Joshua Seigal, Advice to a Young Skydiver
From reading his first adult collection, Advice to a Young Skydiver, it’s easy to see why Joshua Seigal is an acclaimed children’s poet.
Seigal weaves wordplay, irreverent humour and irony into relatable stories that entertain children and parents alike. Sprinkled on top for adult readers, he adds what he himself calls “a heavy element of sadness” to create a wonderfully accessible and relatable volume.
“I like to approach poetry from a playful angle”, he tells us when we meet him at a London café.
“A lot of my stuff is comedy focused. Everyone’s down for being silly once you get through the pretence”. But as well as that, Seigal wants to make readers “think a bit as well as laugh a bit.”
Advice to a Young Skydiver flirts with the ridiculous and then throws a bucket of cold water over you. There’s the three-word poem about an epidemiologist’s CV. The limerick about a lady from Leicester. Then you get that ever-so-heartbreaking tale of being sat opposite the potential love of your life on a train but unable to summon the courage to talk to her.
You get a poem full of innocent childish misconceptions, followed by an unexpected deadpan twist more than worthy of the ‘explicit content’ warning on the back cover.
Seigal muses on the writing techniques that often make poetry so hard for the casual reader to embrace. And then follows it up with a simply written, deft reflection on family life that all can relate to.
The author is nothing if not self-aware. Perhaps most poignant is the penultimate poem of the collection, in which a child asks Joshua how they can be a success like him. Seigal takes a reflective look at how he’s perceived as a children’s poet, from the parental doubt over his career path to the fact that it isn’t paying him as much as his higher-earning friends in ‘proper’ jobs. He is teased for being a ‘glorified babysitter’. But through it all, he knows that “success does not come in flat-pack furniture” and can only tell the child: “believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile.”
Throughout the collection, Seigal bounces between the inspiration of the literary heroes of his youth and the comedians he loves, adding a heavy element of introspection. Michael Rosen meets John Hegley meets Joshua Seigal’s inner voice of self-deprecation.
It is quite fitting then, that his advice to a young skydiver in the final poem of the collection of the same name, is one of positivity, humour and lots of self-awareness.
Throughout the whole book, Seigal is distinctly himself. His advice for performing in front of children rings true for adults too: “be yourself. They’ll respect you for who you are, but they’ll see through an act.”
Advice to a Young Skydiver is a poetry book for everyone, from the most casual reader to the most ardent. Even children can enjoy the poems – well some of them, anyway.
Joshua Seigal is a renowned, award-winning children’s poet and performer, and now published adult's writer, from London.
His recent children’s collections, Little Lemur Laughing and I Don't Like Poetry, were published by Bloomsbury and received critical acclaim from poets such as Michael Rosen and in publications including The Times.
Advice to a Young Skydiver, is published by Burning Eye, and can be bought online.