Copyrightfrom The World is Sweet (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2000), copyright © Valerie Bloom 2000, used by permission of the author
Full track listing for the special recording made for the Poetry Archive
A Valerie Bloom reading is an uplifting experience, one that can coax even a shy British poetry audience into joyful participation, hands in the air to carry imaginary cake boxes, as they join in with the chorus to 'Pinda Cake'. She moves easily around the area where poetry and song overlap, in a voice as warm in speaking as in singing, and believes that "part of the beauty of poetry is the music in the words, and a vital part of music is often the poetry in the lyrics".
But Valerie is far from a one-note poet. Her work also includes graver poems, such as the threatening 'Whose Dem Boots', 'Heather', a young girl forced to grow up too fast, or the fearsome ghosts of 'Duppy Jamboree', drawing on imagery from Jamaican folk tales. The influence of stories from her native Jamaica is a recurrent feature of Valerie's poetry, and she is as convincing in patois as in "standard" English. She will often give a crash course in patois as part of a reading to ensure no-one is excluded, but - while never making an outspoken statement on language politics - has insisted that "every so often, something can be said more expressively in one than the other". 'Sandwich', with its story of a Caribbean family in England, uses patois to explore fitting in and standing out: a child, who wants to bring a sandwich like all the other children, is made to take "chicken, rice an' hardo bread" by a Jamaican grandmother, but, despite his fears ("Ah wave goodbye to me street cred"), as soon as the other children see this spread, "dem all feget dem sandwich" and share. Just as the non-standard lunch becomes something to celebrate, so does the non-standard language.
Valerie was born in 1956, first came to England in 1979, and is now based in Kent, but continues to travel around the UK and abroad adding to her thousands of performances, workshops and school visits. Her poetry has become widely known through her books, those of her own poetry and anthologies she has edited, plus a novel, and she was commissioned to write a poem on Celebration for National Poetry Day 2002. At last count, her poetry had been printed in over 250 anthologies, as well as appearing frequently on television, stage and radio.
Her recording was made on 13 February 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
You can get it, free of charge, here.