Early in the proceedings of Over to You! by Roger McGough, the poet gives us a gentle warning. Learning to write poetry at school can be a chaotic affair. Once words are invited to the party, they’ll never want to leave. From the first tentative attempts at verse in the classroom to the moment it sets young imaginations free, McGough’s latest collection takes us on the most delightful of literary journeys.
We begin, appropriately enough, with teacher’s first words of advice. Don’t worry about the destination, just keep writing. Rhyming can be pleasing to the ear, and haikus can be addictive. But teacher doesn’t always get it right. A poetry writing detention as punishment for gazing out of the classroom window? But we’ve always been told to think outside of the box.
‘Isn’t the classroom a box?’
A box we’ve been happily thinking outside of while gazing out the window.
With customary wit and verve, McGough tutors us to the point where our poems take flight, and shares his own fabulous examples. From the animal world to The Big Bang, via Trafalgar Square, his verse is predictably wonderful.
I loved Starfish Enterprise, the tale of a lonely starfish on the shore, looking up at the night sky and seeing what she believes to be ‘ a million starfish gazing down.’ If only she could join them ‘In silver dress with friends galore, Not stretched out alone on a cold, cold shore.’
Meanwhile, on the streets of London, Lord Nelson has jumped off his perch on the top of Nelson’s column. Disgusted with the amount of litter he can see, he’s a man on a mission.
‘One eye, one arm, one aim in mind: To leave a cleaner world behind.’
And then,a poignant poem about a librarian’s retirement, the books so stricken that they fade to grey, ‘on hearing that someone is leaving them today.’
A playful, encouraging and marvellously inventive book for young poets everywhere.
Over to You! by Roger McGough is published by Puffin, 144 pages.