Wes Magee

(b. 1939)

"It's the Boneyard Rap / and it's a scare. / Give your bones a shake-up / if you dare" - 'The Boneyard Rap', Wes Magee

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Recordings

These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Extras

  • Interview with Wes Magee
    School is an important inspiration for popular children's poet Wes Magee. In this interview he talks about how the strange habits of teachers and children have found their way into his poems, including one of his favourites, 'What's Behind the Green Curtain?'
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Select bibliography

  • Poetry Introduction 2, Faber & Faber 1970 - out of print
  • Urban Gorilla, Leeds University Press 1971 - out of print
  • No Man's Land, Blackstaff Press 1978 - out of print
  • Oliver, the Daring Birdman (story), Longmans 1978
  • A Dark Age, Blackstaff Press 1981 - out of print
  • Morning Break and Other Poems, Cambridge University Press 1989 - out of print
  • The Witch's Brew, and Other Poems, Cambridge University Press 1989 - out of print
  • Flesh or Money, Littlewood/Arc 1990 - out of print
  • The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems (editor), Puffin 1990
  • The Snowgirl and the Snowboy, Ginn 1994
  • The Dogs, the Cats, and the Mice (story), Ginn 1998
  • The Emperor and the Nightingale (story), 19998
  • The Very Best of Wes Magee, Macmillan 2001
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  • The Boneyard Rap, and Other Poems, Hodder Wayland 2001
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  • The Phantom's Fang-Tastic Show, Oxford University Press 2001
  • The WinterWorld War (story), Barrington Stoke 2002
  • Wes Magee Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2005
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  • Joyriding Salt, 2010
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  • The Ghost Train Ride at Fangster's Fair, Salt, 2011
  • Stroke the Cat, Kingscourt, 2006
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  • So, You Want to be a Wizard?, Caboodle Books, 2010
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Wes Magee (b. 1939) was a teacher when he began writing his first poems. A boy in his class complained that there were no dinosaur poems, and Wes set out to write some for him, little realising he was to become a firm favourite in children's poetry, both as poet and editor. He now writes full time, producing poems (for adults too), stories and plays from a hut at the bottom of a large wild garden in the North York Moors, and touring his Poetry Show to theatres and schools around the country.

Several of the poems deal with Magee's experience in schools, sometimes from the point of view of the teachers, sometimes from the point of view of the pupils. The glee at being the first to be 'Down by the School Gate' is particularly delightful for working equally well from both angles.

There is life outside school too. In the introduction to The Very Best of Wes Magee, he writes that "Some of the poems are sad (like 'The Day After'), some are silly (like 'My Dog's First Poem'), some are spooky (like 'The Ghosts of the Grange'), some are serious (like 'Until Gran Died'), and some simply... sunny (like 'What is the Sun?')." 'The Boneyard Rap' is another of the spooky ones, full of rattling bones and scary noises. It's not as alarming written down as it is when Wes performs it, spine-chillingly drawing out the word "wooooooooo!".

Many of the poems provide opportunities for performance, from fingersnaps to French accents, and Magee clearly enjoys the rhythms, letting the rhymes ring out in a resonant voice. He gives helpful introductions to several of the poems, whether to let us know that 'Tracey's Tree' is a true story, or to tell us the form of 'A Week of Winter Weather', and for the other poems in this recording he simply launches into the poems with the kind of gusto that makes it clear why he is a cherished figure in children's poetry.

His recording was made on 7 May 2003 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.

Wes Magee's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"Poetry is two four-letter words... hard work!" - Wes Magee

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