Poetry in motion | Joseph Coelho

Poetry in motion | Joseph Coelho

The views across Hay-on-Wye were enchanting as I arrived at the first school to kick off the Hay Festival Winter Weekend and were only beaten by the beaming smiles of reception and nursery as they filed into the assembly hall to hear a reading of Luna Loves Library Day. I start the reading traditionally by opening the book illustrated by the fabulous Fiona Lumbers, but from there on in, very little is traditional about this reading as the children start to notice real live versions of the books from the story in their assembly hall. Naturally I’m instructed to “Open them!” But when I open these strange magical books, noises escape from them! There are dinosaurs roaring in The Big Book of Dinosaurs, mummies and unexplained mysteries and in the book that Luna reads with her father about where he grew up, a whole seascape is tinkling.

The children, the little ones, file out with sunrise grins only to be replaced by the older Key Stage 1 and 2 children. They are here to hear poems from Overheard in a Tower Block, illustrated by the wonderful Kate Milner. This poetry collection has a narrative thread and so I give the children a glimpse of the story by sharing poems that describe the protagonist’s monstrous block, and his fire-red trainers and the spooky statues that ripple and sing for flesh and blood! The children have a tonne of questions, they ask about the first poem I ever published and what I love about being a poet. Some of the questions I’ve answered before but some stump me: “How many words have you written in your life?”; “How do you make a book?” The older kids march out waving goodbyes, some clutching signed copies. The hour has flown by and we’re off to the next of three schools to share stories and pictures and poetry.

Performance poet Joseph Coelho performed at three local primary schools – Clifford, Peterchurch and Staunton – on Thursday 23 November 2017, as part of Hay Festival Winter Weekend‘s education programme.