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Poetry and Childhood

Poetry and Childhood Conference and Exhibition

Andrew Motion, James Naughtie, Michael Rosen, Poetry and Childhood Conference

A Faculty of Education and British Library Conference

This 2 day international academic conference on Poetry and Childhood, was held at the British Library on 20/21 April 2009, accompanying a British Library exhibition, Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat! 250 Years of Poetry for Children which opened on April 1st 2009. The main thrust of the exhibition is poetry written specifically for children from the eighteenth century to the present day, concentrating on key poets and collections. Beautifully illus trated early editions feature strongly, with highlights including Bunyan's Country Rimes for Children, Watts' Divine Songs, Blake's Songs of Innocence, Lear's Nonsense Songs and Stories, Rossetti's manuscript of Sing-Song and Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. They are displayed alongside works by more recent poets. Another strong thread is the oral tradition and nursery ver se, including the Opies' sound archive. Poetic language and form in all its variety are celebrated including the informal vernacular of playground rhymes and dialect poetry from the Scots of Rabbie Burns to Caribbean nation language. The voices of women poets are reclaimed for the nursery and the links between poetry and song (including hymns) are highlighted.

Poetry and Childhood, Faculty of Education Cambridge and British Library

The conference and exhibition was organised jointly by University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and the British Library in association with the Children's Laureate (Michael Rosen) and Book Trust. The conference was of greatest interest to scholars of children's literature, but academics, teachers, poets, librarians, booksellers and others with an interest in poetry and childhood were also be welcomed. Conference speakers included the Poet Laureate (Andrew Motion) and Children's Laureate (Michael Rosen), as well as Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, two of the finest poets writing for children (and adults) today. Professor Lissa Paul, Brock University, Canada gave the keynote address. In addition, members of British Library staff offered workshops on different aspects of British Library collections of children's poetry. Scholars attending the conference gave academic papers on a wide variety of topics within the field of children's poetry. There was a panel discussion on contemporary poetry for children, looking at publishing trends over the last decade from the point of view of an editor, a critic and a poet organised by Antonia Byatt from the Arts Council.

The event was a first of its kind and attracted scholars and teachers from many parts of the world.

Morag Styles April 2009.