Valerie Bloom
Valerie Bloom

All About Valerie Bloom

Valerie Bloom’s unique style of poetry and story telling draws extensively on her Caribbean heritage. She is an outstanding poet and was recently awarded an MBE for services to poetry.

Val has given thousands of performances, workshops and school visits throughout the UK and abroad, and is regularly recruited by the British Council to run courses overseas. Her poems have featured in over 250 anthologies and GCSE and A-Level syllabi.

Val’s School Visits

Val’s visits to schools can be tailored to suit either key stage 2 or key stage 3 students.

Val’s visits combine a whole school presentation with smaller workshop sessions.

The assembly presentations are very lively sessions where the children are actively involved. Val works in English and Jamaican patois and she will often give the children a crash course in Jamaican patois so that no one is left out. At other times she will have the children act out a market scene using Jamaican patois or get them involved in chanting and performing. It’s a very unique, interactive session and lots of fun. Val has an excellent rapport with the children and they especially seem to enjoy the exposure to Afro-Caribbean culture and language. Her presentation focuses on inspiring children to get excited about poetry and writing.

In her workshops, Val works with smaller groups of children (25-30 per session) to produce their own creative writing. Once again, this is a very lively session and children will write during the class. Val can tailor the writing workshops to suit the school curriculum. For instance, she can use a relevant study topic as inspiration to give the session cross-curricular links. Alternatively, Val can structure the session around a particular form of poetry, or use one of her own poems as inspiration. If Val is working with one group during the visit she can also offer performance workshops and work with children towards their own poetry performance.

Val can work with single or mixed year groups or specific groups such as ‘gifted and talented’ and less able students. Teachers are very much encouraged to be part of the sessions.

A typical visit runs for half a day, starting with a whole school presentation (1 hour, 300 children approx), followed by a creative writing workshop (45-60 minutes, 30 children each session).

Val brings her books along to the visit and can do a special signing for the children on the day, or return the next day, as agreed. We can send information and order forms for parents and children prior to the visit.

An interview with Val

A passage from a recent interview she gave :

A Valerie Bloom reading is an uplifting experience, one that can coax even a shy British poetry audience into joyful participation, hands in the air to carry imaginary cake boxes, as they join in with the chorus to ‘Pinda Cake’. She moves easily around the area where poetry and song overlap, in a voice as warm in speaking as in singing, and believes that “part of the beauty of poetry is the music in the words, and a vital part of music is often the poetry in the lyrics”. But Bloom is far from a one-note poet. Her work also includes graver poems, such as the threatening ‘Whose Dem Boots’, ‘Heather’, a young girl forced to grow up too fast, or the fearsome ghosts of ‘Duppy Jamboree’, drawing on imagery from Jamaican folk tales. The influence of stories from her native Jamaica is a recurrent feature of Bloom’s poetry, and she is as convincing in patois as in “standard” English. She will often give a crash course in patois as part of a reading to ensure no-one is excluded, but – while never making an outspoken statement on language politics – has insisted that “every so often, something can be said more expressively in one than the other”. ‘Sandwich’, with its story of a Caribbean family in England, uses patois to explore fitting in and standing out: a child, who wants to bring a sandwich like all the other children, is made to take “chicken, rice an’ hardo bread” by a Jamaican grandmother, but, despite his fears (“Ah wave goodbye to me street cred”), as soon as the other children see this spread, “dem all feget dem sandwich” and share. Just as the non-standard lunch becomes something to celebrate, so does the non-standard language.

Bloom (b. 1956) first came to England in 1979, and is now based in Kent, but continues to travel around the UK and abroad adding to her thousands of performances, workshops and school visits. Her poetry has become widely known through her books, those of her own poetry and anthologies she has edited, plus a novel, and she was commissioned to write a poem on Celebration for National Poetry Day 2002. At last count, her poetry had been printed in over 250 anthologies, as well as appearing frequently on television, stage and radio.

Val’s Dyslexia Workshop at St Peter’s Farnham with the Helen Arkel Centreand HRH Princess Beatrice

A Typical Poetry Workshop

Below is a typical poetry workshop that Valerie might give:

A Journey Through the Senses

The object of this workshop is to encourage children to use their senses and develop a fresh, original approach to their writing. It is useful in encouraging young writers to use their imagination and pay attention to detail.

I always begin a workshop with a warm-up exercise. This is to establish a relaxed atmosphere in which creative activity can be stimulated. If there is enough time, I start with stretching and breathing exercises followed by a concentration exercise to focus the mind. Where time is at a premium, I use an exercise which combines relaxation and concentration. I have various relaxation and concentration games which I play with the children, but any word game can be used.

I ask the children to name the five senses and I write these at the top of five columns on the board or flip chart. I explain that we utilise a sixth sense in our writing – that of feeling (emotional). This occupies a sixth column. We discuss what sort of things it would be impossible to experience if we lost each of the senses in turn. I explain that people experience our poetry through their six senses, so we need to reach our readers through these senses.

• Taste
• Smell
• Touch
• See
• Hear
• Feel/Emotion

Next we brainstorm for “sense words”. I ask children to give me words which they associate with each sense in turn. These we put into the appropriate column. Under “touch” we might have words like “rough, smooth, cold, clammy, lumpy…”

I encourage children to be specific. For instance, I sometimes get words like “delicious” as a “taste” word. I ask the class what “delicious” food tastes like. From the variety of different answers they can see that “delicious” has different meanings for different people.

Children use the columns as a word bank for the writing exercise which follows. They are asked to write several lines (ten is a good number to start with) using the sense words but not with the senses with which they are usually associated. For example, they may use touch words with the sense of smell, but not with the sense of touch. They are given the beginning of the first line, e.g. “I would like to (sense) the (sense word) …”

Once they have written the lines, they share what they have written before going on to the next stage. This is shaping the lines, using them as a basis for their poem. Unnecessary repetitions are eliminated, images expanded and the opening line can be discarded or changed if necessary.

The following lines are from a poem by Vikki-West Kelsey – KS2, written during one of Val’s workshops

I would like to smell the colours of a rainbow
All the fruity yellows and oranges
The cool sweet blues and greens
When the sun shines
And the rain rains
I would like to smell the colours
The colours of a rainbow
I would like to hear shapes
The sharp corners of squares and triangles
The smooth curves of circles and ovals
The shapes of houses
The shapes of streets
I would like to hear shapes

In Service Training for Staff

Valerie Bloom has run countless training sessions for teachers, staff, parents and educators throughout the UK. Her training sessions focus on how to make poetry come alive for school children of all ages.

In each session Val looks at various forms of poetry, how to teach these across all age groups and most importantly, how to make poetry fun for children.

Val’s sessions start with a short poetry performance where teachers and staff will see for themselves Val’s dynamic and interactive approach to poetry.

Next Val will introduce staff to a number of relaxation and concentration games designed to help to focus children’s minds and creativity.

From here Val will look at teaching poetry to various age groups starting with infants and ending with year 13. Val will look at different forms of poetry – particularly the more unusual forms such as list poems, pantoums, triolets and performance poems, all of which can be highly effective for teaching. Val also includes examples of poetry to use across the age groups.

Throughout the session, Val will share tips and exercises to help teachers engage children. These may include fun exercises to help understand metaphor and simile or the importance of the five senses in poetry. Staff won’t just take notes – they’ll get to try the exercises for themselves too.

Val’s in service sessions are designed to be both inspiring and educational, providing practical advice & techniques for use in the classroom while also stimulating teachers’ own creativity.

Valerie’s Books

**Valerie signs all copies of her books purchased by students on the day of her visit.**

Surprising Joy

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‘NADINE, YOU KNOW THAT LETTER I GET FROM COUSIN SOPHIE LAST FRIDAY?’
‘MM-MM’
‘SHE WRITE GRANNY TO SAY THEY SENDING FOR ME IN DECEMBER.’

It’s the best day of Joy’s life! After years of waiting, her mum’s finally written to say that she’s ready for her daughter to join her in the UK. Joy loves Jamaica – she’s grown up there, after
all – but living with Mum in England is her dream come true.

London in December is a shock, though. It’s cold, dark and unfriendly. Even so, it’s nothing like the shock that awaits her when she arrives at her mother’s house…

Surprising Joy is a warm and colourful story about family, friendship – and startling secrets.

‘The setting is vividly created and the vibrant descriptions of Jamaica are simply mouth-watering. Surprising Joy is a joy’ – Books for Keeps.

Click here to download the first three chapters from this book!

Let Me Touch The Sky

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Let Me Touch the Sky is a wonderful selection of Valerie Bloom’s warm, sparky and evocative poetry which will delight readers of all ages.

Autumn Glit
The late September sunshine
Lime green on the linden leaves
Burns bronze on the slated roof-tops,
Yellow on the farmer’s last sheaves.

It flares flame-like on the fire hydrant,
Is ebony on the blackbird’s wing,
Blue beryl on the face of the ocean,
Glints gold on the bride’s wedding ring.
A sparkling rainbow on the stained-glass window,
It’s a silver sheen on the kitchen sink,
The late September sunshine
Is a chameleon, I think.

Click here to download more sample poems from this book!

Recommendations & Reviews

“Thank you for such a WONDERFUL trip to the British School of Paris. It was an honour to have had you visit us. The kids and teachers thought you were great. You are an inspiration to the children and they will think of poetry in a new light now!” – Antonella Brasey, the British School of Paris

“Thank you so much for arranging Valerie’s visit to us today. She was absolutely fantastic- both staff and children had a wonderful time. I would be happy to recommend her to other schools, as everyone involved in the day was very impressed. All the juniors were talking of nothing else and the year four’s, who took part in the workshop, were especially proud of the poems which she helped them to write. Thank you so much for a great day!” – Stephanie Chatfield, Literacy Coordinator, St. Thomas More Catholic School, Chatham, Kent, UK

“Just a note to say Thank You to Val Bloom for an interesting session at our school today. The children were very engaged and were inspired by Val to write some lovely poetry of their own.” – Lorraine Langridge, Meopham Primary School, Kent, UK

“We all thought Valerie Bloom was great. The children are stilll singing the chorus of one of her poems. All the children were engaged during the whole school performance. The workshops were really good and will be followed up, particularly in year 5, after half-term. The staff thought she was one of the best authors we’ve ever had in school and the children, and the parents of the children, who did the workshops were very impressed. A great day all round.” – Janet Train, Librarian, Dorridge Junior School, West Midlands, UK

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Valerie Bloom, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk

Further information on Valerie Bloom is available from her website: https://valeriebloom.co.uk/