Fred Sedgwick

(b. 1945)

"He is one of that honourable company of poets ... who succeed in writing poetry for children and not condescending comic joke books."  - John Cotton

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  • Blind Date, Mary Glasgow, (1990)
  • Stone and other poems, Happy Dragons (2004)
Fred Sedgwick writes thoughtful, funny poetry for children, taking in as he does so a wide range of subjects and locations. Some of these are familiar, observed close to home: a family are seen ‘moving house’, packing up their many musical instruments; the poet encounters a fox at night. Others are farther-flung, bringing stories from the Ark, Helen Keller, an old family photograph from 1914; bringing these stories to nudge up against poems of the school playground, the garden and the street. The worlds of near and far meet in exciting ways; the past lurks beneath the present in poems like ‘East Anglia’, bounded as it is by ‘the Viking Sea’; and geographical distance is bridged in the ‘dark and beautiful’ world of ‘Mr Khan’s Shop’ where ‘the smells have come alive’, the parathas, garam masala, and ‘shiny emerald chillies / ... like incendiary bombs’ evoking the rich sensory experiences of a distant continent.

Through diversity of subject and tone, Sedgwick leads his readers onto new ground, and into new stories of change in our everyday and natural world. Ships pull in and weigh anchor, snow melts, revealing earth: ‘It’s warm! It breathes!’, and thunder and lightning converse over the dark land. There are new words here, too – this is poetry for children, but it isn’t poetry simplified. ‘Poetry Man’ is written in memory of Charles Causley, and names a number of poetic forms (‘the murdering sea / Stung into elegy, ballad, lyric / Chord and harmony’). Many of the lines read like poetry for grown-ups, describing the man who ‘stands in assembly, drawing / Songs from the junior choir / With his immaculate silent hands / and their insistent fire’.

These poems successfully walk a line, approaching the death of a family pet and a motherless home with a light touch, often a humorous one, without renouncing their emotional weight. The poems on this recording are read with the same sensitive, straightforward approach, rhythm and rhyme carried off in clarity and perfect harmony with the poems’ subjects. These are poems meant to be read aloud, poems – like ‘Dance Poem’ – which sing on the page, in the classroom, and in recording, and which demonstrate a great sense of fun with language in wordplay, adjective, question-poems and creative rhyme.

Fred’s work has appeared in many poetry anthologies for children, including The Works and Read Me and Laugh, and his collection Here Comes The Poetry Man was shortlisted for a CLPE Award in 2012. He has also published three collections of poetry for adults.

Fred was born in Ireland and grew up in London.

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