About Mandy Coe

Based in the north-west of England, Mandy Coe writes poetry for adults and children. A Hawthornden Fellow, she is winner of several prizes, including the Ilkley and Ted Waters Memorial Prize. She was joint winner of the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize in 2008. She is the author of six books, including: If You Could See Laughter (Salt, 2010), shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Prize 2011; Clay (Shoestring Press, 2009); The Weight of Cows (Shoestring Press, 2004); and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey (Spike Press, 2001), shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize. She is co-author with Jean Sprackland of a guide to writers working in schools: Our Thoughts Are Bees (Wordplay Press, 2006), and is author of the Graphic Novel Red Shoes (Good Stuff Press, 2000) which explores discrimination solely through illustration.

Mandy Coe’s work has been widely anthologised, including: The A-Z of the Best Children’s Poets from Agard to Zephaniah (Puffin, 2010); Read Me Aloud (Macmillan, 2010); Wicked (Bloomsbury, 2002); Sensational (Macmillan, 2004); Fairy Poems (Macmillan, 2006); Pet Poems (OUP, 2007) and The Works 6 (Macmillan, 2007). Mandy regularly works with schools as a visiting author. She has held residencies with the Barbican, the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, National Poetry Day, National Galleries, the Write Team (Bath Festivals), the Poetry Society and the Booktrust. She reads at poetry and literature events throughout the UK and her work as an educationalist has been featured in the TES.

Mandy Coe’s poems are characterised by their energetic delight in language. As she says in her introduction to ‘If You Could See Laughter’ she enjoys exploring ‘What if…’ questions. The poem is an internal dialogue that never quite settles on a final answer: ‘Tickle-breath is long and spiral./ Pink./ I think.’ The notion of poetry-as-investigation is celebrated in ‘Questions for a Dad’. The results are both comic and poignant: 'I miss you when you’re at work Dad, / Do you sometimes think of me too? / How much money do you make Dad? / And what is it you actually do?'

Mandy Coe is also a storyteller. ‘Marsh-Sprite’ takes the legend of the will-o’-the-wisps, gases that show up on marshes as blue light, and reshapes it in the form of a song. ‘Wish’ selects the luminous details in the life of a child ‘who wanted to fly’ but ‘who now works in the pasty shop, / wears an apron and hairnet cap’. Like the dreams her characters inhabit, her poems are open to the possibility of transformation. This recording of Mandy Coe’s poems showcases her relish of language, the pleasure she takes in mixing keen-eyed observation with humour, fantasy with reality. As she recommends in ‘Advice For’: ‘Dream of a land without fences/ never show anyone how high you can really jump/ receive kindness softly’. It is good advice for all of us, including the aspiring poets listening.

Mandy Coe's recording was made at The Audio Workshop, London on 26 April 2010. The producer was Anne Rosenfeld.

Red Shoes: A Novel in Pictures About Discrimination (...

Clay (Shoestring Press, 2009)

Pinning the Tail on the Donkey (Spike Press, 2000)

The Weight of Cows (Shoestring Press, 2004)


Our Thoughts Are Bees: Working with Writers and Schools...

Let in the Stars: New Poetry for Children (Manchester...


If You Could See Laughter (Salt Publishing, 2010)



Manchester Poetry Prize (2009)

Prize website

Manchester Metropolitan Visiting Fellow (2012)

Hawthornden Fellow (2007)


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3Round and Round

5Being Human

6Felt Funny All Day

7Wishes for You

8Schooldays End


10What Lives Down the Playground Drain


12Night Night

13Advice for Ponies

14Being the Baddie

15Bottling It Up

16Beyond the Farmyard Gate

17Recipe for Good News

18In My Name

19Row Flow Blow


21Sensing Mother

22Sun Loves Moon

23Hey-la Liverpool

24Marsh Sprite


26The Gift

27Busy Feet

28Questions for a Dad

29The Head's First Name

30The Sunshine of Susan Brown

31From the Mouths of Babes

32My Ma

33Music's Prayer

34Dream Feast


36Me and You

37Queen of the Hive


39Too Young to Understand

40Too Poor for Shoes


42Whiskers for Gold

42Whiskers for Gold

43The Girl Who Discovered Fire

44The Can-can

45The Spirits of Books

46If You Could See Laughter

47Elemental Rules


50Thank You

51Soft as the Blanket

52Flowers Go to School Underground

53Upon Once

54In Bed Sick


56Lost It, Found It