Tag Archives: Joanne Limburg poems

Children’s Poetry: Joanne Limburg’s Bookside Down

Joanne Limburg    
Joanne Limburg has published two full poetry collections for adults, Femenismo and Paraphernalia, both with Bloodaxe. A pamphlet, The Oxygen Man, was brought out by Five Leaves Press last year. Joanne has also published The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about OCD, anxiety and poetry. She is currently finishing a novel based on the life of Queen Anne, and beginning a PhD in Life Writing. Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013) is her first book for children.
Bookside Down 
“The poems in Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013) are written about and for 21st Century children, who are into their friends, the TV, Wiis, DS’s, computers, collectibles and things that make them laugh. They deal with important matters such as difficult schoolmates, daft parents, impossible siblings, the last days of the dinosaurs and the death of planet earth. In this book you will find rhyming poems, non-rhyming poems, poems that are conversations and poems that tell stories. You could read them to yourself, read them aloud, or even use them as patterns to write your own poems.”
“Joanne Limburg’s funny and tender Bookside Down sees things deliciously from the children’s point of view. The poems are set in the worlds children inhabit: the home, the playground, school, pocket money, TV and friendship. With a natural story-teller’s timing, a poet’s ear and a splendid eye for both detail and fantasy Limburg leads us through the jokes and puzzles of a childhood all children will recognise.”

– George Szirtes
Dad, Dad, is this my lunch?
And are you having your lunch too?
And are we going out after lunch?
Are we going into town after lunch?
And are we going on the bus?
And can I have my pocket money?
And can I buy a comic with my pocket money?
And can we take the bus back?
And can I ask you something else?
Will you always say yes now?
The Sort of Boy
There’s always the sort of boy
who has to get in first

who says he knows
whatever you know already,
he’s known it for ages

who got whatever you just got
three weeks ago

or says there’s a better one just out
and he’s getting it with his Dad

who has to decide who’s playing
and what they’re going to play

and if it’s Harry Potter,
he’s always Harry Potter.
The Prefix Lesson
Let’s see if you’ve been listening.
Can you give me something that begins with ‘anti-‘?

Anti Julie lives in London.

Not quite what I was looking for.
Let’s try another, ‘un-‘.

Un-cle Ian lives there too.

OK. Never mind. Have another go.
How about … ‘pre-‘?

Pre … tty soon they’re coming to visit?

Oh dear. We’ll try one more.
Now think carefully: ‘dis-‘

Dis … dis …..
dis isn’t going very well, is it?
Family Swimming Time
I think I might just watch today.
But you’ve got your costume on.

The water feels too cold.
But you’ve only put your toe in.
It’s splashing on my face now.
So what? You’re wearing goggles.

I don’t like the big boys jumping in.
It’s OK. We’ll move away.

I think I might get out now.
You’ve only just got in.
Well don’t leave me on my own!
But I want to have a swim.

I don’t like it when I can’t see you!
But I can swim—don’t worry.

I know you can, but I can’t!
Then just stay in the shallow end.

I don’t like it in the water!
Mum, I know you don’t, but you’ll be fine.
Butterfly and Crocodile
At swimming once,
I went to turn from front to back
and just kept turning,
just kept turning,
turning over,
over and over,
till the swimming teacher said,
‘What are you doing?’
and I said, I’m a crocodile.
This is the death roll
that crocodiles do
to tear their prey apart.’

‘OK’, she said,
‘You need to work on your butterfly now—
though I must say
your crocodile
is really coming on.’
The Potatoes My Dad Cooks
Let me now praise the potatoes my Dad cooks
     for truly they are epic;

for they come from the oven smelling so sweet,
     their smell delights my nostrils

and when they sit steaming in their dish,
     their crispy coatings delight my eyes

and when I take one up and bite it,
     the coating breaks with a crunch

and when I chew that mouthful,
     the mouthful delights my tongue

and then it delights my throat,
     and then, oh then it warms my insides,

for truly the potatoes of my Dad are epic.
     The potatoes of his enemies will fail.
From Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013).

Order Bookside Down.

Visit Joanne’s website.

Joanne Limburg’s The Oxygen Man

Joanne Limburg is the author of two poetry collections published by Bloodaxe. Femenismo was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize; Paraphernalia was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She has also written a memoir: The Woman Who Thought Too Much (Atlantic Books, 2010). She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.

“The poems that make up The Oxygen Man (Five Leaves Publications, 2012) were written in response to the death of the author’s younger brother, a brilliant chemist who took his own life in 2008. They follow Limburg as she visits the mid-Western town where her brother lived, worked and died, range back over their shared childhood, and look ahead as she tries to work out what it means to be the one who stays behind.”
“Limburg’s universe appears to be constantly twisting away from perception even as she pins it down in lines of singular economy.”
Poetry Book Society
She will harrow this town, she will turn him up,
whole or in pieces. Being a sister,
she knows that brothers are born to trouble.
Her part is to rescue him,
lend him a heart to face his enemies,
or failing that, confound them herself
with withheld smiles, or with her sharp
big sister’s tongue; and if she finds
them gone to ground, their damage done,
she’ll cut the losses for both of them
and seek him out, wherever he’s lying,
broken and say, Brother, there’s
no shame in one lost battle, or
in ten. Put the phial down –
don’t drink! And if it is too late
for that, she’ll scruff the man and stick
her fingers down his throat, or find
an antidote, or make her own,
or heave time back, or failing that,
and even failing that, she’ll take him home,
and never mind how small the pieces.
Sylar and Elle
Into the midst of things more real
and personal, creep Sylar and Elle.
She is shaking with grief and rage;
he wants to know if he can feel
for someone else, he covets pain.
So he approaches her, this girl
whose father he scalped some episodes back,
and she cries You! and zaps him. And again.
I’ll kill you! Zap! She hurls blue lightning
from her palms, it hits him dead
in the chest, and he falls back, his arms
spread wide, a T-shaped allusion to something –
make that ‘someone’ – the viewers know,
and maybe love, and maybe pray to.
Then, in case you hadn’t got it,
he gets up. He has no wounds to show
but he looks chastened, and his shirt’s
in charcoaled tatters. I understand,
he coos. You hate me. Let me have it:
I can take it. She slings her hurts
again. Again. The shirt is gone
completely. His body twitches back
to life, as we expect. He’s keeping
calm. He’s kept his trousers on.
Elle’s given up, she’s emptied
of her hate. His work complete,
Sylar crawls to her, the blue
sparks in his hands, all mended,
and they laugh. I never want
the scene to end, but it must.
I want to do what Elle does, give it
all to Sylar, but I can’t.
Oxygen Man
Today, instead of dying,
you could go to work,
open up the lab
that has your name on it,
power something up –
some expensive toy
it took two grants to buy –
and set creation going.
I said creation. I know
the things that you can do:
engineer an enzyme,
speed up evolution;
one of your early tricks
was making oxygen.
Do that once more for me.
Take the manganese ions,
the ones the flowers use,
bind them up with ligands,
stick them in solution,
add your hypochlorite,
wait. We’ll wait.
Maybe minutes, hours –
you know, I don’t – but then
we’ll see the bubbles rise.
Now that’s your own good stuff:
breathe it, breathe it in.
Blue is not your colour.
Let everything be green.
from The Oxygen Man (Five Leaves Publications, 2012).
Order The Oxygen Man.
Visit Joanne’s website.
Visit Five Leaves Publications.

Joanne Limburg: Three children’s poems

The Dinosaurs Died
The dinosaurs died because they fell into a volcano
The dinosaurs died because they couldn’t swim
The dinosaurs died because they got eaten by cave-men
The dinosaurs died because the Anglo-Saxons
                                                  gave them chicken pox
And the dinosaurs died because because
And the dinosaurs died because
The dinosaurs died because they never washed
The dinosaurs died because seeds turned to trees in their tummies
The dinosaurs died because the mammals came along
                                                  and wouldn’t share
The dinosaurs died because they were mind-zapped by aliens
And the dinosaurs died because because
And the dinosaurs died because
The dinosaurs died because they dissolved
The dinosaurs died because they ran out of crisps
The dinosaurs died because they were eaten by giant cockroaches
The dinosaurs died because of their unacceptable behaviour
And the dinosaurs died because because
And the dinosaurs died because
The dinosaurs died because they were rude
The dinosaurs died because they didn’t look where they were going
The dinosaurs died because of bad television
The dinosaurs died because Victorians ran them over
                                                  on their penny-farthings
And the dinosaurs died because because
And the dinosaurs died because
The dinosaurs died because they didn’t listen
The dinosaurs died because there was a lot of it about
                                                   and they all caught it
The dinosaurs died because insects crawled into their ears
                                                  and ate their brains
The dinosaurs died because they forgot to save
And the dinosaurs died – it’s really true
And the dinosaurs died – they did, you know
And the dinosaurs died because because
And the dinosaurs died because
Beware the Humans
So terrible humans are, hideous, cruel,
they are nightmares with nostrils,
disasters in shoes,
shrieking in daytime, rasping by moonlight,
loud as astonishment, stupid as glue.
O beware humans, see them and shun them,
they breathe rotten eggs
and they wear stolen skins,
they quarrel in daylight, and dribble at night time,
vicious as triangles, madder than pears.
Observe now the human, hiccupping, sneezing,
squeezing dead cow
through a hole in his face,
he slobbers in daytime, his guts groan by moonlight,
slimy as six o’clock, rude as a boot.
Such are the humans then, horrible, pitiful,
tail-less absurdities,
ruthless mistakes
that gibber in daylight, and whimper at night time,
lost as last Wednesday, and sadder than soup.
And Then My Brother Said
So we were just leaving the house,
and I said
Wait! There’s something in my shoe.
and then my brother said
Wait! There’s something in my shoe
so I said
No, I mean it, I’ve got to take it off.
then my brother said
No, I mean it. I’ve got to take it off.
so I said,
Hey! Stop copying me!
and he said
Hey! Stop copying me!
so I said
Stop copying me!
and he said
Stop copying me!
and we went on
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
Stop copying me!
till I yelled
right in his ear and he said
Visit Joanne’s website.

Joanne Limburg: Five Poems

Joanne Limburg

Joanne Limburg grew up in NW London. Her first poetry collection, Femenismo, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; her second, Paraphernalia, came out in 2007 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She recently published The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about anxiety and poetry. Joanne lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
An Offering
A set of Trivial Pursuit, another of possible genes; a pear tree,
a tortoise, the ants in the garden; sick and silly jokes, a satellite
to bounce them seven hours ahead and back again.
The remote control, the microphone; the meaning and import
of certain remarks; the final word, the winning card; the truth
about who started what.
Superior height; Bar Mitzvah gifts, a tallis in a tallis bag; a First,
a PhD, a lab; a certain way with lucid dreams; a ride-on mower,
an early out.
Computer games on audiotape; copies of works by Stanislas Lem;
two Emu puppets, two Snoopy dolls; the very last time I made
you laugh; whatever you were thinking.
Ageing skin, stiffening joints; a slender orange vase from Gumps;
the joke about Dave who knew the Pope; one facetious birthday
card; however many years.
Your Lawn
Rabbits copy and paste themselves
across a lawn the size of an English churchyard.
Green light shrieks off imported grass,
bred to take the heat once dry,
now saturated from the reservoirs
they built to feed the sprinklers.
It’s a lawn for looking at
and mowing. Not for stepping on:
along with shrieking light and rabbits,
it’s a home to chiggers,
waiting to hop on board your pasty foreign legs
and burrow in, and itch.
You buy a ride-on mower,
admire your mown and sprinkled lawn
from the safety of the porch.
With all your care, and reservoirs,
the grass has taken well. You hope you can,
though you weren’t bred to take the heat.
Dem Bones
Here’s a live body. Out of custom,
I call it mine. I’ve laid it out
on a table, or valley bottom,
knees up, feet flat
a hip’s width apart.
I’m told to allow
my neck to soften, to lengthen
my spine, unlock an elbow,
unlock the other one,
permit the weight of bone
to work it out with gravity.
I tell the ceiling
I find this hard. In a valley
I can only think of running,
and as I speak, my breathing
shallows, prompting a voice
from somewhere to remark
how wonderful it is
that I should live, when I take
so little air. But still I live. I wake
each morning, as I am caused to,
and when I do, I feel the possibility
of movement in the sinew
and know that it will shift my bones all day
again, though they are very dry.
A straight road, a rectangular state.
Over our heads, an endless, unravelling
bolt of blue. A hundred miles
off dead centre, where they celebrate
the regular every day, I feel
like a very small dot winking
across a vast, flat screen.
Either this place isn’t real,
or I’m not. To prove I’m not the figment,
I speak my thought: ‘I’ve never been
to the interior before…’
but all that comes out is an accent.
On Holiday with Cotard
Honestly, the season’s over. The sun’s
its proper grudging self again,
the trees have given back their borrowed green,
flies are laying final clutches, and soon
they’ll rest in spider-silk. Rest forever,
rest you well. Now it’s time for everyone to relax,
the really thorough way, as you can when everything you fear
the most has happened already
and so you float on loose, float empty
just like the jellyfish, the moons and manes
that blister the sea on the Baltic Coast,
no longer pumping, and therefore not alive.
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