Four-year-old boy who dictates poems to mum wins publishing deal

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A young poet has just landed a publishing deal – at the age of four. Nadim Shamma-Sourgen, who is still learning to read and write, dictates his poems to his mum. His poems include ‘My Lonely Garden’, in which he admits to sometimes feeling lonely, but adds: “It can be beautiful to be lonely.”

Nadim was discovered by the poet and teacher Kate Clanchy, who met his mother, Yasmine Shamma, a lecturer at the University of Reading through a shared interest in teaching refugees to write poetry. Clanchy began sharing some of his poems on social media, and Nadim found himself  interviewed by the Sunday Times and Sky News.

His poems range from ‘Coming Home’ (“Take our gloves off / Take our shoes off / Put them where they’re supposed to go. / You take off your brave feeling / Because there’s nothing / to be scared of in the house”), to ‘Love’ (“Everyone has love / Even baddies”).

Walker Books will release his collection next summer. Walker executive Denise Johnstone-Burt said that she had been “astonished that anyone so young could write such sensitive verse. The poems talk about such important feelings, like love and loneliness, and Nadim finds the perfect words. They are simple, inspirational and have a wisdom all of their own”.

Clanchy dubbed Nadim the ‘Four Year Old Poet’ on Twitter. She said: “I wasn’t tweeting the poems because they were so much like adult work – it was because they were so purely childlike. Nadim has the very rare ability to articulate in images what it is to be a four-year-old, to love your mum and bugs, to wonder about baddies, baths and love, and to ‘hang up your brave’ when you come in from nursery. The individual poems moved thousands on Twitter, but they work even better as a group because they create a whole world full of glitter and hugs. This will be such a special book to share with a child.”

On Twitter yesterday Clanchy quoted another of Nadim’s poems, titled ‘My Lonely Garden’. It ends: ‘This is a poem about sometimes being lonely in the garden / but realising it can be beautiful to be lonely.” She said of Nadim’s success: “You did this, Twitter, but your reasons were sound.”

According to Guinness World Records, the youngest commercially published female author is Dorothy Straight, who wrote How the World Began in 1962, aged four. It was published in 1964, when she was six. The Guinness record for the youngest published male author is held by Sri Lankan Thanuwana Serasinghe, who was four years and 356 days old when he released his book Junk Food in 2017, after writing it in three days.

According to the Guardian, Nadim is not getting over-excited about the book deal. “I like writing poems, especially about nature. I feel happy that my poems will be in a book,” he said. “When my poems are in a book, can I please have a copy?”

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