My bespoke collections have been performing very well of late! With over fifty sales since mid-December, the books seem to be reaching a wonderfully wide audience, ranging in age, experience, race, gender and background. Nothing could possibly make me more excited than the fact that such a diverse group of people are coming together around poetry. It is a bonus that the poetry happens to be written by me!
One thing I have noticed, however, is how much people want to buy for their children. Although I am really pleased with my other collections, and feel they deserve to be read, not all of them have language accessible to young children, (though I think many could be enjoyed by teenagers!) and so, donning my poet’s hat and hitching up my poet’s ego, I set about writing my brand new bespoke collection, ‘The Owls’ aimed specifically at young readers between the age of six and eleven. Although there is undoubtedly some complicated language in these collections, it is written as a challenge and will function as a discussion point between parents and their youngsters. The special thing about this collection is its layout. It features poems about four of Britain’s owl species: The Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Little Owl and European Eagle Owl (though the last is a slightly contentious issue!) Each own is granted its own section, with a short description of the animal in question, a stamped image to support the description and two poems for each owl. Throughout the collections are short ‘Did You Know?’ sections that offer new information about the owls and serve to support the experience of the reader.
As is often clear in my mad, nature-based, animal-related and heavily metaphorical poetry, the animal kingdom and natural world is hugely important to me. We are, as a species, born from it and we rely on it to live. Many of our issues as human beings are mirrored in the natural world: the need to belong, finding shelter and home, love and relationships, territory and boundaries, social expectation, even otherness and individuality can be seen within the natural world. Just like us, animals can be kind and they can also be cruel. They can be vastly accepting and they can turn their backs on their own young. They can show remarkable love and forgiveness and they can be vicious and dangerous. So, it follows that understanding the natural world can often help us understand ourselves better, empathise with one another and learn the value of respect. These are important lessons for young people, and children begin these lessons young, without us even knowing.
It might appear only to be a book about owls, but this collection has far more to it: stories of friendship, loneliness, hardship, incarceration, cruelty and connection between human and animal. If you are fumbling around for new and interesting reading experiences for your youngsters, may I recommend this little book. Not too heavy, but enough to make you think; not intimidating, but enough to empower; not too adult, but enough to challenge.
Poetry in all its forms is here to be enjoyed. As adults, we must not be afraid of it. It is intrinsic to our cultural and historical experience. If you, as an adult reader, do not feel confident as a reader of poetry, please try reading this book with your children. Hopefully, it will inspire you to read more widely too. These collections are designed as short ‘injections’ of poetic experience. They can, if necessary, be read in a single sitting. They are not intimidating and are designed to live on your bedside table, something to provide comfort, inspiration and a platform to dream on. Enjoy them!