaking
and night crickets’ chirrupings stopped;
only dogs in the neighbourhood barked
at the siren dark, the ARP men’s command:
“Put out yuh lights.
PUT OUT YUH LIGHTS!”
That war was really never far away
when searchlights, sharp as butchers’ knives,
pierced and sliced the black sky over Port-of-Spain.
I waited, heart in mouth, ears alert for the
‘all clear’ and the street lights to come on again.
by Kenn Nesbitt
When Grandma goes for gold in
The Olympic games this year,
She’ll laugh at her competitors
And make them quake with fear.
She’s ninety-nine years old
But, in athletics, she’s been blessed.
The trouble is she can’t decide
Which sport she plays the best.
She’s such an ace at archery.
She’s queen of the canoe.
She’s tough to top at taekwondo
And table tennis too.
She dominates the diving board.
She tromps the trampoline.
At lifting weights and wrestling
She’s the best you’ve ever seen.
She speeds across the swimming pool
To slake the summer heat.
On BMX and mountain bike
She simply can’t be beat.
She’s highest in the high jump,
And a champ at hammer throwing,
Magnificent in marathons,
Remarkable at rowing.
She beats the best at boxing.
At the pole vault she is peerless.
Her fencing is the finest;
She is positively fearless.
She’s masterful at basketball,
She truly rules the court,
And equally incredible
At every other sport.
But what we find astonishing
And something of a shocker
Is how she wins all contests
With her wheelchair and her walker.
Great, Good, Bad
by J. Patrick Lewis
A great book is a homing device
For navigating paradise.
A good book somehow makes you care
About the comfort of a chair.
A bad book owes to many trees
A forest of apologies.
All poems are copyrighted to the individual authors.
Banner illustration by Dean Lewis