Jacqueline Wilson Champions Poetry
09/06/2012 by Stacey Bartlett
Jacqueline Wilson encouraged children at Hay Festival to read more poetry
Jacqueline Wilson came to Hay festival with a request.
“I’m looking for a Margaret Tarrant nursery rhyme book,” she said as soon as she arrived on stage, bejewelled in silver rings and wearing floral Wellington boots. “Maybe the booksellers of Hay can help me. It’s the first book I’d ever received, on my first birthday. I used to look at the pictures long before I could read, and the nursery rhymes stayed with me all my life.”
Wilson was at Hay to talk about her new poetry anthology for girls, Green Glass Beads. A break from her usual children’s novels – of which she has written more than a hundred - the ex-Children's Laureate said she was asked to make an anthology and thought it “such a treat”.
“It helps when you have a huge collection of books,” she added, admitting to having more than 15,000 at home. Her favourite poem as a child was Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro, about a goblin who wants to steal a nymph’s string of beads – “it’s colloquial, it has character and it’s about jewellery; what more could you want?”
Wilson said she got into poetry as a “fledgling feminist” in her late teens and early twenties, about the same time she started writing for a living, and discovered Sylvia Plath. Plath, along with Carol Ann Duffy, Blake, Keats, Tennyson and Wordsworth, all made the cut into her anthology, of which the first section is poems about friendship (“because friendship is the most important thing in a girl’s life”).
Wilson said that as a little girl her mother used to make her enter talent competitions reciting poetry by heart, but that she was “the shyest girl with no gumption whatsoever” and her most embarrassing moment was reciting The King’s Breakfast at a competition in Clacton-on-Sea and wetting herself on stage. “But I carried on reciting in a puddle, and I think because of that nobody made fun of me the next day. You can do whatever you like on stage and it can go horribly wrong and it’s not the end of the world.”
She read out a poem by Rachel Field that inspired a scene in her favourite book she’s ever written – Hetty Feather, about a girl in pink on a milk white horse. She also told the audience of girls and some boys that of all her characters, she would most like to meet Hetty. Enid Blyton inspired her to start writing as an 18-year-old, she said, when she read Blyton’s autobiography. A little-known fact she also revealed is that the now-defunct Jackie magazine is named after her, from when she used to work there.
“I was writing books for a good 20 years before anybody had heard of me,” she said, before advising aspiring young writers that “inspiration is wonderful, but you’ve got to have discipline. And read. That’s the most important thing.”