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Animal Magic in the Poetry Library | 22-Feb-11

Yesterday was busier than most days in the Poetry Library as poets Tim Clare, John Osborne and Ross Sutherland, from the Aisle 16 collective, were here running a series of Animal Magic workshops for us as part of the Southbank Centre's Imagine Children's Festival.

They started with a performance, reading some poems about animals. One particular hit was Tim Clare's poem about penguins and polar bears ("No!" he cried, "They don't both live at the South Pole! They live about as far away from each other as any two animals possibly could!"). Then the workshop proper started, which involved getting suggestions from the audience for animal body parts, so that an entirely new creature (such as a yellow elephant who could breathe fire) could be constructed in poetry from the parts of others.

The spontaneous innovation that came from the audience often yielded the most delightful results. When building up a beast that came from Africa, the audience was asked whereabouts in Africa it had come from: "Preschool!" the audience replied. So, from deep in the preschools of Africa a new creature was born, with the head of a giraffe, the head of a monkey and the tail of a dolphin (see below for the finished poem).

These new animal descriptions were all turned into poems that the workshop leaders then read out, with all the children chiming in with the name of the beast at the relevant moment. Much fun was had and many liberties were taken with the animal kingdom, but then as the poets themselves said, "One of the great things about writing poems is that you get to make stuff up."

The Aisle 16 collective itself was founded in 2000. As well as doing spectacular children's workshops they've also taken poetry shows to Edinburgh and Glastonbury. You can find out more about Aisle 16 here.

The Hippinake!

Head of a pig!
Body of a hippo!
Tail of a snake!

The Hippinake!

From the preschools of Africa,
107 years of oinking and hissing through classes,
Teachers shielding their eyes
From its glorious technicolour body!

The Hippinake!

Stroke it if you like,
But don't think you can keep it as a pet -
Some say it grows to fifty metres long and ten metres high,
Tall as a giraffe -
It can fill a house! You'll have to feed it
Leaves and twigs through the chimney,
Plus stones, pencil cases and Pritt Sticks for pudding.

The Hippinake!

As heavy as 10 lions standing on each others' backs!
As heavy as 100 horses standing on a rock!
Summon it with a bad trumpet solo

The Hippinake!

______________

The Octocorantula

Head of a tarantula
Body of a cobra
Tentacles of an octopus
The Octocorantula

Whizzing across the globe,
In its one-wheeled car
No stopping at the lights no driving license
(Too many legs, and not enough arms)

And as if breaking traffic regulations wasn't enough
He gobbles up people,
on their way to the shops.

So don't try to catch one of its eyes
One of its nine tiny eyes
Or the other massive eye
The Octocorantula will eat you, guy!

Its lonely, its sad- it just wants to play
It jumps eight meters high into the trees
To lay its eggs and hide away

So watch out for the Octocorantula
Even when the world seems nice and mellow
And people and smiling and saying hello
Look out for the thing that's pink purple and yellow.

The Octocorantula!

______________

The Dratorroo

An important scientific discovery
The dratorroo

Dragon's head
Tim can't draw dragons
Turtle's shell body
Kangaroo

100 mm
as little as a dung beetle
as cool as The Beatles
friends with a mouse
find it in the forest

Trataroo - smaller than a beetle,
but heavy as a bus.
Even the strongest man can't pick it up

Trataroo breathes fire from its nose
But only in the countryside
on a lovely sunny day
a couple enjoying a picnic think there's the trataroo
letting off some steam

trataroo as fast as a Begatti
when hes in a hurry he can get to the shops and back
in the time it takes to say hello

trataroo hunted by lions and tarantula
its hard to hide when you're breathing fire
and those tarantulas are good at finding people
but everything's safe when he's curled up in his shell.

_____________________

The Monophilin!

The head of a monkey!
The body of a lion!
The tail of a dolphin!
And the head of a giraffe!

The Monophilin!

What's that poking out the ocean?
You might think it's a giraffe swimming -
But look, a snorkel,
A special monkey snorkel!
It can only be

The Monophilin!

It's not too dangerous...
You've got no reason to fear it
Giraffe's eyes glowing in the night
But please don't put your fingers near it

The Monophilin!

Bubbles pop on the water's surface
Each one letting out a roar
A monkey roar! One of the rarest kinds.
The giraffe squeals and squeaks.
Our latest instruments have recorded it
Travelling at 2055 miles per hour!

O, the confused, Monophilin!

Some say it is all the colours
That the monkey head is a boy, and the giraffe head is a girl
Its favourite food is files - very scarce in the ocean
So it makes do with seaweed and fish
Its huge monkey ears quivering in the deep water
Listening for sharks
While its head pokes up like a submarine's periscope
Hunting for boats

The Monophilin!

________________________

The CROCAGUIN!

Head of a crocodile
Body of a snake
Tail and legs of penguin

The CROCAGUIN!

You'll find it in a waterhole
Eating slugs
And it's a girl, you know!
It lays its eggs
Small green triangles in the dirt.

Bumpy to touch
Its squeaks too much
The CROCAGUIN!

You'd best stay away from this creation
Unless you've got a slug infestation
It might say hello
It might attack
You'll know it coming from the Snap Snap Snap

The CROCAGUIN!

Its pink! We think!
We're not too sure
We know its small when it is born
With its windy body growing to the size of a pillar
A scaly pillar with very sharp teeth

If I had to give you an exact size
I would have to say
"1000%"

The CROCAGUIN!

______________________

Some pictures and poems made by children in the workshops:

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

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