Poet in Residence

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation. You are welcome to explore our archive of past residencies and read some of the lively and varied discussions you'll find there.

Jean Sprackland

Jean Sprackland

Jean Sprackland (b. 1962) is the author of two books of poems and a collection of short stories, and has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Whitbread Prize and the T. S. Eliot prize. She was chosen...

What makes a poem suitable for children?

Jean Sprackland - 4 December 2009

I wonder what it is that makes us deem a poem suitable for children? Are there certain kinds of subject matter we think they like, and if so what are these? Do children prefer literature which reflects their own everyday lives and the people and things which feature there (such as school, family, pets and so on)? Or do they like reading about worlds beyond those familiar boundaries, and things they have never encountered? I imagine the answer is 'both'. I imagine it depends on the child.

Places that shape us

Jean Sprackland - 15 November 2009

Places are intensely important to poets - to some more than others. Some poets' work is full of the places in which they've made their homes or which have inspired them on their travels. In his residency on these pages last term, Owen Sheers wrote fascinatingly on this subject, providing a commentary on the BBC series 'A Poet's Guide to Britain'. But how does it happen, and why? Is it as simple as looking out of a window and being inspired by the view? My own experience suggests it can be something different - something subtler and richer and more gradual.

Poetry workshops

Jean Sprackland - 2 November 2009

Athough the Poetry School course was a new venture, writing workshops themselves have been part of the landscape for a long time now (just think of Byron and the Shelleys challenging one another to write ghost stories in Switzerland during that long wet summer of 1816), and many poets, starting out, have found their voices by writing and sharing constructive criticism in the safe and supportive environment environment of the workshop.

It's not a proper poem unless it rhymes

Jean Sprackland - 18 October 2009

There does seem to be some piece of hard-wiring which makes human beings respond to rhyme. When I look back on my early encounters with nursery rhymes and folk songs, I remember rhyme not only as a useful way of remembering them off by heart, but also as a satisfying and comforting thing which seemed to affirm that there was structure and pattern and predictability in the world. Young children love repetition: the same story, the same game, the same picture-book again and again and again.

Prizes for poets

Jean Sprackland - 4 October 2009

Forward Prize night is one of a handful of occasions when poetry gets a little bit of the limelight - it doesn't have the profile of the Turner Prize or the Man Booker Award, but it does raise poetry's visibility for a few days. This year I'm on the judging panel, along with Josephine Hart, Tishani Doshi, David Harsent and Nicholas Wroe. The five of us will be spending Tuesday locked in a room at Forward's offices in London until we arrive at a decision in each of the three categories: Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Single Poem.

Glossary term

Iambic Pentameter

A common metre in English-language poetry, based on five two-stressed feet.

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