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Poetry Archive: John Foster Reading from his Poems (Kids)

John Foster

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The Poetry Archive

February 2013


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About this title

John Foster is one of the most highly regarded and successful contemporary children's' poets and poetry anthologists in the UK, and has countless publications to his name. Junior Education has described him as: "indisputably the world's premier poetry anthologist".

John was born in 1941 in Scotby, a village outside Carlisle. He didn't have a television when he was growing up, so spent a lot of time reading. One of his favourite poems was ‘Albert and the Lion' by Marriot Edgar, in which the eponymous Albert is eaten bya lion at Blackpool Zoo. John's father would put on a Lancastrian accent and perform the dark and funny poem for him, which began his life-long love of both listening to, and speaking poetry aloud. He has said in interview with The Poetry Archive: "Poetry is part of the oral tradition and many of my poems are written to be performed."

He wrote many poems at school, and remembers one being published in a school magazine; he also remembers always wanting to be a writer. He went on to study at Oxford University and then trained as a teacher. He taught English for twenty years in Oxfordshire and while he was teaching wrote information books for children, and English course and source books, as well as books and articles for teachers and librarians. The first poems he wrote as an adult were initially made up to amuse his children when they were small, on long car journeys.

Since leaving teaching to become a full-time writer in 1988, John has become a regular visitor to schools. He says: "I like the spontaneous way children react when I perform my poems. I enjoy making them laugh." John relishes word play and puns - he likes dancing with language to see how it moves. You can hear ‘Give a Cheer for Onomatopoeia' on this Archive recording, where he has language fizzing and whizzing and humming and drumming. He also enjoys writing in form such as the neat, rhymed four-lined form of the Clerihew - he says it's a bit like "solving a puzzle".

John says that "poetry can be serious too", so also writes about issues such as being bullied. You can listen to ‘Four O'clock Friday' here, in which the speaker of the poem escapes the torment of being bullied when he is "home at last."

John Foster's love of spoken word is much evident on this lively Archive Recording. He invites children to "read poems out loud, to revel in the sounds of the words, to learn poems and to recite and perform their favourites, both old and new," so why not start here? You can read along with John.

Track listing and individual poem timings

1. I Wrote a Poem, Sitting Under a Tree 00.55"
2. The Land of the Flibbertigibbets 00.47"
3. On the Clip Clop Clap 00.38"
4. Let's Give a Cheer For Onomatopoeia 01.00"
5. Bird Talk 01.11"
6. Mrs Nugent's Budgie 01.06"
7. Animal Apologies 00.41"
8. The Hour When the Witches Fly 00.56"
9. The Shadow Man 00.44"
10 The Smugglers 01.02
11. The Mermaid and the Fisherman 01.15"
12. Teachers! 01.13"
13. The Schoolkids' Rap 00.56"
14. Size-Wise 00.51"

15. Inside Sir's Matchbox 01.19"
16. Spelling Bee 01.01"
17. Children's Prayer 00.58"
18. And How Was School Today? 00.59"
19. Four O'Clock Friday 00.48"
20. Autumn News Bulletin 00.48"
21. November 00.29"
22. Sitting in the Doorway 00.34"
23. The Brown Bear 00.42"
24. Chinese New Year 00.36"
25. It's Spring 00.46"
26. Seaview Haiku 00.24"
27. Silver Aeroplane 00.22"
28. Ten Dancing Dinosaurs 01.16"
29. At the School for Young Dragons 01.12"
30. The Wizard's Dragon 00.57"
31. Love Letter - From the Wizard to the Witch 01.05"
32. Sean Short's Short Shorts 00.22"
33. Chinese Please 00.39"
34. Quite Right, Mrs Wright 00.28"
35. Sandra Slater 00.24"
36. Charlotte Cul-de-Sac 00.20"
37. Edmund Clerihew Bentley 00.20"
38. Neil Armstrong 00.16"
39. Count Dracula 00.17"
40. Electric Fred 00.42"
41. Grandpa's False Teeth 01.12"
42. I Used to Work 01.01"
43. Traveller's Tales 01.12"
44. A Cheeky Boy Called Robert Rung 00.51"
45. The Recycling Rap 01.27"
46. Where Is the Forest? 00.44"
47. It Isn't Right to Fight 00.36"
48. Paying His Respects 00.34"
49. Anger 0.18"
50. It Hurts 0.36"
51. The Vase 0.29"
52. Great-Gran Just Sits 0.58"
53. There are Four Chairs Round the Table 0.40"
54. This Morning My Dad Shouted 0.48"
55. Dad's Hiding in the Shed 0.59"
56. Football Story 2.13"
57. Please, Mr Black 0.25"
58. The World's Best 1.09"
59. The Night Before the Match 0.55"
60. Why Did You Pull Her Hair? 0.27"
61. Sarah, My Sister, Has Asthma 1.12"
62. Life's a Spelling Test 1.00"
63. Why is it? 1.01"
64. Spells 0.51"
65. Inside a Shell 0.34"
66. I Dream of a Time 0.29"

Total Running time 54' 30"


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