The Big Amazing Poetry Book
chosen by Gaby Morgan, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Macmillan Children’s Books
What a gargantuan task Gaby Morgan gave herself in selecting the seven poems to represent each of the fifty two poets from Dom Conlon, Paul Cookson and Charles Causley to Lewis Carroll, and Liz Brownlee to Carol Ann Duffy, included here in what is called in the foreword an ‘annualogy’. Even listing all 52 poets in a short review such as this one would be a big ask but let me just say that thirty are men and twenty two are women. Of the total, forty three are still alive and writing.
Most definitely there is something, or rather several things, for every mood and as many ways or more to enjoy the book, as there are poets included in this glorious ‘galaxy’ – the word Roger McGough uses to describe the poems in his introduction. Surely poetry lovers wouldn’t want to restrict themselves to just one per day; this is a book to lose yourself in, whether or not that is your intention when you open it. You’ll find a variety of poetry styles including haiku, shape poems, ballads, tongue-twisters, raps, sonnets and more on such diverse topics as wildlife, school, magical things, special days, the weather, war and love.
On account of something I heard said by Vogue editor Edward Enninful, reading from his recent autobiography, A Visible Man and mentioning a demeaning comment somebody had said to him, on the day of writing this review, two poems absolutely shouted out to me. One was Paul Cookson’s Let No One Steal Your Dreams, the final verse of which is ‘Set your sights and keep them fixed / Set your sights on high / Let no one steal your dreams / Your only limit is the sky.’
The other was Matt Goodfellow’s Start Now that begins and ends thus, ‘ be the change / you want to see / / walk the walk / stand with me’.
Bibilophile that I am, I just have to mention our current Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho’s Books Have Helped Me, that concludes ‘When I thumb through a book / their pages whisper to me / that I’ll be all right.’
Each of these in its own way is empowering and empowered is the way the pages of The Big Amazing Poetry Book make me feel. To add to the delights, Chris Riddell’s intricate black and white illustrations placed over, under, through and around the poems are quite simply, brilliant.