Meet the winners of the YorkMix Poems For Children competition 2019

The winners with poet and judge Carole Bromley
19 Aug 2019 @ 8.16 pm
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A spellbound audience at York Explore library congratulated the winner of the first YorkMix Poems For Children Competition at the weekend.

Laura Mucha, of Canonbury, London, scooped the £250 first prize with her poem, Rapunzel, a witty retelling of a classic fairytale. Another poem of Laura’s, Compliments Of Shakespeare was also honoured, with a Commended award.

Our judge, Carole Bromley, YorkMix‘s Poet In Residence, said :

  • It was a joy to judge the first YorkMix Poems for Children Competition.

    Any initial anxieties about the organiser ending up out of pocket were very quickly dispelled as poems started pouring in from all corners of the globe, including Australia, The States, Canada and Europe as well as from all over the UK and many, many local entries, several of which, to my delight, ended up in the winners’ and commended pile.

The judge’s verdict

The winning poet with a young fan…
Carole Bromley reveals why she was bowled over by these poems

Obviously I had no idea when judging a poem if it was the work of a local writer who had never written for children before, or an international writer, or even (and I soon began to suspect I was receiving a number of these) someone well known and very talented from the children’s poetry scene in the UK.

It felt like a very big responsibility! I couldn’t just think, Is this by someone really good, maybe someone I’ve met or heard of? I just had to stay calm and decide if I liked it, or, rather, if I thought a child would like it. If I was unsure I would show it to a child (I have thirteen grandchildren so no shortage of second opinions) before I made up my mind.

I know judges often say this but I really mean it. I wished there were more prizes. I wished I didn’t have to decide one poem was better than another. I wished we could just make a marvellous anthology out of the best fifty poems because I know children would love them all and for different reasons.

I had a ‘strong contenders’ folder and to get from that to the shortlist pile or higher was a huge achievement. Several really well-known names didn’t make that leap as I later found out.

I noticed a few things about the entries in general. One was that there were tons of poems about dinosaurs and even more about food! Many of these found their way into the winners’ folder but some didn’t, simply because they were up against stronger poems on a similar subject.

Another thing that struck me was how very few poems were aimed at teenagers and how few also for pre-schoolers.

The vast majority of entrants knew children well and their poems were targeted at the young. There were almost no no-hopers. There were a few that told the reader about their grandchildren and, though well written, these had less sense of audience and were really for adults who would be amused by the child’s antics.

My advice would be to rewrite these in the voice of a child. Viewpoint is very important. I could also tell if a poet hadn’t read any children’s poetry since the 1950s!

You really do need to familiarise yourself with, for example, the excellent poetry in the collections and anthologies which are shortlisted every year for the CLiPPA award. Poems also don’t have to rhyme (though it helps) and you can allow yourself to be funny.

Any poem that made me laugh aloud went straight into my Strong Contenders/Longlist folder.

Picking the winners was agony. Not because the winners aren’t brilliant. They are. But so are many of the highly commended poems. In the end I had to ask if we could have three poems tying for joint third. I loved, loved, loved all five of our winners.

The first prize-winner, Rapunzel, is a superb, funny, original retelling of the fairy-tale. I was delighted to find it was by Laura Mucha, a brilliant children’s poet and writer whose first children’s collection will be published by Otter-Barry Books.

Our second prize-winner is that rare thing, a shape poem which is not only inventive and clever but also an excellent poem in its own right. I could not believe it when I was told this poem, A Diplodocus Thumbs A Lift After Being Retired From The Natural History Museum, was by York poet and retired GP, Richard Carpenter.

The three poets sharing third prize, Sarah Ziman for Packed Lunch, Matt Goodfellow for A Special Badger, and Geraldine Durrant for A Change Is As Good As A Rest, all well and truly earned their place among the winners for their humour and inventiveness.

Here are three poets who really know what they are doing. In fact Sarah and Matt had other poems which were very strong contenders too so that I almost had to toss a coin to decide which of their wonderful poems most deserved a prize. I think the answer is all of them!

And I loved the off the wall humour and bouncing rhythms in Geraldine’s poem.

So, all in all, a joyous if very difficult process. I was so excited by the clear evidence that there are many, many really talented children’s poets out there. Some, I know, are published and the rest deserve to be. Children need poetry this good. Thank you to everyone who entered, for entrusting your wonderful poems to me.”

The winners

First prize (£250) was awarded to Laura Mucha, for her poem, Rapunzel

Second prize (£100) was awarded to Richard Carpenter, for A Diplodocus Thumbs A Lift After Being Retired From The Natural History Museum

Equal Third prizes (£50 each) went to: Geraldine Durrant for A Change Is As Good As A Rest; Matt Goodfellowfor A Special Badger; and Sarah Ziman for Packed Lunch

A total of 560 poems were submitted by 225 poets.

All the winning and commended poems are below.

The winning poems

First Prize

by Laura Mucha
(Canonbury, London)

Rapunzel’s parents, though quite rich,
stole veggies from a wicked witch,
who caught the silly thieving fools.
She screeched, “You’d die if I were cruel,
but I am kind… And so you’ll live
but only – ONLY – if you give
your child to me.”
And so they did.

When the little doll turned twelve
the old hag locked her in a cell
located in a ghastly tower –
Rapunzel couldn’t have a shower,
brush her teeth or comb her hair…
But wait! Don’t panic! Don’t despair!
I promise you a happy ending –
that is, at least, what I’m intending…

The witch would visit every day,
and on arrival, she would say,

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down.”

And sweet Rapunzel’s golden curls
would slowly tumble and unfurl
allowing Witch to clamber up
(occasionally getting stuck).

Sometime later, in the wood,
there rode a prince, both fair and good.
and when he reached the ghastly tower,
(you know, the one without a shower),
he stopped. He sniffed. And then he screamed
“WHAT’S THAT SMELL? It’s quite obscene…
I can’t abide such nasty pongs.
Perhaps I’ll see what’s going on
as something must be very wrong.”

He clambered up the crumbling bricks,
determined that he’d find and fix
the horrid stench. He reached the smell,
and climbed into Rapunzel’s cell.
He found the pretty girl and sniffed.
“AHA”, he said, “IT’S YOU THAT WHIFFS!”

Rapunzel, startled, stared at him –
his handsome face, his strapping chin,
and yelped, “My prince! You’ve saved the day!
You’ve come to whisk me far away!”

“Oh no,” he said, “you’re far too foul –
you smell like you’ve been disemboweled!
Your body odour makes me frown!”

And just like that, he climbed back down,
and quickly trotted into town.

And that was that. Or so it seemed,
Rapunzel sat there, sad, unclean…

But you will be relieved to learn
that shortly after, Prince returned
and came to sweet Rapunzel’s aid
together with the fire brigade.
The firemen scampered up the tower
and gave the filthy girl a shower.

“I’m clean!” Rapunzel cried, “Yippee!
And now the Prince will marry me!”

Prince went up to have a sniff.
“Oh dear,” he wailed, “you really whiff…
We hosed you down with lots of water,
so now I think you really oughta
smell quite nice. But you do not.
You smell like mouldy cheese and grot.”

A few days later, in the wood,
he came across Miss Riding Hood
(who carried round a bar of soap
and always took the time to soak).
They quickly married, moved away –
and sadly, on their wedding day,
Rapunzel lived alone up there
with filthy, rotten, stinky hair.

But wait, don’t panic! Don’t dismay!
Why it was just the other day
I saw Rapunzel dressed in brown
and now she runs a shop downtown
with soaps and perfumes, toothpaste too –
(I have to say I bought a few).

The girl had very bravely jumped –
and landed with a mighty thump
upon her filthy rotten locks
(which made a cushioned landing spot).

We spoke a bit, and she seemed well –
and there is not much more to tell.
Except, of course, she didn’t smell.

Second Prize

A Diplodocus Thumbs A Lift After Being Retired From The Natural History Museum
by Richard Carpenter
(Strensall, York)

Click on the image to read the poem

Equal Third Prize

A change is as good as a rest
by Geraldine Durrant
(East Grinstead, mid-Sussex)

AN anteater, whether it’s fat or it’s thin,
pretty much does what it says on the tin:
it eats ants for its dinner and ants for its lunch,
and ants for its supper and snack time and brunch,
and whether it’s Christmas, or Sunday or Easter,
a modest repast, a quick nibble or feast, a
‘n anteater has what an anteater wants –
which is dozens and dozens and dozens of ants.

Except Eric.

Eric said firmly “What really bugs me,
I had insects for breakfast and insects for tea.
I’m not being fussy, I’m not being hasty
I want something to eat but I want something TASTY.
I’ve had red ants and black ants, I’ve eaten them boiled,
I’ve eaten them fried and I’ve eaten them broiled.
I won’t clear my plate. I don’t want more grubs-to-root.
I don’t want them skewered,
I don’t want ant substitute.

I hate ’em.

“I’ve had it with ants. I’ve had more than enough.
I want to try cheeses and gateaux and stuff.
I just want to gorge myself, eat without stopping
on pates and pizzas – and choose my own topping.
I don’t want ants flambé-ed, I don’t want them whole,
or chopped up in pieces, or served in a roll,
I don’t them frittered or in an ant-ball,
or satayed or seared – I don’t want them at all.

NO more ants.
Or cockroaches.
I really don’t want to try the antsi pasti.
Nope – don’t want spiders.
Nothing with a thorax or more than two eyes.
Chips would be great.
Thank you.

Equal Third Prize

A Special Badger
by Matt Goodfellow
(Cheadle, Manchester)

I’m a special kind of badger
in a special badger den
writing special badger poems
with a special badger pen
learning special badger lessons
in a special badger school
earning special badger kudos
for my special badger cool
wearing special badger badges
saying badgers are the best
passing special badger interviews
and special badger tests
drinking special badger coffee
from a special badger mug
but my special badger problem:

I am actually a slug

Equal Third Prize

Packed Lunch
by Sarah Ziman

On Monday,
I opened my lunchbox and I had:
A ham sandwich,
Some cheese and onion crisps,
And an apple.

On Tuesday,
I opened my lunchbox and I had:
A cheese sandwich,
Some ham and onion crisps,
And an apple.

On Wednesday,
I opened my lunchbox and I had:
A ham and cheese sandwich,
Some apple crisps,
And an onion.

On Thursday,
I opened my lunchbox and I had:
A sandy ham,
Some crispy onion,
And a cheesy witch.

On Friday,
I had school dinners.

Highly Commended poems

The Fib
by Stephen Bastable

I told a little fib one day
To make myself look clever.
But everyone believed my fib
And now the fib’s forever.

A new kid joined our class today
And it turns out he’s a Viking
I’d really like to be his friend
But I’ll pretend that I don’t like him.

They all say I should talk to him
But then they’ll know I lied.
When he’s out playing with my friends
I’ll have to stay inside.

I really hope no one finds out
That I can’t speak Norwegian.
I guess I just won’t visit Norway
Or that general region.

I told a little fib one day
To make myself look clever.
But everyone believed my fib
And now the fib’s forever.

by Janet Dean

I am a cat,
don’t patronise me.
Puss puss indeed.

I was not your cuddly kitten.
My baby claws mauled
the ball of wool,
if you remember.

I mew for meat,
mice are spicier
than the mashed up meal
you put out.

I purr for pleasure,
your stroke is dry;
I want the damp paw
of my mother.
Where is she?

Don’t think I arch my back
in anger, or in fear;
I’m practising the pose
of my Egyptian forbears,
for your information.

That curl-up on your lap
is not contentment,
it’s just a little time-out
from resenting you.

There’s nothing you can do
to make me love you,
I’m not the domesticatted type

So – where’s the flap?

There Is Always One
by Susan Glickman
(Toronto, Canada)

There is always one who’s late for class and one
waiting by the door for the teacher.
There is always one who forgets his homework.
Always one who can’t wait for gym and that other
who hides in the corner, one who gets picked first
and one who plays by herself.

The one with fantastic hair jewellery might also love
stuffed animals and the guy whose shoelaces are in knots
spends all his allowance on magic cards,
but the chess champion probably isn’t a goalie and the one who has
a dog, a cat, a tank of tropical fish and two gerbils
can’t be the one who’s allergic to animals.

There is always one everyone wants as a friend
and another nobody knows.
One who breaks all the crayons.
One who’s read every book in the library, one
who can’t read at all and one
who never says a word.

Do you know the one who’s so tall
everyone thinks he’s much older and the one who’s so little
all the teachers think she’s cute?
There’s always one with freckles, one
who twirls her hair and one
who interrupts.
Then there’s that guy who’s always singing.

Is the kid who bites his nails the same one who’s good at math?
Is the red-head the class artist?
There’s always one who drives the teacher crazy,
one whose parents don’t know English, and one
whose grandmother is very sick.

There’s always one who holds your hand at recess
and one who likes to sleep over,
and one who says “Best friends

There is always one.

by Matt Goodfellow
(Cheadle, Manchester)

I wouldn’t want a burger or a curry or a quiche
I wouldn’t push a pasty past my lips and tongue and teeth
I’d hate to have a thousand things all swimming in my guts
‘cos I was born a squirrel, so it’s: NUTS! NUTS! NUTS!

variety anxiety is not what squirrels do
we don’t want sausage sandwiches or chunky chicken stew
no jelly-pots that wobble like your big fat human butts
‘cos I was born a squirrel, so it’s: NUTS! NUTS! NUTS!

when I’m in your garden stealing peanuts from the birds
take on board my reasoning, it’s truthful, not absurd
don’t shake a fist or do me down with disappointed tuts –
remember I’m a squirrel, so it’s: NUTS! NUTS! NUTS!

by Sandra Horn

In case you get confused between
A Quetzal and a pretzel,
Here are some handy hints:
A Quetzal is a crunchy snack
Like cashew nuts or mints.
It does not have a tail or beak
It can’t lay eggs or learn to speak.

A pretzel, on the other hand’s
An Amazonian parrot.
You cannot munch a pretzel
Like a lollipop or carrot,
It will bite back, squawk, fly away,
And call the RSPCA.

PS I wrote this late at night –
I’m not quite sure I’ve got it right…

Dinosaurs for dinner
by Joanne Lloyd

‘It’s fake’ said Jake, slicing great chunks of cake
But his knife was now visibly starting to shake

‘Just keep cooking’, said Suze, as she switched off the News
‘If it isn’t a hoax, we have no time to lose.’

‘It’s millennia too late’, said auntie Kate
As she set down a bin lid to serve as a plate

‘It’s bologna’, said Tony, as he boiled macaroni
In a saucepan the size of a miniature pony

But then, ‘shush!’ cried Maria, her eyes bulging with fear
‘I can feel that they’re now getting terribly near!’

Then they stopped with the stirring and chopping and poaching
In the hush they could hear heavy footsteps approaching

Peering out through the curtain, Kate let out a yelp
‘They’re coming’ she gulped, ‘oh no, oh help

‘There are three of the things, they’re enormous and green
‘They look angry and scary and hungry and mean.’

‘Just keep calm’ bellowed Suze, with a shake of her head
‘Kill the panic, and think for a moment instead.

‘Like they said on TV, we should keep a calm bearing.
‘We must take out the feast we’ve been busy preparing.
‘They have travelled through time, they’ll be needing a snack,
‘They’ll just gobble you up if you run out the back’

So, with trembling hands and with jelly-like legs
They emerged from the house with trays brimming with eggs

And with pasta and pies and potatoes and peas
And with pastries with raisins and crackers and cheese

The dinosaurs looked at each other with glee
‘How divine!’ said the largest ‘there’s walnuts and brie!’

‘Oh, my word’ said another ‘they’ve made guacamole!
‘And for pudding they’ve done us a jam roly poly’

Then the creatures sat down and they ate and they ate
Till the sun had long set and the evening was late

Then they sweetly said ‘thank you’ and got to their feet
‘We must leave now’ they said ‘to find something to eat.’

This Poem
by Heather Reid
(Abernethy, Perth, Scotland)

If you would rather be kicking a ball
or climbing a mountain in furthest Nepal,
if you’re not much into poems at all,
this poem’s for you.

This poem’s for you if you’re under the weather,
on top of the world, at the end of your tether.
This poem’s for you if you’re wondering whether
this poem’s for you.

This poem’s for you if baked beans make you sick,
if you’re first on the team or the last to be picked,
if your favourite subject is arithmetic
this poem’s for you.

This poem’s for you if you’re sassy and bright,
if you can’t get to sleep with the light off at night,
if your writing’s not great but your spelling’s all right,
this poem’s for you.

This poem’s for everyone out there who’s got
a make-believe friend whom they talk to a lot.
For girls who like football and boys who do not,
this poems for you.

This poem’s for Emily, Sanjeev and James,
for Mina and Tomek and Declan and Jade,
for everyone who has a vowel in their name,
this poem’s for you.

This poem is sturdy, it won’t break or squash,
it won’t cause a rash and won’t shrink in the wash,
carry it with you forever because
this poem’s for you.

Beyond Compare
by Robert Schechter
(New York, USA)

A circle coloured in with chalk,
a football someone kicked too high,
a nightlight making dim from dark,
a peephole cut out from the sky,
an eye without the middle part,
a head without a bit of hair,
a canvas waiting to be art,
a sun, except without the glare.

A clock without the moving hands,
a coin without the royal face,
a wheel that’s given up its spins,
a doily cut from cotton lace.

I try my best to liken it
to something else. A loose balloon?
But no. It’s nothing but itself.
The dizzy, lovely, perfect Moon.

Tyrannosaurus Vexed (Note to the Edtor)
by Claire Schlinkert

Dear Sir/ Madam,
It appears
that your biased views and smears
have been causing my community some stress.
All you poets and you writers
seem quite clearly out to spite us,
for you give us such a terribly bad press!

You revere the golden eagle,
and declare the lion regal,
yet they show no more compassion to their prey.
Though our neighbours can be wary,
and some seem to think we’re scary,
we are NOT the mean old baddies you portray!

To conclude, whilst strong and agile,
our esteem can be quite fragile.
More unkindness, and we’ll soon be nervous wrecks.
We don’t want the world to hate us,
so please focus on our greatness.
Much appreciated,
Kind regards,
T. Rex.

Ice-cream for breakfast
by Michael Shann
(East London)

Sofia, what would you like for breakfast?
Emm… ice-cream.
Sorry Dad. Ice-cream please.
Ice-cream! For breakfast!
Yes, ice-cream. Mint-choc-chip please.
You want mint-choc-chip ice-cream for breakfast.
Actually no. Can I have strawberry please.
Yes, strawberry.
But you can’t have ice-cream for breakfast.
Why not Dad?
Because you can’t.
But why?
Because you can’t. Whoever heard of anyone having ice-cream for breakfast?
Yes, me.
When did you ever hear of anyone having ice-cream for breakfast?
This morning.
This morning!
Yes, Mummy said I could have ice-cream for breakfast this morning.
Mummy did! When did she say that?
Just now. She said seeing as it’s a special day I can have what I like for breakfast.
But did she say you could have ice-cream?
No, but she said I can have what I like. And I’d like ice-cream.
But I don’t think she meant ice-cream. Anyway, why is it a special day?
Mummy says it’s twelve years today since she first gave you a kiss.
Is it? Oh yes, it’s the 9th of March.
Yes Dad. That’s why it’s a special day.
So it is Sofia. Come on, let’s have ice-cream for breakfast.

The School for Ghouls
by Kate Wakeling

The school for ghouls
is where ghosts and spooks of every sort
learn the tools of the trade.

The ghouls are schooled
in how to go bump in the night,
or perform a LEVEL 7 FRIGHT
by standing weirdly on the stairs
in the crisp moonlight.

Lessons start at midnight
(unless the clock strikes thirteen).

And the ghouls,
of course,
must stick to the rules
for the school’s headmistress
won’t suffer fools.

(Note how she carries her head,
chopped off neatly at the neck,
under one bony arm.)

They say her punishments are

The ghouls learn chain-rattling
and teeth-chattering
and how to get online with a spider’s web.

For the more classic white-sheet ghost,
the laundry module is a must.

So, roll up for a term
at the school for ghouls.

Join the creepy crew.

I heard
the spelling tests
only cover one word:


On the Level
by Stephen Williams
(Appleton Roebuck, York)

Turns out I’m Level 5 in maths
‘Cos I can do some sums.
I’m Level 3 in music
As I only play the drums.

In English, I’m a Level 4 –
I struggle with my spelling.
But I’m Level 6 at acting
So at drama I’m excelling.

In science, I’m a Level 5
‘Cos I can draw a chart.
I know which way a pencil goes,
So Level 4 in art.

I’m good with dates and World War II,
So Level 6 in history.
But why I’m only Stufe Drei
In German is a mystery.

But I’m off the scale at listening.
And I’m lovely with my cat.
I’m always kind to all my friends
But they don’t measure that.

The school’s obsessed with numbers
And the teachers’ minds are shredded.
But I don’t take much notice –
Because I’m level-headed.

Commended poems

Bogie Toad by Jane Burn (Consett, Durham)

has a face like a welly boot toe,
eyes like soapy moons, blinky caps of lid,
no use for lashes. Mouth all smiley split –
curled inside a roly-poly, roly-poly,
roly-poly tongue, long as a mile,
fast as twenty lightnings, sticky-stuck,
lick its own forehead, in and out!
Catching all them yumptious bugs,
legs and wings and everything –
taste of liquorice, dead-fly pie
all wriggle-taste. Delicious bugs!
Skin like teabags, leafy, leatherbound
stretchy-wetchy, twixy-tween her toes.
Knobble-burp and bubble throat sing,
leg, leg, bounce, bounce, hopper-jump.
Floated jelly eggs in a mish-mash,
tadpole blisters, babies waggling
from their snotty pods and croaking joy.
Water splish-splash, gulpy song of ribbits!
Flip-flop, leap-frog, rubber-foot boing!

The Museum of Chairs
by Fiona Calvert
(Acomb, York)

In the Museum of Chairs there aren’t any pairs,
Because each and every chair is a special kind of rare.

You can sit on a chair that is covered in hair,
And giggle on a chair made of spotty underwear.

You can spin on a chair from a ride at fair,
Then hover on a chair that isn’t really there.

There’s a particular chair you can sit on if you dare
(Though it looks like a rather large grizzly bear.)

There’s a very lovely chair that’s big enough to share,
And you can jump on a chair like you just don’t care.

There’s a rickety chair in a state of disrepair,
And one that’s made entirely of a chocolate éclair.

You should really pay a visit and treat your derrière;
There’s nowhere, for your bottom, that can quite compare.

by Jeremy Grant
(Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire)

No ideas but in thingamies.

It was the kind of dribbly day
you get in dreams,
rainbrellas opening
like flowers in the street
and hairyplanes jumping
from puddle to muddly puddle.

I was half-expecting to see
a hippyhoppymus
sploosh down our road,
its great body moving
like a heavy grey cloud
floating too close to the ground.

Downstairs, the growing-ups
were eating suggestive biscuits
and drinking it’s-hot tea
in careful cups.

Me? Chicken pops
for five long get-ups.
They came in the night
when I wasn’t listening,
exploding over my body
like bubble wrap, a life-
sized dot-to-dot of me.
You’re clementined,
mum said. End of.

Thing is: I’m a lonely child
(no bothersome sisters to speak of)
so I make and believe in
magiciany worlds in my head.

There’s a private eye
in my magnifying glass
that sees things I can’t see
right under my nose,
and my sausage dog
called Shmutt
is hot on his tail,

but the tale of the dastardly villain
crinkling his fourth head
and twirling his waxed moon dash
is far too terrible to tell.
We look for crooks and grannies,
school unicorns,
find strangled eggs
lying cold in school canteens.

(I beg your garden, Ma’am,
but I ain’t getting
peas and noodles
over some Year One
just because she flies
on the jumpoline,
not even if you stuck us
together with oopsaglue.)

Mean Shmutt
in our spaghetti car bananas
with our wee-wah ready
for emergent sheeps,
snotrils flying in the wind,
as we jump the toll bridge,
everything under the troll.

Or he in his uppity
and me in mine,
bumbling like bees
through the cockadoodle dawn,
talking on talky-walkies
in Gobbledygook.

The visitors are gone now
and rising on the smell waves,
sweaty bolognese,
and what’s that?
Dalek bread?
(Fact is the boiled ogglets
we had for lunch
were a bit dipappointing,
if you know what I mean.)

Soon Dad’ll crawl home
from his Insect day at work,
his face all red
like somebody spilled his beans
(he’s probably on the George
Garrick Way right now)

and it’ll be time again
to go downstairs
in the same clangernackys
I was wearing when he left.

Armboobs off the table
while you’re eating, he’ll say.
Doughnut squeak whistle mouthful.
And for pud, a treat, a trifle.
Marks and Spensive. Truly jumpers!

Tonight, when the dark
comes smooky down from the trees,
mean Shmutt’ll sneak out
when the neigh-birds are sleeping in their nests
into the night-night night,
where the owls can only count to two
and the booby-whackers prowl,
their clicker-clackers
tucked up in their coats.

Or later, with my hockle-bockle
snug against my skin,
when the wakey-wakey world
has sung its lullabyebye,

I’ll dream of mingos,
kamins skating on ice,
cockledeer grazing
in fields of booboo bells,

and artsy stinkpots,
wearing French-style hats,
completing me dot for dot
and making me well.

Three Little Pigs
by Sandra Horn

In a little wooden house by a sycamore tree
Lived an old mother pig and her family of three.
Day after day the little pigs grew
Till Mother Pig said, ‘Now, this won’t do!
We’re squashed in here now you’re all grown –
You must go and build houses of your own!

Lazy Pig One went hunting around,
Found a few sticks in a heap on the ground
Pushed them together, tied them with twine
‘It looks a bit rough, but it will do fine! ‘
Said Lazy Pig One. ‘There’s a wonky bit there –
But that doesn’t matter and I don’t care!’

But later that night while the Piggy was sleeping
Something came slinking, Something came creeping –
Something took a deep breath and huffed
Opened his toothy mouth and puffed…

Piggy woke up and jumped out of bed
Just as the wonky sticks fell round his head.
‘Gotcha!’ said Something, but he was mistaken –
(He’d counted his pig before it was bacon)
Piggy ran off, squealing, ‘Can’t catch me!’
Back to the house by the sycamore tree.

Lazy Pig Two roamed about; by and by
He came to some hay-stooks left out to dry.
‘A ready-made house!’ He said with a grin –
‘There’s nothing to do, I can move right in!’
And that’s what he did – he crept under the hay
Where he snoozed and he snored for the rest of the day.

Late in the night, our pig was still sleeping
When Something came slinking, Something came creeping –
Something took a deep breath and huffed,
Opened his horrible mouth and puffed
Up in the air went the house made of hay,
Tossed by the wind it just floated away.

‘Gotcha!’ said Something – mistaken again –
Pig Two was off like a shot down the lane
This little piggy went ‘Wee wee wee!’
All the way home to the house by the tree

A sensible fellow was Little Pig Three
He borrowed two books from the library
One was ‘Making Mud Bricks’ and he read it all through.
‘Right, then,’ he said, ‘now I know what to do!’
He moulded his bricks from the mud, one by one
Then left them to dry in a row, in the sun.

On a flat piece of ground, he marked out a square,
Fetched all the mud bricks and built his house there.
He put locks on the windows, a bolt on the door,
And then settled down for a well-deserved snore.

While he was sleeping, Something came creeping –
Something came huffing, Something came puffing,
But the little house stood, as our pig knew it would
All Something’s huffing and puffing did – nothing!

But Something was hungry, he wouldn’t give in.
‘I can climb down the chimney,’ he said, ‘I’m quite thin,
What a shock Pig will get when he sees me appear.
There’ll be chops on the menu tonight, never fear!’

He’d just clambered up to the chimney stack,
When Piggy woke up. ‘I fancy a snack,
I’ll boil a nice egg,’ he said, ‘over the fire.’
He threw on some coal. As the flames rose higher,
‘Yowow!’ yelled Something, ‘that’s blistering hot!’
He leaped to the ground, away like a shot,
Down to the river to cool off his nose
(And his tail and his ears and his fingers and toes.)

Little Pig watched with a broad eggy smile
As Something went by at a-minute-a-mile.
Then he sat down for another good look
At the notes in his second library book:
‘Crafty Ideas for Pigs, volume four:
Keeping the wolf away from your door.’

‘These books saved my life!’ cried Little Pig Three,
‘Hooray for my local library!’

Compliments of Shakespeare
by Laura Mucha
(Canonbury, London)

A poem inspired by Shakespeare’s insults.

You poisonous, slimy, bunch-backed toad,
you coward, beggar, shallow rogue –
your villainous smell offends my nose!
You’re rank, you make me sick.

You elvish, starvelling stinky hog,
if only you’d been born a dog
I’d like you more.
But no. Instead, you’re like a sore,
you’re like a boil I’d like to pop.
You’re speaking but I wish you’d stop.

You’re lily-livered, knotty, proud,
your February face is full of cloud –
you’re lumpy, foul, all froth and scum.
I have to say I think your bum
is the best thing about you.

Grim Fairy Tales!
by Heather Reid
(Abernethy, Perth, Scotland)

Tell me a story, a long-ago story
and make it deliciously scary and gory;
with pale, headless riders on galloping horses,
and dragons who drink maiden’s blood between courses.

Tell of giants sent crashing down overgrown shoots,
and a step-mum who visits, with poisonous fruit,
and a disgruntled piper who makes children dance
to a tune he once used to put rats in a trance;

Tell of children who follow a trail through the wood
to a house where a witch wants to eat them for pud;
and a princess who finds, when she goes for a snooze,
that a pea in the bed can inflict quite a bruise.

No, don’t spare the details, I want to hear all
about wolves eating goats, and goats head-butting trolls;
about porridge and bears and a golden-haired whinger,
an ill-mannered biscuit whose flavour is ginger,

who gives his old parents a run for their money
but ends up as dinner inside fox’s tummy.
Yes, tell me a story that fills me with fright
and then close the door slowly and leave on the light!

Centuries of Questionable Kings
by Shauna Darling Robertson
(Frome, Somerset)

Did Pippin The Middle long to make it to the top?
Did Ivar The Boneless have a tendency to flop?
Was Stephen The Precious almost always in a strop
and did Ferdinand The Bomb ever drop?

Did Louis The Popular have lots of Facebook friends?
Was Haakon The Crazy absolutely round the bend?
Did Piero The Unfortunate sustain a sticky end
and Llywelyn The Luxurious just spend?

Was Edward The Eloquent ever lost for words?
Did Domnall The Speckled get mistaken for a bird?
Did Vasily The Cross-Eyed see the world as mostly blurred
and was William The Silent ever heard?

Was Louis The Unavoidable glued to your side?
Did Alfonso The Candid despair of those who lied?
Was Olaf The Titbit raw or sautéed, baked or fried
and was James The Rash just itching to be tied?

Was Harold The Bluetooth the world’s first wireless king?
Did Haakon The Broad-Shouldered tend to take things on the chin?
Was Ferdinand The Fickle up and down, then out, then in
and did Louis The Debonair wear bling?

Was Brochwel The Fanged known to bark and then to bite?
Did Frederick The Bitten cross his path one fateful night?
Did Constantius The Pale turn a pasty shade of white
and Garcia The Trembler get a fright?

Did Alfonso The Slobberer give anything but drool?
Was Childeric The Idiot a mug, a chump, a fool?
Was Bolko The Strict uber-stern and super-cruel?
And were any of them really fit to rule?

P.S. These were all the nicknames of real historical monarchs, royals and nobles.

Grandad’s Going Fishing
by Miles Salter

Grandad’s going fishing,
he’s heading for the stream.
He’s hoping he might catch
a carp, or trout, or bream.

Grandad’s going fishing,
will he get into a muddle ?
I saw him out last Sunday,
he was fishing from a puddle !

Grandad’s going fishing
he hooks all kinds of things –
bicycle wheels and bottles,
rusty radios and springs.

Grandad’s going fishing
for socks and sticks and stones.
He’ll come back with a net full
of bats and bricks and bones.

Grandad’s going fishing
I heard him make a wish –
maybe today will be the day
he finally gets a fish!

This Poem Is New
by Robert Schechter
(New York, USA)

This poem is new. I made it up.
Before I sat and wrote it,
you could not read this poem at all,
recite its lines or quote it.

It did not rhyme, it had no words,
you could not sing or hum it.
If there’s a Mountain of What’s Not,
this poem was at the summit,

the King of What Had Never Been,
to Not Yet There, a hero,
the empty space you find within
the circle of a zero.

But now this poem exists for sure,
so please feel free to read it!
It’s on the Mountain of What Is
in case you ever need it.

And someday when this poem is old,
remember that this doesn’t
mean there wasn’t once a time
when it most surely wasn’t.

by Philip Waddell

Underneath the leather gear
Underneath the slicked back hair
Underneath the moody sneer

Underneath the studs and lace
Underneath the Goth-pale face
Underneath the dental brace

Underneath the smooth veneer
Underneath the steady stare
Underneath the surface cheer

Underneath the keeping warm
Underneath the uniform
Underneath who we perform

First Dolphin in Space
by Stephen Whiteside
(Northcote, Victoria, Australia)

The dolphins got together, and began to form a plan.
They’d been watching very closely the activities of Man.
“Let’s put a dolphin up in space!” an eager dolphin cried.
“Don’t say it can’t be done! We will not know until we’ve tried!”

“Animals in space?” said one. “There’s nothing new in that.
We’ve had both dogs and monkeys, and most probably a cat.
We’re just another animal. We prove that we can fly,
And none will give a second thought. They will not bat an eye.”

“No, no. You do not understand. All that was done by Man.
We’ll do it by ourselves, you see. I’m positive we can.
We’ll build a rocket secretly, upon the ocean floor.
We’ll prove that we are bright, and not be servants any more.”

That got the dolphins thinking. There was certainly no doubt.
If they could build a rocket, it would pack a lot of clout,
But it wouldn’t be an easy thing. They started taking stock,
To see what could be fashioned out of seaweed, sand and rock.

It took them two whole summers, and the winter in between,
But at last they built a rocket a delightful shade of green.
They all drew seaweed straws to see which ones would form the crew,
But those that were not going still had tons of work to do.

At last the day arrived when they might finish their disgrace.
Man’s equal – clever dolphins blasting dolphins into space.
They lit the fuse, then swam well back, with flippers held to ears,
And watched the rocket rise amidst a throng of squeaky cheers.

The rocket was a great success. It lifted with a roar,
And headed for the heavens as Apollo’d done before,
And at the rocket’s tip, within a capsule dim and dank,
Were three courageous dolphins in a tiny little tank.

They weren’t content with that, of course. They wanted equal standing.
They all donned special space suits for the fateful lunar landing.
It took a gentle touch to place the tank on foreign soil,
But they did it – well rewarded for their many hours of toil.

So then they headed homeward in triumphant frame of mind.
What welcome mat awaited them, what greeting would they find?
Alas, they met with silence, for it seemed Man hadn’t seen
The clever dolphin rocket, a delightful shade of green.

At first they felt quite angry, but they schemed and planned once more.
“Man thinks he is so clever, but we’ll even up the score!
We’ll put a dolphin up on Mars. Yes, we will win that race,
And that will surely wipe the sickly smile from Man’s smug face!”

So that is what they did, you see. They worked with might and main,
While Man did very little, being arrogant, and vain.
Then when, at last, Man laboured in a fast, belated burst
To put a man on Mars, he found…the dolphins got there first!

Sick Note
by Sarah Ziman

Please excuse Zac from swimming; his leg is rather loose,
His hair’s just not behaving, and his sweating is profuse.
That rash still looks alarming, we’re thinking that it’s spread,
The spots upon his bottom have migrated to his head.
He didn’t get much sleep last night; he’s not shaken that cough,
His complexion’s pale and clammy, and his left ear’s fallen off.
He’s got an ingrown toenail; he’s allergic to chlorine,
He’s got the worst verruca that the nurse has ever seen.
In short he’s feeling dreadful, there’s nothing more to say,
He’s definitely too poorly to teach swimming to 3A.

Three shortlisted poets attended the awards event to read these poems:

Night Out
by Harry Bayman

I went to sleep on the back seat.
I was dreaming about spaceships.
I landed on a blue planet
with huge craters and hippos.

The largest one said “Welcome
to our planet, Malcolm,
but where is your special helmet?
Our air is green soup, toxic to humans.”

I’m being carried along a street.
The lights go past, one , two, three.
It feels like I’m in a boat; up, down.
I’m on the sea with fierce pirates.

I’m lying in a heap of soft clothes.
I’m in a cave on an island,
with a storm howling outside.
I’ve been here years and years, living on nuts.

I’m on a magic carpet, high enough
to look down on all the houses,
above me only the moon and stars,
and I’m on my way home, or maybe, to Mars.

by Alan Payne

Once upon a time, there was an alligator
with eyes like two full-stops.

. .

Once upon a time, there was an alligator
with claws like commas, five on its two front feet,
and four on its two back feet –
making eighteen altogether.

,,,,, ,,,,,
,,,, ,,,,

Once upon a time, there was an alligator
with a tail like a question-mark.


Once upon a time, there was an alligator
with teeth like exclamation-marks –
lots and lots of them –
between seventy-four and eighty altogether.


One day, this alligator lay on the ground,
looking very elegant –
like a sentence on a page.

See you later, alligator.

But then, my dear old grandmother came along,
dressed in black, looking very composed,
and sat on the alligator’s back!
Oh no! Look out!


Billy and the Snail by Alan Payne (Sheffield)

There’s a snail on the door!
Come and see it!

I’m busy, said his dad.
Not just now, said his mum.
I’m doing my homework, said his brother.
Another time, said his sister.

There’s a snail on the door!
Come and see it!

All right, said his dad.
Very well, said his mum.
If I must, said his brother.
Just this once, said his sister.

But the snail on the door
wasn’t there any more.

Oh, said Billy.

B-i-l-l-y! said his dad.
I don’t know! said his mum.
Waste of time! said his brother.
Snails ! said his sister. 


Billy drew
a picture of a snail
and pinned it to the door.

There’s a snail on the door!
Come and see it!

No one replied.


He sent a text to his dad,
a text to his mum,
a text to his brother,
a text to his sister.

Hi, take your time,
no need to rush.
The snail on the
door is very
patient. It’s
waiting for you.
It’ll be there for at
least a week.

The Donkey with Two Left Feet
by Jayne Shipley

You see that donkey on Scarborough beach,
With the party hat and two left feet?
Which two, you ask. The front or back?
The side, I say! Don’t be so daft!

Aha, you say. But can he dance?
Only on Thursdays, given a chance.
Salsa or Rumba? Does he dance at The Grand?
Here’s the beach; he’s a donkey, he dances on sand!

Carole Bromley’s most recent collection, Blast Off, is for children and is available from Smith/Doorstop. She is the author of two pamphlets and three collections and has a new collection for adults, The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster, out next year from Valley Press. She recently won the Poetry Society’s 2019 Hamish Canham Award.