Brian Moses taught for 13 years and has been a professional writer in schools, libraries, theatres and festivals since 1988. He has given over 2,500 performances of his poetry and percussion show and run countless writing workshops. Over 1 million of his poetry books and anthologies have been sold by Macmillan Children’s Book and he has published over 200 books from publishers such as Macmillan, Hachette, Puffin, OUP, Collins, Longman, Heineman and Frances Lincoln. Brian was Commissioned by CBBC to write a poem for the Queen’s 80th birthday which was then performed live on air. He is also Reading Champion for the National Literacy Trust and Co-director of the Able Writers’ Scheme, which he founded in 2002.
You’ve been a poet for over 25 years, published over 200 books and sold in excess of a million copies, wow! What is your secret to success as a poet?
No secret, just hard slog! Like Bob Dylan I’ve been on a never-ending tour since 1988, both in the UK and abroad. I’m now sharing my poems with the children of the kids who first saw me!
I sell lots of books at my gigs, and contrary to the belief of a major book shop chain, children do really love poetry. I also like to have new challenges to inspire me and recently I’ve been commissioned by Macmillan to write space poems, sports poems and war poems. If I have to write 35 poems in six months, that’s a challenge I relish.
How has the poetry scene changed over the last 25 years – do you think it has got better?
I find it very worrying that there are so few young poets writing for children and getting published. It’s still us old guys and publishers won’t take a risk on younger poets. Anthologies are few and far between now where once I was editing 6 or 7 every year. But it’s great to see publishers like Macmillan still believing in poetry (mainly through the passion of Gaby Morgan) and newer lists forming such as with Frances Lincoln & A & C Black.
What are your personal highlights from your career so far and do you have any literary ambitions left to fulfil?
Personal highlights - touring schools in Cyprus as a guest of the RAF and given the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, my relationship with Guernsey schools and the library service, working for Prince Charles at his Summer School for teachers, seeing my books being avidly read by children.
Plenty of ambitions left to fulfil. I need someone to publish the childhood autobiography that I’ve just written!
What is a typical ‘day in the life of a poet’ like for you?
Two types of days - one at home balancing dog walking with writing. I have a fox red golden lab who demands two fairly strenuous walks each day, but walking is a rhythmical activity and I take the dictaphone so I can record ideas that come into my head. Then at home I’m doing some writing or admin work.
The second type of day is when I’m touring, in a school, library, sometimes a theatre, performing my poetry and percussion show to whoever is put in front of me.
Do you have any advice for budding poets and writers?
If you want to be a writer, write. Don’t just talk about it.
Keep a writer’s notebook and become an ideas detective.
You’re a National Poetry Ambassador this year – how will you celebrate National Poetry Day?
I’m celebrating at the school in the village of Burwash where I now live, with a performance of my poetry and percussion show.
From all the poems and books you’ve written, do you have a favourite?
I rather favour something that Brian Patten once said when asked this question - I can’t show favouritism because the other poems might get jealous. Wise words!
You have also co-written poetry collections with other poets – do you get asked to be part of a poetry collaboration or do you pitch the idea to the publishers?
Both. I have worked with Gaby at Macmillan for over 20 years. Sometimes I pitch an idea to her and sometimes she’ll ask me if I’d like to do something.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I have a book called ‘Spooky Poems’ (co-written with James Carter) being published next summer by Macmillan, and 4 KS1 anthologies for Wayland. At the moment I’m finishing my childhood autobiography and putting together a teachers’ book of ideas for writing poetry.
Where can fans, new and old, find out more about you and your work?
My website - www.brianmoses.co.uk
My blog: brian-moses.blogspot.co.uk
You can find out more about National Poetry Day here!