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Poetry Archive: Berlie Doherty Reading from her Poems

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The Poetry Archive

May 2014


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About this title

Twice-winner of the Carnegie Medal for children's literature, and one-time runner-up (no author has won the award three times), Berlie Doherty has written over 60 books including novels for children, children's poetry, picture books and plays, as well as two novels for adults. Her books have been translated into twenty-one languages.

She was born in Knotty Ash, Liverpool in 1943 and started writing at a young age with the encouragement of her father, who would type up her poems and stories for her. She wrote for the children's pages of newspapers throughout her childhood but only started writing full-time as an adult in 1983. Doherty's children's poetry ranges widely in subject matter and is notable for its intimate engagement with the world of young people, the joys and fears and mysteries of life as they begin to navigate it. ‘Kieran', a poem about a disabled child as described by one his classmates, non-judgementally explores the sometimes harsh environment of school for those who are ‘different', and the gradual development of a moral code: ‘sometimes we wait, and sometimes we / run off and hide, and that's when he /sits in the yard with his sticks on the ground / sits by himself until he's found...'. Philip Pullman has said of Doherty that her ‘strength has always been her emotional honesty', and indeed her work never shies away from the real challenges faced by children as they grow up, without losing an essential lightness of touch. Her gentle, almost conspiratorial delivery of the poems available to listen to here brings them dramatically to life.

In addition to her Carnegies - for Dear Nobody (1991) and Granny Was a Buffer Girl (1986) - Doherty has won numerous other awards for her work, including a Sankei Award, two Writers' Guild Awards and a Phoenix Award, not to mention numerous prestigious shortlistings. In addition to writing several children's libretti, a number of her novels have been successfully dramatised for television, radio and the stage, and many are frequently performed in schools and theatres. The award-winning dramatisation of Dear Nobody was staged at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre and the New Vic at Stoke. Her most recent novel, for young adults, is The Company of Ghosts (2013), and she is currently writing a companion novel to Street Child, her novel about the life of a Victorian orphan.

Doherty has three children and seven grandchildren and lives in the Peak District with fellow children's writer Alan James Brown.

Berlie Doherty's recording was made at the Soundhouse, London on 3 April 2012. The producer was Anne Rosenfeld.

1. Kieran 1.32
2. I Hear 1.38
3. Hymn to Miss Plowden 1.38
4. If You Were a Carrot 0.56
5. I'm Telling You 1.30
6. Playgrounds 1.16
7. Quieter than Snow 1.33
8. Hob-Goblin 0.46
9. Ghost in the Garden 1.22
10. Snow Spell 1.08
11. That Stormy Night 0.59
12. Night Sounds 0.36
13. Riddle 0.32
14. The Wild White Horses 0.46
15. Trees 0.21
16. The Boggart 2.20
17. Feed the Plants 1.26
18. Mushrooms 0.58
19. I'm Frightened in Dark Caves 1.02
20. An African Child's Song 1.00
21. Zanzibar 1.08
22. Race 1.54
23. Daydreams 1.10
24. Dad 0.48
25. Three or So 2.02
26. Grandpa 0.21
27. My Sparrow Gran 0.38
28. Season Sketch 0.38
29. The True Tale of the Captain's Cat 2.28
30. Swimmers 1.33
31. Early Morning Swim 0.54
32. Frogs 1.34
33. Badger 1.13
34. Six Black Hens 2.09
35. Two Young Weasels 1.27
36. Dodos 1.12
37. Four Haiku 0.50
38. Torch 1.23

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