Authorgraph No.243

a real, live poet. After I’ve gone, schools will often continue to develop the skills that pupils explore during my sessions. They’ll send their edited poems to me to put on my blog, which gives them a real sense of achievement.’


His journey into children’s poetry as an educator contains some impressive adventurousness. He says he started writing: ‘really quite rubbish teenage poetry’ after studying Philip Larkin at A Level. Whilst reading philosophy at UCL, and later whilst doing a postgrad at Oxford, he carried on writing and then performing his poems at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden: ‘I really got the performance bug, just the feeding off the audience. For a while I was going there every week.’

After graduating, and six months drifting in and out of voluntary jobs, Joshua came back to writing, and performing at the Poetry Café again: ‘People were telling me that children would probably really like the kind of stuff I was doing. My sister was a primary school teacher at the time, and she invited me in to come and share some work with her class.’ The performance bug bit harder this time: ‘maybe somewhat hastily, I decided to take a one-man poetry show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. This was after only about six months of taking poetry seriously at all!’

see it being used in numerous ways, and frequently embedded across the curriculum. Children love poetry as it allows them to be creative with language and to explore issues that are relevant to them. In my experience, they also love the humour, the wordplay, and the interaction of performance poetry with

Joshua Seigal

interviewed by fellow children’s poet Liz Brownlee

As an award-winning children’s poet, Joshua Seigal uses poetry to inspire confidence and creativity in schools, so he is an enthusiastic supporter of poetry on the curriculum: ‘I think poetry’s hugely important for the development of children’s literacy – it gives them freedom to explore a whole toolbox of writing techniques and it’s instrumental in exploring identity and self-expression, which helps foster confidence in all aspects of communication.

Back home, Joshua started performing at schools, using his self- published book My Grandpa’s Beard, before applying to do a pioneering MA on a spoken word educators programme, which was combined with creative writing: ‘It was started by an American poet called Peter Kahn, who works with high school students running spoken word poetry workshops. A lot of the schools had students who were very disengaged with the learning process. So he pioneered this programme which aims to kind of engage students through spoken word poetry.’

As part of the course he was placed in a secondary school in Newham: ‘who decided to keep me on for 3 three years. And then the Funding ran out in 2017, round about the time when my first book with Bloomsbury came out. So I went straight from being a spoken word educator, or at Goldsmiths, to being a published poet with Bloomsbury!’

That first book with Bloomsbury was I Don’t Like Poetry – I asked if the book was the result of a perceived antipathy to poetry by some young people: ‘Um, yeah, I think so. Part of my aim was that as a primary school kid I had no particular love for poetry. So I wanted to produce a collection of poems for children who might not ordinarily think they like poetry. The advice I give when I run workshops is to try and write about something you personally find interesting and that’s really what fuelled that book. And the poem I Don’t Like Poetry is intended to introduce children to techniques like metaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia and repetition, in a humorous way, really.

8 Books for Keeps No.243 July 2020

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