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Episode 33: Ted Sherman – Children’s fantasy poems

In this episode we look at children’s poetry with Bristol-based poet Ted Sherman. He reads from his book for eight to 12-year-olds Dungeon Days which reveals the hidden lives of the mythical creatures living in a typical Dungeons and Dragons dungeon. He also provides a masterclass in writing similar children’s fantasy poems.

We encounter a dwarf in search of a hobby outside his deadly day job, a skeleton with an unusual afterlife and truly monstrous school dinners served by a minotaur. Patrick also shares a poem about a very athletic crab.

Ted’s children’s fantasy character creation exercise

There might seem like a lot of steps to this but each one is quite easy and together they provide a good foundation for a poem that children will love.

  1. Choose your character’s species. Is it a witch, a mermaid, a giant or dwarf. It could be a superhero or some kind of animal.
  2. Describe the characters appearance including things like gender, age, size
  3. Name your character.
  4. What is your character’s job? Try picking something not typically associated with fantasy – i.e. a milkman, the prime minster, a train driver etc.
  5. Create a short, one or two sentence, back story in which there must be a twist, such as the goblin train driver can’t see the controls of the train because he is too small so has to find another way to drive it.
  6. Create a brief story plan – a starting point, a midpoint and the end, so that there is a strong narrative through the poem.
  7. Decide on a rhyme scheme and brainstorm rhyming words that you can use in your poem.

This should give you all you need to write your poem. You don’t have to stick to the plan – things are sure to change along the way. When you’ve written your poem please send it in. It might be featured on the blog or podcast. Poems can be sent here.

Ted Sherman is a father of 3. His poetry has been read on BBC Bristol Radio and has been performed as part of the Echoes and Edges Collab’ Sessions, He has been published in several haiku journals (including Modern Haiku and Seashores), and during lockdown he undertook a project to display the Dungeon Days poems in a woodland area of Bristol during lockdown (this was nominated for the Radio 4 All In The Mind awards).

You can find my poetry at

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Ted Sherman – The Gnome

Coming up on the podcast this week Bristol poet Ted Sherman talks about writing poetry for children and his new collection Dungeon Days for eight to 12-year-olds. Here’s the first poem from the collection, The Gnome, illustrated by Marcus Kielly and designed by Ollie Francis.

The Gnome

I wrote this book you’re here to read
a fact I’m proud of, yes indeed!

It’s true I am a tiny gnome
but the tales contained within this tome
are bigger than you’ll ever find,
these stories here will blow your mind.

I’ve written ‘bout a dungeon deep
where creatures lurk and monsters creep.
Ever since I was a lad
I’ve worked in here, it ain’t half bad

There is one thing I know is true
my tales are fun and fresh and new.
What I give is something real,
words to make you see and feel
all the struggles and the strain
of the average and mundane
the trials and tests which we all face
but set within a magic place.

So, to every girl and every boy
thanks for reading – please enjoy!

Stilton the Scribe
C/o The Dungeon

Episode 32: Adele Cordner – Poems from the pandemic

Black and white portrait of poet Adele Cordner
Photo by Pixels in time

Adele Cordner’s debut collection The Kitchen Sink Chronicles was written in the last year. It captures the fear, uncertainty and strangeness of lockdown while also finding moments of hope, resilience and joy.

Adele shares some poems from the book and offers an exercise to write poems of hope and resilience in response to the poem Swallow Chick below. They do not have to be about the pandemic but we can all do with some more positive and hopeful poems at this time. I hope you will be inspired to write something and share it. Please send submissions here.

The book is illustrated by Adele’s daughter, Florence Cordner, including this image from the poem Swallow Chick.

Swallow Chick by Florence Cordner

Swallow Chick

23rd April 2020

I ache for my daughter through these lockdown days
wandering the garden, taking photos on my phone
of first daffs then roses to send to her,

when, suddenly, there she is, my swallow chick
perched high on the aerial, so proud to be home.
I’d recognise those bright eyes anywhere.

Last June, I found her helpless on the garage floor,
her nest a mess of soil and feathers around her,
her parents darting frantically about my head.

I was nervous, but I knew she needed me,
cupped her heart in my hands and placed her
gently in a tree, her elders shrieking all the while.

But, straightaway, she launched herself to the ground,
hopped around my feet, brave and unaware
of the lurking cats anticipating a snack.

I stored her safe in a shoe box while I built a little cot,
gathering leaves, petals, feathers from her nest,
then tucked her up high on a garage shelf.

But, in moments, she was out again, put back
again and again, for days and days, until, at last,
from beam to beam, and out, she flew!

Now, she is back, sleek plumes, colours deepened,
tail feathers long and strong.
What was it like, Africa? I’ve never been.

As I take her photo, I imagine her there,
independent, exploring savannahs with her kind,
and the old, now familiar, ache returns.

Adele Cordner

The Kitchen Sink Chronicles is available from Adele’s website. Profits from copies purchased via this link will go to Crohn’s & Colitis UK, a charity close to Adele’s heart. www.adelecordner.com

The Kitchen Sink Chronicles, published by Hedgehog Press in 2021, is Adele’s first poetry collection. It charts her experience of the first six months of the Covid Pandemic. Adele’s poetry has been placed in many international poetry competitions including Poetry on the Lake, The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize and The Welsh Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in Red Poets Magazine and various anthologies including Ways To Peace and Poems For Grenfell Tower. She has also won poetry prizes in both Abergavenny and Upper Chapel Eisteddfods. Adele recently gained an MA (Distinction) in Scriptwriting from Bath Spa University. She is a member of Chepstow NaCOT and Newport Stanza poetry workshops, and a performer and director for Newport Playgoers Society and Everyman Theatre Cardiff. She also sings with The Singing Club in Chepstow. Adele, who was born in Newport, is a mum of four children and now lives in rural Monmouthshire, South Wales.

Illustration by Florence Cordner

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Adele Cordner – Lament of Mother Earth

Adele Cordner performs a poem from her new collection The Kitchen Sink Chronicles. The poems, written in the last year, reflect on the strangeness, fear and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. But Adele also finds moments of hope and joy in these uncertain times. Look out for Adele on the next podcast when she will be sharing more poems from the collection and talking about how to write poems of hope and perseverance.

Adele’s book is available now. Copies purchased via her website support the charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK www.adelecordner.com

Episode 31: Des Mannay – Writing Family History

Unless you enter things, unless you send poems off to get published, enter competitions… It’s by doing that that you make links and you never know what those links lead to.

Des Mannay

Wise words from Newport poet Des Mannay whose poems are reached further than he could have imagined. His raw, witty, personal and often political poems have attracted the attention of editors and competition judges leading to opportunities to perform and publish across the globe and beyond… Seriously – some of his poems are due to be sent to the moon!

On this podcast he reads from his debut collection Sod ‘Em – and Tomorrow, and shares a writing exercise on family history:

“Take a story or myth which is a part of your family history. Reflect on how you fit in as part of that story.”

Everyone’s family background offers rich material for writing. Des talks about his background and how you can learn more about yours to respond to the writing exercise.

You are more than welcome to submit poems written in response to the prompt here. We’d love to read them and they may be featured on the blog or podcast.

Des has also embraced the global community that has grown through poetry events held on Zoom. Here are a few he recommends attending:

Poetry in the Brew

Write and Release

Like a blot from the blue

Live Poets Society

You can buy Des’s book here. Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Episode 30: Ella Duffy – Mythology

Selkies, Medusa, moss children and other myths and legends inspire poems in this podcast with Manchester-based poet Ella Duffy. Ella reads from her books New Hunger and Rootstalk and discusses how she finds inspiration in mythology and the natural world. She also invites listeners to write a poem inspired by myths, fairy tales and legends.

Ella’s Mythology writing exercise

For this writing exercise, you’ll begin your own reimagining of an existing story, from either mythology or fairytale, folklore or legend. It can be interesting to think about your reimagining as a form of translation; some aspects of the story will remain the same, while others may shift entirely.

Listen to the podcast for more ideas on how to approach this exercise and Patrick’s response which imagines Medusa’s head being kept in a Marks and Spencer bag for life.

As always please share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or podcast. Please send them here.

To read more of Ella’s poems and buy her books see her website elladuffy.co.uk.

You can also buy New Hunger and other books by podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Ella Duffy – Chill


Ella Duffy reads a poem from her pamphlet New Hunger. Ella draws on mythology and the natural world in her vivid and powerful poems which she will be discussing on this week’s podcast.

Bio: Ella Duffy’s poetry has appeared in Ambit, the Rialto and the North, among others. Her debut pamphlet, New Hunger, was published by Smith|Doorstop in May 2020. Her recent pamphlet, Rootstalk, was published by Hazel Press in November 2020.

Purchase Ella’s book and books by former podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop and help cover the running costs of this podcast.

Episode 29: Abbie Neale – Poetry in Clothing

Our relationship with clothing is lifelong and intimate. It defines who we are and can both reveal and hide our character and emotions. Our wardrobes hold our memories and darkest secrets. What poems are woven into the fabric of the clothes you have known during your life?

Abbie Neale shares poems from her debut collection Threadbare in which she uses clothing to address often quite dark and sensitive topics and experiences. She also invites you to write a clothing based poem.

Abbie’s clothing prompt

Think of an item of clothing (real or imaginary) and develop a poem around that – What does it look/smell/feel like? Where is it? Is it ordinary or remarkable? What’s possibly been left in its pockets and what does this tell us about the person it belongs to? Where can the poem go from here?

As always submissions of poems in response to the prompt are welcome and could be shared on the blog or podcast. Please send them in here.

Find out more about Abbie on her website or find her on social media: Instagram @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale

Abbie’s book Threadbare is available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookstore. Bookshop.org supports independent bookstores and purchases made via this link earn commission to support this podcast. You can find Abbie’s book along with many others from previous podcast guests.

Abbie Neale – Overwintering

The first guest of 2021 is Abbie Neale who will be talking about her debut collection Threadbare on the next podcast. Here is one of her more recent poems broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk and recorded by BBC Voices.

Abbie Neale is a writer, actor and painter. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Warwick University, with an intercalated year studying Acting and Scriptwriting at Monash in Australia. In 2019, she won the international prize in the York Mix Poetry Competition and the New Poets Prize run by The Poetry Business, who published her debut pamphlet ‘Threadbare’ this June. Her poetry has appeared in The North, Strix MagazineWhirlagust, Re-side, Crannóg, Bath Magg and Abridged. 

You can find her online at Instagram: @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale

You can buy Threadbare here. Poetry Non-Stop receives a commission for purchases made via this link.