Poetry, Writing Advice

Talking to Poets: Guest Poet Roger Stevens in a FunEverser sandwich.

True Life Portrait of Roger Stevens

Before I start, I have to let you know I’ve had some complaints. Honestly, poets, so demanding. Anyway,  a certain bearded gentleman who has a way with stuffed stoats and will be appearing on this blog in the very near future, has suggested I should introduce my guests in case you don’t know who they are.  So I am delighted to introduce: Roger Stevens, creator of the award winning http://www.poetryzone.co.uk and mastermind behind  too many books to mention notably  ‘Why Otters Don’t Wear Socks’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pants’. Maureen Lynas, winner of the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition and the brains behind http://www.thefuneverse.com and George Kirk, who is not a boy but is a hugely talented story teller and poet who you can also visit in The FunEverse. Can I let them in now Philip, because is raining quite heavily?

Come in, come in, so glad you could make it. Sorry about the wait. And the smell. Roger if you move the chicken off that chair, he doesn’t peck,  and  George and Maureen if you squish up on the chaise lounge? Perfect. Help yourselves to chilled champagne. My neighbour makes the chocolate truffles , so there are plenty more ( I bet you’re sorry your computer blew up now aren’t you Roger Mcgough?) Ahem…. So, first question:

If 17 cats and half a fish met 14 lemons in an alley way who wins the fight?

George: The fish would kick up such a stink it would beat them all.

Maureen: No it would obviously be the lemons. They would squirt the cats’ eyes, sacrifice one lemon to marinade the fish, sell the fish, which would obviously be lemon sole, and then they’d all have a soak in a bath of gin that they would have bought with the proceeds. 

Roger, looking thoughtful: That’s impossible to answer. Does the alley slope? It would depend on who was at the top and which way the wind was blowing.

Alright, that was a bit of a trick question, here’s a real one: What is your earliest poetic memory?

Roger: I remember enjoying the poems in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
That was a big influence generally on my writing and my reading.

George: When I was about 5 or 6 I made up alternative lyrics to my favourite theme tune on the telly, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I love writing parodies. At high school we had a school song, it was really really bad and stuck in the front everyone’s hymn books. I wrote a new version and stuck it in the back of me. Unfortunately I lost the hymn book and it was found by my form tutor who read the ‘remix’ I thought I was in BIG trouble but instead he had it printed in the school magazine.

Maureen: I remember two from primary school which have stuck with me. The Lion and Albert, by Marriott Edgar which I just loved for the unexpectedness of it. I hadn’t come across this mix of comedy and tragedy before and I still find it hilarious. The other was Cargoes by John Masefield, I learned it off by heart because of the rhythms and the unusual words, which were never explained to me –  it was like speaking a foreign language just to enjoy the sounds.

What’s your favourite method of coming up with rhyme?

George: Okay, I know some people are a bit snobby about this, but I just whip though the alphabet trying different beginnings on the sound I want to rhyme, It’s fun, and sometimes helps me come up with some great nonsense words.

Maureen: Toilet rolls. I have them hanging up all over my office like streamers. There are the really basic Aldi rolls with rhymes like lie and lies and liar – They’re nearest to the desk. They are used a lot, I recycle. But then there’s the premier Andrex  rolls with rhymes like fibber. When they fail me I use www.rhymezone.com.

Roger: Visiting our local poetry supermarket. There are two aisles of rhyme. I
usually visit the chill section too, where you can find some good ideas.

Really? Do you think there’s one near me? (Roger gives me a withering look). Ok, moving on then- do you ever annoy people by speaking in verse when you really shouldn’t?

Roger: Well, who wouldn’t?

Of course, some couldn’t.

Maureen: Never, I’m very sensible. I’m also not that quick to be able to drop them into conversation. I do that ‘Oh, I wish I’d said that instead of that’ thing after people walk away. I’m more likely to rhyme on the internet to entertain/annoy people.

George: I don’t do it much in ‘grown up, sensible company’ but at the moment I teach a class of 5 and 6 year olds and there I rhyme all the time, when I begin the kids join in ‘cos it’s so much fun, once we’ve begun.

And it’s great; the ability to rhyme underpins so much of children’s literacy skills. Children who rhyme early become better spellers and writes, not to mention how much fun they discover can be have with words. Publishers take note! Teachers LOVE LOVE LOVE rhyming texts.

What rhymes with orange?

George: Sporange- it’s a very rare type of sporran worn by Scotsman with no eyebrows and only when the moon has a polka dot hue.

Maureen: Plorange – but I didn’t make that word up. Catherine Rayner did. And I love it. Just say it. Plllllorange.

Roger: There was a young poet called Gorringe

Who was after a rhyme for orange

With a tinge of regret

Said, I’ve not found one yet

As he sucked on a peppermint lozenge

Exhibit 1

Ah ha ha – Roger wins! Serious face: Who’s your favourite poet?

George: Not fair! I don’t have a favourite poet, but I have lots of favourite poems and how do I pick? My first favourite poem I read when I was about 8. My Mum had bought me a lovely anthology of silly verse and I learned many of them by heart,  If Pigs Could Fly by James Reeves was my favourite –  I just loved the way it sounded.

Maureen: Anyone writing funny narratives especially Dhal. I love narrative poems they fit in with the polarity of comedy and tragedy/horror.mentioned earlier.

Roger: I have lots. My two favourites are probably Roger McGough and Billy Collins.

Did I tell you I asked Roger Mcgough to be interviewed? I’m still enjoying his reply even though he couldn’t do it due to terrible circumstances. I’ll tell you about it one day.. I’m still waiting for Pam Ayres people to get back to me. Right, back to it.

Do you ever have really weird dreams – this is an important research question.

Maureen: No. Never. Ever.

George: Let’s just if you could see my dreams it would be something like watching a Terry Gilliam animation.

Roger: I was reading some poems in a school from the stage, and when I glanced down I noticed that the legs of the stool were on fire.

Ha ha – I was only kidding, I just wanted to see if you were genuinely bonkers.

Maureen: I lied

I thought so. Now: If you could ask yourself one deeply searching question, what would it be?

Roger: What do I need to do to write a mega-bestselling novel? (And how can I make myself do it)

Maureen drifts into thoughtful silence.

Phone Rings Can you answer that for me, I need to make some tea.

Roger: It was the gardener on the phone. He says the lower field is flooded and the helipad is damaged. Milk – no sugar. Thanks.

George: One sugar and a biscuit please.

Maureen  wakes up: Why am I writing? Why can’t I stop? Do I have WOCD?  

For the money! Piles and piles of money! 

Gold and silver will all come to me,

I shall drink margaritas and live by the sea

Er, no. Maybe not.


For the fame!

I shall be on the telly, this is my chance,

But I might be on Strictly and I cannot dance!

So, no. Definitely no.


For the message! 

I have a profound message to say to the masses,

They’ll study my stuff and even run classes

Er, no, no, no, no, no.


Last try.


For the laughter of kids.

I sit in my loft, day after day,

What shall I write?

What shall I say?

Will that brighten a face?

Will that lighten their day?

Will that get a guffaw

Or a laugh or a giggle?

Will they roll on the floor?

Or just give a wiggle?

Would I love to be part of that moment of joy?

Can I give them all something that they will enjoy?


That’s it.

That’s your answer.

Oh I loved that Maureen. Thank you. Thank you all, now I better go and drag the pump down to the bottom field. We never should have had Pagham harbor diverted to the bottom of the garden, it’s been nothing but trouble. There’s smoked salmon in the fridge if one of you wouldn’t mind popping out to the shed and feeding it to the lioness?

You can see more of Roger’s work : Children’s Poems on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/user/rogerstevenspoet

You Tube channel for grown-ups  http://www.youtube.com/user/happy2oblige
The Poetry Zone www.poetryzone.co.uk
Poems for Grown Ups http://rogerstevens.blogspot.com

And you’ll find the FunEversers here: http://www.thefuneverse.com/

And next week Mr Philip Ardagh is coming for lunch with Funeversers Rebecca Colby and Lesley Moss!!! Better get on to Harrods and hire some gold plates.