Jamila Gavin on the moment that flies by that can only be captured in a poem…
My mother brought me up on poetry. I had the rhymes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Bridges, Christina Rossetti and Walter de la Mare all rushing through my brain, bringing me intense pleasure. And I’ve written little poems myself – all through my life – but never felt I could quite live up to what I so admired about those poets; their ability to touch the poetic soul of the child and see the fun, beauty and ironies of the world around them.
Years ago at school, my children were reading Jenny Joseph’s most famous poem, ‘Warning’.
‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’
But it was when I read her recent collection of poems for children, All the Things I See that I wistfully thought, ‘I wish I’d written that.’ I so admire the way she can be both the child and the adult, the grandchild and the grandmother, the visitor and the visited.
‘When you are all away my dears
I’ll go from room to room
Sort out the marbles from the socks
Unposted letters from the books
Gloves from the bottom of the bed
With many lost things buried
(And my fur hat on old fur Ted)…’
Perhaps I find Jenny Joseph most moving when she reveals the sadness of the adult who, while observing and sharing a pleasurable moment with a child, knows that everything is transient; the moment flies by, and the only way it can be captured is in the poem.
All the Things I See by Jenny Joseph is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 0 330 39150 X, £4.99 pbk.
Jamila Gavin’s latest book is Coram Boy (Egmont, 0 7497 3268 7, £5.99), winner of this year’s Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year Award.