About John Foster

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 by a 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.

This recording was made on 28th March 2012 at The Soundhouse in London, and the producer was Anne Rosenfeld.

Selected bibliography

Crack Another Yolk (ed) OUP, 1996

Never Say Boo to a Ghost (ed) OUP, 1991

Fantastic Football Poems (ed) OUP, 2007

Pet Poems (ed) OUP, 2007

Magic Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Monster Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Dragon Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

Dinosaur Poems (ed) OUP, 2004

101 Favorite Poems (ed) Collins, 2002

Recordings

John Foster

John Foster Reading from his Poems

1I Wrote a Poem, Sitting Under a Tree

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2The Land of the Flibbertigibbets

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3On the Clip Clop Clap

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4Let's Give a Cheer For Onomatopoeia

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5Bird Talk

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6Mrs Nugent's Budgie

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7Animal Apologies

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8The Hour When the Witches Fly

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9The Shadow Man

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10The Smugglers

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11The Mermaid and the Fisherman

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12Teachers!

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13The Schoolkids' Rap

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14Size-Wise

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15Inside Sir's Matchbox

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16Spelling Bee

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17Children's Prayer

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18And How Was School Today?

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19Four O'Clock Friday

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20Autumn News Bulletin

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21November

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22Sitting in the Doorway

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23The Brown Bear

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24Chinese New Year

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25It's Spring

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26Seaview Haiku

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27Silver Aeroplane

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28Ten Dancing Dinosaurs

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29At the School for Young Dragons

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30The Wizard's Dragon

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31Love Letter - From the Wizard to the Witch

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32Sean Short's Short Shorts

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33Chinese Please

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34Quite Right, Mrs Wright

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35Sandra Slater

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36Charlotte Cul-de-Sac

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37Edmund Clerihew Bentley

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38Neil Armstrong

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39Count Dracula

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40Electric Fred

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41Grandpa's False Teeth

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42I Used to Work

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43Traveller's Tales

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44A Cheeky Boy Called Robert Rung

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45The Recycling Rap

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46Where Is the Forest?

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47It Isn't Right to Fight

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48Paying His Respects

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49Anger

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50It Hurts

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51The Vase

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52Great-Gran Just Sits

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53There are Four Chairs Round the Table

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54This Morning My Dad Shouted

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55Dad's Hiding in the Shed

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56Football Story

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57Please, Mr Black

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58The World's Best

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59The Night Before the Match

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60Why Did You Pull Her Hair?

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61Sarah, My Sister, Has Asthma

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62Life's a Spelling Test

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63Why is it?

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64Spells

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65Inside a Shell

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66I Dream of a Time

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A tour of the Archive with Chris Pearson

When choosing poems for my tour, I had just one criterion in mind: that each poem must allow me to comment on the...

Featured Guided Tours


Books by John Foster