Ready for lift-off! Retired teacher Jonathan Humble launches children’s poetry webzine The Dirigible Balloon
A former deputy headteacher and poet is launching a monthly online magazine devoted to children’s poetry and aimed at linking up with children in schools. Jonathan Humble's webzine The Dirigible Balloon will contain poetry that takes “our young readers on a journey, lifting their thoughts, feelings and aspirations as though they were on an exciting flight, expanding their horizons and having lots of fun in the process”. Jonathan, who is based in Cumbria, and has also been a Write Out Loud contributor for many years, said: “At the moment in the UK publishing scene, there are very few outlets for new writers of children’s poetry to get their work seen.”
Jonathan said: “After retiring as a teacher, I looked forward to concentrating on writing more poetry, reading at live events and getting a new pamphlet launched (Fledge, Maytree Press). Interestingly enough, things haven’t turned out the way I expected.
“With the onset of the pandemic, live poetry reading events became Zoom events and my pamphlet had to be launched on YouTube rather than at the Brewery in Kendal. I also became an online features writer and book reviewer for the Yorkshire Times.
“My current focus concerns publication for poets who write for children. Apart from the excellent Caterpillar magazine (a quarterly publication based in Ireland which attracts very high quality writing and illustration and hosts the yearly Caterpillar poetry prize) and places like the Poetry Zone and Poetry Roundabout, poets are restricted to the Herculean task of trawling for a literary agent, hoping to get their stuff in anthologies, doing the self-publication thing through the kindnesses of rich aunties, trying to reach the holy grail of a contract with any reputable publisher or perhaps getting past gate-keeping sifters in order to have any chance of winning a high profile poetry competition.
“After joining an online published writers group, I asked where folks sent their poetry. Other than The Caterpillar etc., I was told there were some opportunities with US and Australian magazines but precious few in the UK. Unlike adult poetry, where a range of possibilities exist for online or printed publication through journals or magazines, writers of children’s poetry have a very restricted set of options. A similar question on Twitter provoked a similar response. So this became my new poetry venture.
“The Dirigible Balloon is a webzine featuring poetry written for children by both new and established poets which I hope will be seen by kids in schools and also appreciated by the writing community as a whole. With brilliant IT support from the Yorkshire Times, who have provided the platform and technical expertise for the project, free from the sort of cookie clutter and advertisements that would have affected reading enjoyment, my aim is to publish a fresh collection of poems every month with the inaugural flight taking place on August 1 2021.
“The Dirigible Balloon has no commercial aspect (no charges, advertising or promotions). The webzine is edited on a voluntary and unpaid basis so we cannot offer writers and artists any payment should their work be selected for publication. The copyright remains with the writers and artists whose submitted work has been selected. If their work is chosen for publication, the author or artist grants The Dirigible Balloon permission to publish and archive their work in an online format.
“We have 12 excellent poets contributing a collection of over 30 poems for the launch issue in August. The majority of poems will be supported with sound recordings of the poets reading their work and we have plans, once we are properly established, to incorporate poetry written by children from schools who follow our stuff.
“Accessibility, inclusion and communication are the key areas we’d like to work on. As a rookie editor, one of my motivations (as well as offering opportunities for new writers to air their poems) is to cut down the waiting time between submission and contact with the publication
“Apart from some marvellous artwork produced for the website by the multi-talented Em Humble (artist, sketch comedy writer, actor, singer, daughter and all-round genius) efforts to get a response from other artists and illustrators haven’t been successful, but I am not downcast. I hope and expect that, as The Dirigible Balloon becomes established, there will be positive movement in this area as well.”
Jonathan ended with this rallying cry for his project: “So that’s the plan … to get The Dirigible Balloon out in the poetry writing community and engage with different schools who will access the poems both in the UK and further afield. The first 12 members of the poetry crew are an admirable, talented group who are ready for lift-off and it will soon be time to slip our moorings, open up the burners and overcome gravity as the horizon beckons and the cry goes up “Adventure is out there!”