Poetry, Writing Advice

Talking to Poets: Philip Ardagh comes to tea with Rebecca Colby and Lesley Moss from The FunEverse

Oh yes, he moves in high circles does Mr Obama

Am not going to mess up the formalities this week.  I’ve been reading up on etiquette, how to address an Ardagh, what to do in the event of one of your poet guests being eaten by a lioness – that sort of thing.

I’m babbling,  sorry, it’s nerves. They’ll be here any minute. Must remember: Don’t touch the beard, don’t touch the beard…. oh my gosh, that’s the door.


Rebecca and Lesley! Thank goodness you got here first, come in quick, we can practise the curtsey just like we did on The FunEverse . Aaargh, there’s the Bentley…

‘Mr Ardagh sir, do come in, oh… Dotty?’ Dotty Hendrix, Mr Ardagh’s trusty secretary, is jabbing a thumb behind her.

‘He’s making Leonard and Toto carry him in on a sedan chair, ridiculous man. He says the ground’s too hard for his feet.’

‘I fear that’s my fault Dotty, I forgot to lay butterfly scales on the path. Can you check my curtsey before he gets here? Is it sweeping enough do you think?’

‘I think you worry too much dear. ’

‘Upright Ricketts! Upright. Oh put me down. Just put me down.’

‘Mr Ardagh! You’re here! Thank you so much for attending my small salon.  These are my friends from the FunEverse:  Rebecca Colby, she used to work for a Russian comedian, and Lesley Moss , she used to be a clown – well I say used to be… anyway they’re both poets. Like you sir.

‘Lesley, Rebecca, this is Mr Philip Ardagh, poet, writer of the wonderful Eddie Dickens series , Grubtown Tales  and the hilarious The Grunts amongst other things.  DON’T TOUCH THE BEARD REBECCA. Sorry, Mr Ardagh sir, so sorry, it’s because she used to have a job inspecting tights, she can’t help herself. Please, come in, as you requested, the chocolate hobnobs have been coated in silver leaf and the champagne is on ice chipped from the foothills of the Himalayas. Now if you’d just sit next to the radiator and slip on these elegant bracelets? Hush now. No objections, it’s for your own good.  Shall we start? So….

What is your earliest poetic memory?

Philip: I had a wonderful full-colour illustrated poetry book (in picture-book format) and there was a poem about someone opening a door to a knock and there being no-one there but, in the picture, there was a tiny man — an elf? a tree-sprite? — dressed in green, hiding in the tree roots. It’s stuck in my mind to this day. It’s also a reminder that what you choose to leave out of a poem is as important as what you put in. Let the poem live beyond the page. Let the reader/listener do some of the work.

I love that, I actually do.

Rebecca: Mine is ‘The Lorax’ by Dr Seuss. I hid that book under my bed as a child so I wouldn’t have to return it to the library.

Lesley: The Hums Of Pooh. Tiddleypom.

And your favourite method of coming up with rhyme?

Philip: For me, poetry and rhyme aren’t synonymous. Words just happen. Rhymes simply form… or don’t. It’s organic.

I’m beginning to see that you are not just a pretty bearded face.

Rebecca: My favourite method would be sitting down at my laptop and letting the words in my head flow fully-formed from my fingertips onto the page. But as that never happens, my tried and tested manner is to stare at a blank page while plucking out strands of hair. At least I’m guaranteed to get something out of my head and onto the page that way—even if it’s only grey hairs.

Lesley: Trying very hard NOT to rhyme works quite well: advice like ‘never write a rhyming picture book’ only spurs me on.

You two are quite bonkers do you know that? Do you sometimes annoy people by speaking in verse when you really shouldn’t?

Lesley: Of course – especially when half the rhymes are made-up nonsense words ..

Philip: No, I annoy them by stealing things from their purse or handbag when their back is turned.

Yes well I don’t think you need Rebecca’s bus pass, so if you’d just, thank you. Now then, what’s your favourite subject to rhyme about?

Philip: I quite enjoy tortuous rhymes.

Why does that not surprise me?

Philip(smiling blissfully): I once began a (published) limerick:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
Said, “Cor blimey! What a terrible smell!”

I had complaints about scanning or metre, or both.

Lesley: Magic, monsters, mice and malarkey. And cheese: rhymes with squeeze, please, seize, wheeze ..

Mmm, cheese, excuse me while I pop to the fridge…

Rebecca: Did you know there are almost 1000 words that rhyme with ‘me’? Seriously though, I don’t have a favourite subject. I’ve written poems on subjects as diverse as dandruff and not washing one’s clothes, and they have absolutely nothing to do with me. Honestly. I mean it. You know me, right?

We do, that’s why I sat you in that cardboard box well away from the furniture.

One of the easier requests from Mr Ardagh’s rider list

Now I wonder what you can do with this little trickster: What rhymes with orange?

Philip: The answer lies within the covers of Philip Ardagh’s Book of Absolutely Useless lists for Absolutely Every Day of The Year (Macmillan,2007). Rush out and buy several copies.

Ah ha ha! I knew that I KNEW it. Because I already looked it up and even Roger Stevens didn’t get it last week and his answer was pretty cool. And I’m not giving it away either – do you two know?

Rebecca: Come on now. You’re a poet. You don’t need my help with that one. Everyone knows it rhymes with strange.

Crikey, that’s even more tortuous than Philip’s limerick.

Lesley:  What rhymes with Orange? Let’s eat it and see ..


One Quarter Of The Orange

O, the colour and feel

Of sweet orange peel,

the tempting torment

of the scent!

But Luce stole the juice

intended for Bruce,

he was left with

the pips and the pith.

And although Luce denied

it, Bruce soon espied

juice and pips

dotted all round her lips.

But he fought her

for the last quarter. © Lesley Moss

Well there is absolutely no arguing with that. Who’s your favourite poet?

Dr Suess

Robert Frost

It varies with mood and time. My absolute favourite performance poet is Shane Koyczan who is, I think, one of the world’s finest living poets. Many of his poems are unsuitable for children, but check this out:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsq68qRexFc (He is also a VERY nice man.)

I love that – sort of reminds of Dan le Sac vs Scrubious Pip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWrMGXwhFLk&feature=fvwrel

Can you not rattle against the radiator quite so much Philip? You’re chipping the paint.

Philip: I do need to go now.

Well I haven’t quite finished and I think we all know you’re going no where without the key. So….Do you ever have really weird dreams – this is an important research question.

Philip: My biggest problem, as I grow older, is separating my ideas from reality. Don’t believe me? Ask Sheila, my talking rubberplant.

Rebecca: I didn’t realise you had that much storage space on your blog. I’m in the process of uploading the daily dream diary I’ve been keeping since 1995 to your site. It should be ready to read soon.

Lesley: I’d love to dream a best selling novel plot, like some authors do!
Ah ha ha,  I was only kidding, I just wanted to see if you were genuinely bonkers.

Rebecca: Hmph! Thanks! If I was bonkers, would I have moved to a country where it rains all the time and given my second child a middle name based on the aforementioned weather condition. Really! We poets are so misunderstood!

I am very, very serious and sensible. Obviously.

Philip, please  stop fidgeting, it’s the last question.  If you could ask yourself one deeply searching thing, what would it be?

Philip: Last question? Right, well, it’s more of a statement which comes in the form of my poem, ‘God Only Knows’:


God only knows
Why lovers
Turn to poetry
And not
To prose.

© Philip Ardagh

Thank you. Great questions. Now will you unchain me from this radiator, please? There are beards to be combed and poems to let take shape.

Thank YOU. You marvellous poets. Rebecca and Lesley will you go and see if the She Lion has sicked up George yet? Thanks.  And Philip,  before I unlock you, can I just take a tiny snip of your beard. For some fans on ebay. You’d be amazed how much this stuff goes for. Stop making such a fuss and HOLD STILL.

A huge thank you to all my guests, no one was actually harmed in the making of this interview. You can find all sorts of interesting things about Philip Ardagh here: http://www.philipardagh.co.uk/

Rebacca Colby here: http://www.rebeccacolbybooks.com

A little bit about   Lesley Moss here: http://www.thefuneverse.com/lesley-moss.html

And most importantly, you can join in the poetic japes on The FunEverse here: http://www.thefuneverse.com/

19 thoughts on “Talking to Poets: Philip Ardagh comes to tea with Rebecca Colby and Lesley Moss from The FunEverse”

  1. Thanks for your gracious hosting, Kathryn – I am just admiring my souvenir silver hobnob, which is carefully positioned on the mantelpiece.

  2. Lesley told me to comment so here i am. Splendidly entertaining stuff, i love all your poems featured here. Glad i’m not the only potty SCBWI about! Will follow links later when on PC:)

      1. Yes, sorry my sense of humour is dry. That was meant to be a joke! But seriously, it’s inspiring to read how you poets get your
        juices going. Now that’s 2 comments. Is that ok? Ha ha 🙂

  3. Mad as several boxes of deranged frogs, the lot of you! I sincerely hope, however, you took a clipping of that beard to put in the chocolate unicorn locket you wear around your neck.

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