Where do you get your ideas for poems?

I get ideas for new poems from all over the place, from people I meet, places I visit and also from small objects you could find anywhere, like a blade of grass, or a small stone, or a shell or even the skull of a sheep similar to this one I found on the North York Moors and I was able to turn it into a new poem. This is a very short poem in a particular form called a Haiku:


Sheep's Skull Whitened and toothless, discovered in a damp ditch. A trophy for home. from Morning Break and other poems (Cambridge University Press, 1989), copyright © Wes Magee 1989, used by permission of the author and the publisher


Where do you write your poems?

I'm sitting in a little stone building half way down my garden and I call it 'The Hut' and this is where I do all my writing. It's nice to be able to get away from the house and to be absolutely private and on your own and of course nobody's going to worry whether I leave papers or books lying around. I can make as much mess as I like.

Do you get inspiration from your readers?

I do get inspiration from my readers and I meet many of them when I visit schools as an author for a book week, or a book day or a book festival. It's interesting to watch what children are up to in schools and to note the peculiar habits of teachers and head teachers.

How long does it take you to write a poem?

It takes me a long time to write a poem because I do work very slowly. Once I've got a subject matter I then try to work out a rhyme scheme and also give the poem a particular shape on the page. I do like to make each poem look different and sound different.

What was the first poem you wrote?

The first poem I wrote was a poem about a dinosaur called 'Stegosaurus'. Many years ago when I was a teacher, I'd been working with my class on the subject of dinosaurs and I decided for the first time in my life I would try to write some poems for my class about dinosaurs.

What's your favourite poem that you've written?

My favourite poem is called 'I like Emma' and I suppose we have to call it a love poem. Of course it's not me speaking in the poem, it's a boy.

I like Emma I like Emma but I don't know if she likes me. All the boys think I'm a fool. I wait outside the school gate at half past three trying to keep my cool. Emma walks past, shaking her blonde hair free, laughs with her friends and drifts off home for tea. Emma's two years older than me. Her class is higher up the school. I like Emma but I don't know if she likes me. All the boys think I'm a fool. I went to one school and a girl called Calisa Hunt did her own picture to go with that poem. from The Very Best of Wes Magee (Macmillan, 2001), copyright © Wes Magee 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Do you illustrate your own poems?

I don't do any of the illustrations. Of course it's wonderful when a really talented artist comes along and adds to the poems by terrific pictures. I'm always surprised at the illustrations that appear beside the poems.

Can you read me one of your poems about school?

What's Behind the Green Curtain?

"No! No! No!" That's our Headmaster going on and on at morning assembly in the Hall. Bored, I stare at the green curtain hanging behind him on the wall.     ...behind that green curtain, is there a non-smoking dragon with a code dinnis doze, or a mini Mercurian with eyes on its toes?... "No Fighting! No Thumping! No Punching! No Clumping!" ...behind that green curtain, is there an ogre devouring an ox, or a fox in a box, in a box, in a box?... "No Kissing! No Clouting! No Kicking! No Shouting!" ...behind that green curtain, is there a monster with worms on its face or simply an empty and echoing space?... "No Running! No Dreaming! No Spitting! No Scream----!" Suddenly, a hand, a huge, hairy, horrible, horrendous hand appears, grabs our Headmaster and hauls him behind the green curtain. We gaze amazed, then realise he's gone, he's gone...for certain! He's gone! No fuss, no mess. We jump up, punch the air, and shout, "Yes!" "YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!" copyright © Wes Magee, used by permission of the author

Related poems

Selected bibliography

So, You Want to be a Wizard?, Caboodle Books, 2010

Stroke the Cat, Kingscourt, 2006

The Ghost Train Ride at Fangster's Fair, Salt, 2011

Joyriding Salt, 2010

The WinterWorld War (story), Barrington Stoke 2002

The Emperor and the Nightingale (story), 19998

The Dogs, the Cats, and the Mice (story), Ginn 1998

The Snowgirl and the Snowboy, Ginn 1994

Oliver, the Daring Birdman (story), Longmans 1978