‘Children are the best poets,’ says Carol Ann Duffy, the first female poet Laureate in 350 years since the title was launched. ‘Everything is new and they don’t see the barriers in the way adults sometimes do.’
Duffy has written many children’s poems and picture books as well as adult volumes and her work has been on school syllabuses since the nineties. ‘Childhood is like a long greenhouse where everything is growing; it’s lush and steamy. It’s where poems come from,’ she says.
Children enjoy reading poetry and understand its power to express emotion and convey humour. But they may not always know how to begin writing it for themselves. Where better to start than by focusing on one of the five senses? Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your sense of smell be your guide …
Enter Marty the Mighty Nose, a mischievous cartoon character and leader of a faraway tribe, who loves nothing better than to hunt out interesting aromas and wondrous whiffs. Devised by The Fragrance Foundation, he’s the mascot for an innovative educational project that provides teaching resources and workshops to extend learning and creativity through sense of smell.
One of the key elements of the project is a national poetry competition – The Mighty Nose Awards. Now in its fourth year, it is aimed at children aged 7-11 and is currently open for entries from both whole classes or individuals.
I was astounded by both the quality and diversity of the poems submitted last year. The scent of summer meadows, dog walks, autumn bonfires, musty books and delicious cooking wafted through my study. One minute I was transported – Aaah … And the next I wished I could put a peg on my nose! Some submissions were downright stinky with clever descriptions designed to make your toes curl.
The competition closes on December 15. What a delight and honour it is to be a judge. I can already smell fir trees and pine cones and the fresh clean nip in the air just before it snows. As Christmas approaches, there could be no more magical time for writing a poem. Hurry over to Marty’s website for more details.