Tag Archives: mai black author

Thirty Angry Ghosts – the happy dance review

I was so excited to get this review from local poet and poetry expert Richard Whiting that I did a little dance in celebration.


Controlled Anger (5 stars)

It is as if Mai Black has summoned each of her 30 chosen historical ghosts to give testimony about their lives and listened with impartiality to each voice.

Her excellent poetic craft gets to work upon what we know, or think we know, of each character and if ever a book stops you in your tracks, demands a re-read or an additional trip through Google, then this is it.

I particularly liked William Shakespeare’s manifestation. Mai’s wonderfully playful use of Shakespearian language shows that it is perfectly acceptable to hold an icon’s ghost up to the light and indulge in a giggle or two!

The ‘Unknown Soldier’ poem is as good an example of someone writing with a vast knowledge of the material she has to hand as you could want to find. ‘Two days later, Johno got half his face blown off/ so you could see right to the bone.’

From Cleopatra ‘I was just a woman/ just a little prettier than most/ and handier with the eyeliner pencil’ to Margaret Catchpole and many others. The poems are educational and each an excellent read. I re-read them all.

There are page biographies of all the participating ghosts at the rear of the book which gives great illumination to the preceding poems.
A great read for the poetry, or to further your historical knowledge. ‘Thirty Angry Ghosts’ would make a stunning classroom companion too.

Oh that history had been taught that way when I was at school!

by Richard Whiting

Educational Resources – Thirty Angry Ghosts

Feel free to make photocopies of any of the worksheets for educational purposes. If possible, email me to let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear from you.

Click here to buy a book and/or leave an Amazon review.

Underneath are some activities you may like to do based on the poems. You can also contact me to arrange a visit.

To get in touch, email me at suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

(I give further details about visits at the bottom of the page).

Ideas for school and college-based activities

Students can discuss which themes are explored in the poems. (Click here for activity.)

Students can identify and discuss some of the metaphors used in the poems. (Click here for examples)

Students can list examples of similes from the poems. (Click here for examples)

Students can discuss the use of other examples of figurative language in one or more poems. (Click here for my analysis.)

As a class, discuss how to give a compelling reading of an Angry Ghost poem. In groups, students can practice and perform the poems together with condensed versions of the biographies at the back of the book.

After reading and discussing some of the poems, ask the students to write their own angry ghost poem. (Click here for inspiration).

Run an Angry Ghosts Poetry Competition

Ask students to write a letter to one of the ghosts.

Students can think about who a poem is addressing and write a response from them.

Students can follow the recipe and have a go at making some Semla buns. Click here for the recipe.

Students could write their own version of one of the poems as a diary entry, a song, a play or a story.

Students can act out an interview with one of the ghosts.

Ask one person to ‘freeze’ in the role of one of the angry ghosts. Other people take turns to stand behind them and whisper their thoughts.

Students can read my analysis of Mary Shelley and then write about their own poems in a similar way. (Click here for my analysis)

Students can work as a group/class to make a collage or tapestry of the angry ghosts.

Artwork by Hemant Doshi

Students can work as a group/class to produce a poetry collection. If you wish to self-publish, here is a quick guide: Mai’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

Students can use Mai’s Editing Guide to help analyse their own poetry.

Typical Costs for Author Visits

Author talk including poetry performances and optional Powerpoint – £70 plus expenses

Talk with performances (including additional actors in costume) – Prices start at £100 plus expenses

Author-led workshop for pupils aged over eleven – £70

Adult workshops – £70

Prices are negotiable for block bookings and if you buy multiple copies of the book.

Performing as Anne Boleyn, Margaret Catchpole and Mary Shelley at The East Anglian Storytelling Festival 2022
Performing as Queen Boudicca at ‘Cuppa’ in Felixstowe.

Alphabet of Writing Practice


Things for writers to consider:-

  1. Adverbs/adjectives
  2. Boringness
  3. Clichés
  4. Dodgy similes and metaphors
  5. Emotion
  6. Figurative language
  7. Genres
  8. Heroes
  9. Imagery
  10. Justification
  11. Knockout ending
  12. Length of words and sentences
  13. Metre
  14. Nouns
  15. Opposites
  16. Punctuation!!!??!
  17. Quests and Questions
  18. Rhyme
  19. Structure
  20. Time
  21. Understanding
  22. Viewpoint
  23. What’s the point?
  24. Xtremes
  25. Your sanity
  26. Zzzzz (the sound of a reader snoring)