Judith Nicholls (b. 1941) is one of Britain's best-known poets for children, with over 50 books published and more than 500 schools visited since 1985. She has also appeared on radio, TV, and has shared a poetry training video with Michael Rosen. With three children and six grandchildren of her own, and a wide experience of teaching before becoming a poet, she has developed a real understanding of what entertains children; she brings that into her poetry so well that Junior Bookshelf described her as being "beyond question in the front rank of poets whose work is accessible to the young."

Those young people make their way into her poetry too, whether it is Christy swimming through 'Christy's Rap', or the young speaker who is 'Fighting Sleep' (and losing). Judith can present animals, from appealing creatures like the 'Orang-Utan' to less friendly ones like the 'Mosquito', or tell the myth of 'How the Tortoise got its shell'; in 'Dragon Days' or 'Lord Neptune' she enlivens mythical figures by bringing them into contact with the real world.

She is one of the few poets happy to use a traditional, almost nonsensical refrain, this being part of a joy in words as much for themselves as for their meaning - 'Fishing Song' revels in the names of the fish, and the bait that will be thrown to them, even though the fishing trip turns up "Just - an eel". That interest in sound means she is at home with traditional forms, often working in rhyming quatrains, and can use sound effects to bind together parts of poems with a freer construction. It also means that she can read these poems with a clear relish for the rhythms and the rhymes where that is appropriate - as in 'Music Lesson' - which means the soberer effects of subtler form, as used in 'SS Titanic', become clear too.

Judith's reading is as welcoming as the poetry itself. She performs the most dramatic moments, and introduces many of the poems with comments on the inspirations behind them, the techniques used in them, or what they were destined for. All this creates a poetry devoted to being open to listeners, no matter how young, or young at heart.

Her recording was made on 9 May 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Favourite Poetry Sayings

"Less is more." - Robert Browning "We do not write in order to be understood. We write in order to understand." - Cecil Day Lewis "The difference betweeen the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." - Mark Twain "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." - Peter de Vries


Interview with Judith
Acclaimed children's poet, Judith Nicholls shows us round what her family have described as "the most untidy study in the world". She also reads several of her poems including the first one she ever wrote when she was just seven.
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Judith Nicholls

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive: View full track listing