National Poetry Day with Joshua Seigal

We are so pleased to host poet Joshua Seigal on National Poetry Day. Not only do we have a brilliant guest post from him, but there are also two unpublished poems as well as a glimpse into his latest collection, Yapping Away.

The Power of Poetry

Joshua Seigal

I would like to take this opportunity to share two previously unpublished poems. The two poems were written separately, but I subsequently realised that they sit quite well in dialogue with each other. They are both written from the perspective of children, who are very different on the surface but who share something more essential. I hope the poems do a good job in excavating this core.

The Orange Table by Joshua Seigal

I sit on the Orange Table.

Not the Red or Blue or Green.

This is where Miss has put me

and I think I know what it means.

It means my writing’s not too good.

It means I cannot spell.

I don’t know if they know I know

but I only know too well.

I sit on the Orange Table.

It’s where I’ve sat all year.

I can’t do Maths or Science

they say, and so they put me here.

I’m not so hot at school work,

which means I’m not too smart

so I sit on the Orange Table

so I can be kept apart.

I sit on the Orange Table.

They say that this is best.

But they can’t see the orange fire

that burns inside my chest.

Gifted by Joshua Seigal

I’m good with puzzles

but I can’t decipher the

rules of the playground

I’m good with numbers

but I just can’t count the times

I’ve sat by myself

I can spell long words

but the faces that stare back

are books I can’t read

They call me ‘gifted’

but I can’t untie the bow

that keeps me wrapped tight.

As a professional poet who works in schools, I see first hand the impact that poetry can have on children. This impact spans all ages, and the entire spectrum of academic ‘ability’. Poetry gives people a voice, and the opportunity both to express themselves and to experiment with language in a non-judgemental atmosphere. As we can see, on one level the poems above are quite different. One rhymes, and the other doesn’t. One is about a child who is near the top of the class, the other is about a child who struggles in school. But through poetry, we are able to see similarities as well as difference. The poems give voice to a commonality of suffering.

Now I do not want to suggest that poetry need always be deep, or heavy. I am known primarily as a funny poet, and when I visit schools I love to make people laugh. I like to perform funny poems, but also to throw one or two sad ones in too. Poetry, then, can express diversity. But laughter, as well as sadness, also has a unifying quality. We can be united it joy, as well as suffering. The power of poetry thus lies in its ability both to unify, and to express difference. It is malleable; it can do whatever you want it to do, and as a poet I believe my job is to demonstrate, first hand, the multifaceted potential of this art form. Not everyone will like all poems, but I believe there is a poem out there for everyone. I believe there is a poem out there within everyone, and when I visit schools part of my job is to help excavate it. Or perhaps less grandiosely, I hope simply to put a smile on people’s faces. Either is good.


Joshua Seigal is a poet, performer and workshop leader. He has visited hundreds of schools around the world, and has performed at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Dubai Literature Festival. Joshua has several books published by Bloomsbury and other major publishers. He is an Official National Poetry Day Ambassador, a writer and performer for BBC television, and was the recipient of the highly prestigious 2020 Laugh Out Loud Book Award.


Twitter: @joshuaseigal

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