Originally a Xargli, from the Alpha Centauri solar system, Mike Johnson has been on Earth a l o n g time. He has tried shape-shifting or morphing into many different species, but is currently enjoying being a human being, who writes poetry for children. As you can see, from the picture, he hasn’t quite got the nose right, yet (this is his fourteenth attempt)
WHAT IS IT ABOUT POETRY THAT YOU LIKE MOST?
Well, being human is probably more to do with how you can use language than anything else and poetry is simply the best use of language, on your planet. beep beep
WHY CHILDREN’S POETRY, IN PARTICULAR?
First of all, children’s poetry is brilliant! Children’s poetry is certainly one of the most exciting and fun things I’ve discovered, on the Earth. Children’s poetry is usually up to the minute and it covers a huge range of subjects – from astronauts to zero gravity. When I go into schools, children are very keen to listen to, read and write poems. I don’t think I’ve met many adults who were quite so enthusiastic. We have very long childhoods, on my planet, so I like being with children and sharing their word-worlds. This poem has been popular, because it tells them about lots of things on my planet and about Xarglis. beep beep
Popular sayings from Alpha Centauri
Life begins at 400
Life isn’t all snoomerjuice and smurkle
Your third and fourth eyes are bigger than your mega-belly
You’re talking out of the tops of your heads
You are who you eat
When ice before Zorkfert bears a d’orkk
nothing after, but vurk and v’orrk.
The answers on the tip of my threaploop
To err is Xargli to forgive, divine
The other Xargli’s gripqurdling is always greener
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE HUMAN POET?
I don’t really have a favourite poet, as such, but there are lots of poems I like reading again and again. A poem calledMagic Bear by John Foster is delightful and there’s a very funny poem by Paul Cookson called Arthur my half-cousinwhich always makes me laugh, until my threaploop goes all droopy. My most read ‘classic’ poems are probably Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), which never fails to interest me and Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith (1903-71). I met Coleridge once, by the way, but I was a dog, at the time. That reminds me, when I was a dog, I met a very unusual dog indeed and his owner wrote a poem about him, it went something like this: beep beep
Someone hypnotised our dog and
now her voice is not quite right:
instead of barking, what we hear
is ‘Hee Haw’ late at night.
She doesn’t ‘Yap’
or ‘Woof woof woof’;
she neither snarls nor growls,
but, wow, if you could only hear
her ‘Twit twoo’ to owls!
‘Miaouw’ and ‘Eek’
and ‘Quack, quack, quack,’
then ‘Oink’ and ‘Oo, oo, oo’…
We love our dog, sincerely,
but just wish she wouldn’t, ‘Moo.’
(illustration by Talitha Blythe-Lord)
WHERE CAN WE FIND POEMS OF YOURS?
In lots of places, I’m pleased to say:
The Trying Flapeze – ed. John Foster (Oxford),
Wizard Poems – ed. Fiona Waters (Macmillan),
Spooky Schools – ed. Brian Moses (Macmillan), Fiendishly Funny Poems – ed. John Foster (Harper Collins), The Poetry Store – ed Paul Cookson (Hodder), Read Me and Laugh – ed. Gaby Morgan (Macmillan), Frogs in Clogs – ed. Gaby Morgan(Macmillan). Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – ed. Fiona Waters(Macmillan) Elephantastic ed. Mike Johnson (Beggis Books) Read Me at School ed. Gaby Morgan (Macmillan), Context 21 - ed. Katrin Heinecke (Cornelson, Germany) and in The Times – that’s a newspaper from the Planet Earth!
AND of course HERE! (I’m always visiting this site, because the children’s poems on it are better than a glass of cold snoomerjuice.)
SMALL PET POEM
I BELIEVE YOU ALSO HELP ADULTS TO WRITE POETRY
Yes, I even teach teachers (they are very naughty, sitting at the back and giggling all the time). Amongst my present (or past) students are Liz Brownlee, Jacqueline Crill, Rachael House, Craig King, Anita Sackett, Andrea Shavick and Ruth Underhill, who have all been published recently. There were some others, but I ate them, sorry.
Some adult writers are almost as enthusiastic about children’s poetry as most children are. I like these people, even if they have only got one head – poets are the most interesting inhabitants of Earth. beep beep
for Julia Densham
Almost crystal clear,
as if inside her see-through skin,
Maisie was made of liquid glass;
could stand at the front
of our class,
yet not get in the way.
some reflections and refraction
and no one could forget fantastic
as her body split white light
into glimmering bands of
red, orange, yellow, green, blue…
on lazy days of blazing sun,
strange rainbows played
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO, ON OUR PLANET?
I like other species, apart from humans, very much and I have worked at London Zoo and as a volunteer in my local Dogs’ and Cats’ Home. Oh yes, and I discovered something called a ‘funfair’, recently, and did this:beep beep
That was really fun.
WELL, THANK YOU FOR SHAPE-SHIFTING OUR WAY, WOULD YOU LIKE TO END WITH ONE MORE POEM?
My pleasure, I can assure you; we Xarglis live to serve other species. This is possibly my favourite poem that I’ve written, whilst on Earth. I’ve tried to say how important Life on Earth is and that youshould look after it. beep beep
one and only planet,
known to her friends as
Yes, an old photograph
when she was clothed in
Somehow, got into
left one morning;
no forwarding address.
We just didn’t think. . .
We just didn’t know
what to do.
have any information
that can help us trace
our beautiful planet,
please get in touch.
Please get in touch.
(Earth illustration by Talitha Blythe-Lord)