Liz Brownless · Poetry

Liz Brownlee

Please make welcome, Liz Brownlee, a UK poet and facebook friend…

What poets did you enjoy reading as a child?

Poems were everywhere when I was a child, there was one in my parents’ daily newspaper, they were in most comics and there were always several in our Christmas annuals… which I still have! One Christmas when we were very young (I was 4, my brother 2) my brother received a book called ‘Jolly Jingles’ and we asked for a poem in there over and over… it was called The Whistle, by Peggy R Bridges, and I can still recite it to this day…

I bought a new whistle

And started to play –


But Daddy said “Stop!

Or my temper you’ll fray!”

And mummy said “Goodness!

My hair will turn gray!”

It carried on in this way for quite some time and it always made us laugh. The enjoyment of the humour in these rhymes laid a foundation for an interest and appreciation of poetry that has clearly lasted! My husband and I found we had the same ‘Treasure’ annual that contained The Pobble Who Has No Toes by Edward Lear, which we both loved. There was also a poem by Robert Louis Stephenson, called From a Railway Carriage, with the fantastic rhythm of a train journey…

“Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;”

But my absolute favourite poem as a child was Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro. It still brings up goosebumps on my arms.

Do you remember the first poem that you ever wrote? How old were you? Can you share it with us?

I didn’t realize I had written poems as a child… I concentrated on drawing as a teenager and went on to Art College and then Film School. But after my first poem was published, my mum gave me a box from her attic labeled ‘Liz’s kiddy poems and drawings.’ It was full… but I can’t remember any! I can remember a picture book I wrote and illustrated about Dr Freckle and Mr Clyde’ who were animal Doctors. That is, they were animals, who were Doctors.

Do you write mostly in rhyme or in free verse? Do you know why?

I have written mostly in rhyme up until now, as I like to have strict boundaries, it seems to unlock my creativity. I love writing haiku, which are always un-rhymed, but there are a lot of rules about haiku to abide by which I thoroughly enjoy!

But most of my latest poems seem to be free verse. It’s nice to have a change!

Are your poems best performed aloud or read quietly to oneself? Can you provide an example?

On the whole I think all poems should be read aloud. That way you really experience not only the thoughts, but also the sounds and rhythms that accompany and enrich the thoughts.

But not all poems are for performance to an audience. It depends on the poem. I have written lots of different types of poem in all sorts of styles and on lots of different subjects and the different mixtures mean each poem is unique. Some read out loud well to other people and some don’t.

I think most of my animal poems, although I have read them to an audience, are better read (aloud!) to oneself. I have written many shape poems which have to be seen… haiku need a time to think about them, not really possible in performance, and I think certain types of wordplay is better on the page! Here is a quiet poem, about a special and wonderful Alaskan frog.

The Alaskan Wood Frog

Rana sylvatica


As snow falls slowly,

frond by frond,

and turns opaque

the snowmelt pond,


this small green wood frog

starts to freeze,

his hands and feet,

elbows and knees.


His eyes and brain

and blood are chilled,

his steams of breath

and heart are stilled.


As frog turns ice

it’s hard to know,

what is the frog,

and what is snow.


Yet when the snow

ponds melt they bring

this little frog

awake to spring.


The Alaskan wood frog has the amazing ability to freeze for three months during the winter, and come to no harm. It can survive its temperature dropping to three times colder than a household freezer. Miraculously, when spring arrives, the wood frog thaws and hops off to find a mate. Although it is not particularly rare yet, its habitat is rapidly disappearing because of people building roads and houses, and it is suffering an increasing number of deformities.

Who first published your poetry?

Brian Moses chose my first poem, ‘Puffer Fish’ to go in his anthology ‘A Sea Creature Ate My Teacher!’ published by Macmillan. I was attending a children’s poetry writing course at the time, run by children’s poet Mike Johnson, and he sent that poem off with his selection as he thought it was good. I’m very grateful to both Brian and Mike.

Puffer Fish


Those who think this little fish’ll

make a very tasty dish’ll

find as dinner starts to bristle

that they’ve bitten on a thistle!


Where else have your poems been published?

In about 60 anthologies. Among the most recent I’m in The Jumble Book edited by Roger Stevens, and Read Me at School edited by Gaby Morgan, both published by Macmillan, and I have poems and illustrations in Shouting at the Ocean, available on the internet from publisher Hands Up Books or Amazon. Shouting at the Ocean- P#2D8CCF I’m the poet of the month on the poetry magazine The Scrumbler’s website at the moment, and I have poems (and illustrations) in the magazine. I also have 23 animal poems up at Bristol Zoo in the UK on signs at the relevant animal enclosures.

Anthologies are often places for poets to seek publication. How would you suggest a new poet find out about upcoming anthologies?

It’s hard. You need to look at anthologies in bookshops (preferably buy them, as you’ll need to know what’s being published recently anyway) and note the editor and the publisher. Then write to the editors (usually poets themselves) care of the publisher. Send a short letter introducing yourself, with examples of 6 of your poems, and ask if they will consider putting you on the list of poets they send letters to when they are compiling an anthology. If they like your work and think you are good enough, they will, hopefully!

Have you published a collection of your own poems/story in verse/verse novel? Where would we find a copy?

Iron Press will hopefully publish my own collection of animal poems in the summer of 2011.

What are you working on at the moment?

Finishing off poems for my prospective collection!

It is a book of animal poems, with facts about the fascinating animals, including their endangered status.

I am also at the very beginning of an idea to organise a possible traveling poetry fair, with other poets, to tour in the summer of 2011. But it’s early days at the moment!

Do you have a website/blog/facebook etc – where we can find out more about you?

Do you have favourite poetry websites? (includes another interview with me, but done as a comic…) A lot of my favourite poets are on here and their website links.

Would you like to share one of your poems with us?