Review also includes:
How to Turn Your Teacher Purple!, chosen by James Carter, ill. Nigel Baines, 96pp, 978-1408126486
These collections from A & C Black are aimed at top juniors and come in the format earlier favoured by Macmillan paperback poetry. Roger Stevens’ collection is more serious in tone, featuring page decorations rather than cartoons, and could be read by lower secondary children as well, although, being pedestrian, I can’t explain the title. There are only a hundred or so poems here; so, even taking into account this is just part one, there are going to need to be a lot of further parts, to make good its claim of a million. There are some good contemporary poets represented and some fine poems, although, since most poets are restricted to one or two poems, there are inevitably some that aren’t so good. In any anthology you might look for something that’s new; and there are some of the usual suspects represented by familiar works (Benjamin Zephaniah, for instance) and some poems that go back far enough – some from 20 years ago – to make you doubt that they fit the requirement of ‘poetry today’. All in all, however, it’s a reasonable enough collection without making you feel greatly excited or that you have a sense of the anthologist’s enthusiasms or interests. At least you feel that all of the poems have more merit than merely crowd pleasers.
James Carter’s collection leans more in the crowd pleasing direction, as you might guess from the title, and features cartoons by Nigel Baines. It deserves credit for bringing together so many poems that, in some way at least, have a connection to science and technology. The quality isn’t as consistent as Stevens’ collection and, although the mood is varied from comedy to awe, the tone is characteristically light-hearted. I found fewer poems to surprise or delight me, which is a pity, given the potential for both in the subject.