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Passion for poetry rides out the recession

A grassroots movement to promote poetry for children is continuing to build, despite the recession.

This week Janetta Otter-Barry Books launched its new children's poetry list, which will put out four books a year. The first two books are The Language of Cat by Rachel Rooney, a special needs teacher from Brighton who also teaches poetry workshops in schools, and a reprint of An Imaginary Menagerie by Roger McGough.

Ms Otter-Barry, who runs the imprint under publishers Frances Lincoln, said: "We have many wonderful children's poets in the UK whose voices are not being heard, other than in anthologies. This venture will help to bring poetry back into children's lives."

The John Betjeman Poetry Competition for young people is also seeing revived interest under its new patron, actress Joanna Lumley.

The competition is open to children aged 10 to 13 and has already attracted 300 entries although the closing date is not until the end of term.

But the picture is mixed. The Poetry Book Society (PBS), set up by TS Eliot, is currently searching for funding to run the Old Possum's Children's Poetry Competition. The PBS lost its Arts Council funding earlier this year and is currently working on a survival plan.

PBS projects officer Hilary Davidson said: "We have applications for funding in now. If nothing is forthcoming, we will have to drop it (the competition) for a year and work harder next year. We are committed to it."

Michael Rosen, whose books include Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, began the drive to raise awareness of poetry when he was made children's laureate in 2007.

The Perform-a-Poem website he launched, which is hosted by Booktrust, now has more than 200 films of pupils reciting poems with titles ranging from My Mum is a Moody Goat to Curly Wurly Fries.

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