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Image by Caroline Forbes

Valerie Bloom

b. 1956


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 - Valerie Bloom


About Valerie Bloom

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 Bloom 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 Bloom'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.

Bloom (b. 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.

Interviews and other readings

Valerie Bloom interview

For Valerie Bloom her conservatory is her study where she likes to...

Additional material and useful links

Caribbean Poetry Project

This pioneering collaboration between the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the West Indies aims to help teachers develop their...

http://caribbeanpoetry.educ.cam.ac.uk/

Selected bibliography

The Tribe, Macmillan Children's Books 2008

A Soh Life Goh, Bogle-LOuverture Press 2008

On Good Form: Poetry Made Simple, Apples & Snakes 2006

A Twist in the Tale (editor), Macmillan Children's Books...

Whoop an' Shout! (illustrated by David Dean), Macmillan...

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Surprising Joy, Macmillan Children's Books 2003

Valerie Bloom Reading from her Poems, The Poetry Archive...

One River Many Creeks (editor), Macmillan Children's...

Buy

On a Camel to the Moon (editor), Belitha Press 2001

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Links

Recordings

Valerie Bloom Reading from her Poems

1Autumn Gilt

2Granny Is

3Swinging

4The River

5Pinda Cake

6De

7I'm Not A Kid

8Let's Go Play Football

9Associations

10Heather

11De Bread Van

12Kisko Pop

13Mummy, Are You Blind?

14Time

15Two Seasons

16Sandwich

17Something Comes

18Scared of the Dark

19Next Door's Cat

20Frost

21Guidance

22Whose Dem Boots

23Tables

24Mega Star Rap

25Chicken Dinner

26Tall Tales

27Chicken Poxed

28Haircut Rap

29Baffled Turkey

30Eat Your Veg

31Fruits

32Who Dat Girl?

33The Old House

34My Brother Helps Out

35We Don't Believe

36The Tall Ships

37Don' Ride No Coconut Bough Down Dere

38What Am I?

39My Sister Thinks I'm Hopeless

40Riddle 1

41Riddle 2

42Duppy Jamboree

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 & cds by Valerie Bloom