Can you hear that?
That is the sound of a quarter of a million laughs. The sound of a quarter of a million chuckles, snorts and sniggers. It's the sound of a quarter of a million mouths mumbling poetry.
It's quite a sound.
And it’s music to the ears of the Funeverse poets, because it means our poetry is having the effect we want.
A quarter of a million - let’s write that out in numbers - 250,000 visits have been made to www.thefuneverse.com, where poetry for children takes centre stage. It’s all the more remarkable because despite poetry being shortlisted for major (non-poetry) awards, despite it being the most popular form for picture books, despite it being the language of music, poetry often isn’t seen as popular.
Well, 250,000 smiles say otherwise.
Launched in 2012 by the author Maureen Lynas (who points the finger of blame firmly at Lesley Moss for her poetry group), the Funeverse is a remarkable achievement. Working together each month feels so natural because of our SCBWI roots, continuing the tradition of support and community we're so used to. This glorious quarter of a million views is a direct result of that.
Poetry is powerful. Children express themselves in the most beautiful, poetic ways. From the girl who described herself as “the sun behind the cloud”, but wouldn’t read that line to her friends, to the boy who had learned English just a year before and whose face lit up when he finished his war poem for me.
With its focus on humour, the poetry written by all Funeverse poets begins with inspiration from an illustrator. To date there have been sixteen illustrators, whose work has inspired a team of twelve poets to produce hundreds of poems. To do this over so many years, with such strict regularity, is worth celebrating in itself. But to grow the site to attract not just A QUARTER OF A MILLION eyes (well, double that number if we can assume everyone has two eyes) but world-class illustrators too - well, that’s worth breaking out the cake for.
I don’t think any of the other remarkable illustrators will be offended (and they really are all genuinely remarkable) if I focus on just one - Waterstone's Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. That Maureen was able to convince Chris to back us with a selection of his illustrations has been something of a ‘wow’ moment on the site. The numbers were on an upward trend already and his work has helped us produce a fantastic series in all different kinds of styles.
That trend won’t be slowing any time soon, either.
Next month we will be showcasing poems based upon the work of picture pirate and Harry Potter illustrator Jonny Duddle. Jonny’s illustrations will delight children and adults alike and (I can EXCLUSIVELY reveal) have resulted in a real mix of funny, sharp and poignant poems.
|From Jonny Duddle's website|
Poetry is popular. Poetry is powerful. I’ve seen firsthand the reactions of children who, though believing they struggle in literacy, manage to express themselves in the most beautiful, poetic ways. From the girl who once described herself as “the sun behind the cloud”, but wouldn’t read that most lyrical of lines to her friends, to the boy who had learned English just a year before and whose face lit up when he finished his war poem for me.
And I know that feeling. It’s the feeling I get each time I think how lucky I am the Funeverse poets chose to let me into their ranks.
Quentin Blake, we’re ready to take your call.
Dom Conlon is one of twelve Funeverse poets, all from different backgrounds and writing disciplines, who have been united by a love of poetry and silliness. Together they have pledged to destroy the reputations of some of the world's greatest illustrators. You can (and should) follow them on Twitter (@thefuneverse) and Facebook and be a regular visitor to the Funeverse!