Time for a Poem: Windy Nights

Happy Hallowe’en — here’s a poem to spook your friends!

Windy Nights by Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.
Do you know any other scary or spooky poems good for sharing at Hallowe’en? Tell us your favourites in the comments below!

Three Quick Questions: Norman Jorgensen #15

All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is Norman Jorgensen, author of The Last Viking and In Flanders Fields (and many other books, too!)

"The Last Viking (cover)"

1. Where do you like to write?

Down in my back garden, beyond where the pirates, kid-eating dinosaurs, scary monsters and teenage vampires all lurk, I have a studio surrounded by huge trees. The walls are painted bright red and on the wall behind my computer I have prints of old square-rigged sailing ships.  I also have a model of a WW I fighter hanging from the ceiling, and piles and piles of books.  It’s a bit of a Boy’s Own paradise, I’m afraid. It is not as tidy as a ten-year old’s bedroom, but at least a million times worse.

2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?

I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow–a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man, his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulder of his soiled blue coat, his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails, and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember him looking round the cover and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards: “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars.

It starts like this and just gets better and better. It is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, of course, first published in 1883, and I re-read it every few years, mostly to remind myself why I want to be a writer. All pirate books and movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean, have been inspired by this one book, and it is the perfect read for a dark and stormy story night while huddled up under the covers with a torch.

Treasure Island (cover)
Norman Jorgensen recommends Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?

Then what happened?


What is the worst thing that could happen next?

Find out more about Norman Jorgensen and his books on his website and check out The Last Viking blog.

© October 2011 “Three Quick Questions with Norman Jorgensen” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

(Psst … see you back here tomorrow, when we’ll hear from poet Jackie Hosking! And don’t forget to enter our birthday giveaways … )

poetry, teachers' resources

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2011

"Child on swing © Rebecca Newman 2009"Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

I love pockets, and the bits and pieces carried around in them (except tissues, after the washing machine—I don’t love those). Carrying a poem around in your pocket is fun. You can read it to yourself if you need cheering up. You can read it to someone else if they need cheering up. You can give it to someone—as a Poem in Your Pocket Day present. And you can even use it for inspiration to write your own poem.

The first poem I ever remember learning (if you don’t count nursery rhymes) was The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson. My mum used to recite it whenever we went to the park and we begged her to push us on the swings.

The first poem I remember learning at school was Forgiven by AA Milne. And that’s the poem I have in my pocket today.

by AA Milne

I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day …
And Nanny let my beetle out—
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out—
She went and let my beetle out—
And Beetle ran away.

She said she didn’t mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches and she just took off the lid,
She said that she was sorry, but it’s difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you’ve mistaken for a match.

She said that she was sorry, and I really mustn’t mind,
As there’s lots and lots of beetles which she’s certain we could find,
If we looked about the garden for the holes where beetles hid—
And we’d get another match-box and write BEETLE on the lid.

We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
“A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!”

It was Alexander Beetle I’m as certain as can be,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it must be Me,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought he ought to say:
“I’m very very sorry that I tried to run away.”

And Nanny’s very sorry too for you-know-what-she-did,
And she’s writing ALEXANDER very blackly on the lid,
So Nan and Me are friends, because it’s difficult to catch
An excited Alexander you’ve mistaken for a match.

Do you know a poem you’d like to put in your pocket? If you had a poem in your pocket, would you keep it a secret? Or would you read it to someone?

~ Rebecca (Editor, Alphabet Soup)