The temperature has definitely dropped here in Bristol. The sun has been unsociable and puffs of hot breath are fan-faring in the cold weather. It’s time to dig out those hats and scarves! If you are like A.F Harrold however, you’ve got a great beard to keep half your face warm so maybe you can hold off on the scarf for a little while longer. 

We know so many of you are itching to know the man behind the beard so he has some time to answer a few questions about his new poetry collection Things You find a Poet’s Beard which we released earlier this month. It is Burning Eye’s first book of poetry for children and our second book with A.F Harrold (Check out Lies My Mother Never Told Me). 

  1. So, what is really in a poet’s beard?

The title poem of the book lists a lot of individual items, mainly various foodstuffs and wildlife, that you might find in there. I’d urge anyone who is really interested to buy the book and find out. The poem was written primarily as a way to stop children attempting to touch my beard when I visit their schools. A warning some adults need to read too. (Beards are a little bit like hats in that there is a certain subsection of the populace who always want to try on other people’s hats, in a way they never want to try your trousers or your earplugs; these people also want to touch one’s beard. (Pregnant women know these people, they’re the same ones who feel babe-filled bellies are public property too.))

  1. Where do you find the inspiration for your children’s poems?

I visit a lot of primary schools and talk poetry at and with the kids, run little workshops and ideas sessions and jot all the best bits down in my notebook. As long as I publish first they don’t have a leg to stand on.

  1. How is it working with Chris Riddell on your new book?

Chris is a most wonderful man, tireless and endlessly talented. He agreed to do the project for us, a small poetry press with no real promise of money to come, simply because he likes poems and liked these poems. It was only after he delivered the pictures (twice as many as contractually obliged because he got carried away) that the announcement was made about him being the new Children’s Laureate, which made it feel even more as if this book was a lovely gift I was giving Burning Eye. (It got us a nice article in the Bookseller, which isn’t to be sniffed at.)

  1. The Imaginary is a great novel for pre-teen readers that some say are a difficult group to write for.  Are you planning to write more for this  age group?

I don’t know that it’s any more difficult than any other sort of writing, it just is what it is. My other books for Bloomsbury are a series of comedy-adventures about a boy called Fizzlebert Stump who lives in a circus and to whom things happen. They’re aimed slightly younger (6-10ish), although anyone with a sense of humour should go buy them and enjoy them. There are four of those out at the moment with the final two in the series coming next year (2016). They begin with Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From The Circus (And Joined The Library). There is a new standalone novel for the 9+ in the offing, possibly called Trollsong, which will be out in the Autumn of 2016. Like The Imaginary it’s a bit darker, a bit spooky, a bit weird and I don’t want to say anything more about it for now. Eyes peeled and patience!

  1. I hear you and Chris are doing some events together with the book – tell us more about that and whether beards will be compulsory for attendance?

You can imagine what Chris’s schedule is like. He’s all over the place being Children’s Laureate here and there, as well as doing events for his own books… So we’re really lucky to have got a day together for the poetry book in the half-term of October. He’s coming up to Reading, where I’m based, and we’re going to visit a couple of shops and do some live poetry reading and drawing and book signing. We’ll be at lovely indie bookshop Chapter One in Woodley in the morning (11am) and then at the equally lovely Waterstones in Broad Street, Reading, at 3pm for more of the same. Beards are certainly not compulsory, although any children wearing beards may well get picked on by the poet… I mean involved in the show more than normal children.

Thanks Ashley!

To find out about other titles and where you catch A.F Harrold next, visit his website here:

Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard is available in our online store