Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

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Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Friday, 11 June 2010

Polar Poet at Holmfield Primary

Just back from a lovely morning trekking across the Arctic with the kids from Holmfield Primary. You can't ask for a better warm-up act than a headmaster with a puppet. My thanks to David Lloyd for that. The tots on the front row were shrieking with excitement at an assembly where a long-serving Premises Officer, one Graham Gummage, was presented with the Golden Screwdriver. A hard act to follow ...

When the dust had settled, I was left with 2 classes of 7 - 9 year olds waiting to see the Polar Poet in action. They seemed impressed with my thermal vest - 'really warm' - they agreed. Knew about the volcanoes of Iceland. And were definitely up for some Arctic Warming-up exercises. But they really took off when we did my 'Auroral Football' poem together. In World Cup Week, all the kids were primed for the football chants and lifted the roof when I reached 'and now he SCORES!' I also had some very able 'frost giants' to hold up my magical 'Firebridge' ( a sparkling green sari).

We went on to learn how to say 'hello' in Saami, how many seasons reindeer have and why Rudolf was really 'a girl'! Once shuffled into pairs and threes, they had a pretty good crack at the Reindeer Quiz with some excellent guesses. I ran out of time to take them on a mass reindeer migration but they listened very attentively to the Mansy legend (from Siberia) of the White Reindeer. Another flying, talking reindeer all-rounder. Asked about 'ice melt', someone was immediately able to explain about greenhouse gases - I was impressed - and we explored how climate change is affecting animals of the arctic. The Snow Queen had the last word in 'The Last Legend of the North' and then we were ready for a half-time munch.

They'd been very enthusiastic and involved in the poetry performance but I was even more impressed with their storywriting session. After break, they got to name their own White Reindeer and we talked about what it would feel like to fly for the first time. What does the earth look like so far below? The people are like ants, they said, and cars are like 'mini-beetles'. One boys said the people below looked like 'tiny crumbs'. Another one worked in words like 'tundra' and 'flickering lights'. There were beautiful descriptions of the stars 'blasting light' and the many colours of the Northern Lights. And some lively snippets of dialogue between the talking reindeer and his/ her human friend.

Where did their aerial arctic journeys take them? To the South Pole, to outer space and Mars (whose surface is brown like chocolate) and to the World Cup. We didn't get to hear which team the deer was supporting. Can we guess? For myself I can only hope their imagination was fired in the way mine was when I first read the story of the Snow Queen and Gerda's strange and perilous journey. How could I know back then that stories like that would later take me all the way to the Arctic Circle and back? I look forward very much to receiving some promised letters from the Holmfield kids who proved to be excellent companions for my latest expedition.
and here are the letters which I loved. They show how much the kids used their imaginations and how they really engaged with the writing too, including these letters to the Polar Poet.

'I loved the brige of fire. I also liked the way the poems were said. The way the poems were acted. Now that's what I call Polar Poem DRAMA!'

'The one thing that I enjoyed with her was writting and learning. + especially loning about the norern lites, that was magical!!!'

'Thank you for coming to Holmfield and teaching us all about the North pole! I liked it when you showed us the Northern Lights, the Snow Queen, The Reindeers and the reindeer story. When we had to get into partners, I really enjoyed it.'
'The children in my class loved it. They thort that your were Beautifull. I loved the football poem.'

'And I like the football and all of ower class like the polar poet ... you have been so friendly to us.'
and some lovely comments from their teacher too:

'The children thoroughly enjoyed the visit. They found the stories of visits to the Arctic, and tales related to the Northern Lights fascinating. The poetry was wonderful and the children enjoyed the audience participation element ... It really opened up their world.'
(Holmfield Teacher)

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