Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

1.What is your earliest memory of poetry?

Sitting beside my tiny English grandmother on the sofa or my bed, listening to her recite poems to me. I particularly recall a sad poem called Papa’s Letter about a little boy who writes a letter to his father in Heaven and is trampled by a horse when he goes out to post it. I’ve since learnt it was written in the nineteenth century by an anonymous poet. Another that lingers in my memory from that time is William Allingham’s The Fairies, a favourite of both Nana’s and Mum’s and one I eventually shared with my own children.

 

2.When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I always thought of myself as a writer, not a poet, though I did produce a number of rather serious contemplative poems as a young adult. It never occurred to me to write poems specifically for children until years later when my children were in primary school. I was writing mainly short stories, picture books and chapter books but occasionally I’d have an idea for a poem. I discovered The School Magazine in 1998 and began to write poetry with these wonderful publications in mind. Some of my published poems were initially written as rhyming picture books that didn’t sell in that format. I believe in being open to possibilities so I looked at alternative markets for them and struck lucky.

 

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different from writing for adults?

The same skills as a writer are required for both. It’s a matter of keeping your audience in mind when choosing what to write and how to write it. However, a well-written poem for children will be appreciated equally by adults. We’ve all been children and can remember how we felt in our younger lives. When poets can draw on this child aspect of themselves, the poetry they produce will have universal appeal.

I know how much I enjoy reading the wonderful poems being submitted to the Australian Children’s Poetry website for posting as Poem of the Day and how often I think, ‘Wish I’d written that!’

  

4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

John Masefield. His poem ‘Sea Fever’ has been a favourite of mine since childhood for its rhythm and imagery. It gives me goosebumps even now when I say it aloud. Cargoes, too, has a wonderful sense of rhythm.

 

  

5. Give five words to describe your poetry?

Child-friendly, whimsical, playful, amusing, simple

   

6.Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

‘ Leaf Lace’ was inspired by the discovery that caterpillars had been making a feast of my geraniums. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I mentally sifted and sorted the words until they felt right.

 

Lace maker

Toils secretly

Tucked out of sight;

Creates ornate

Patterns

Until they’re just right.

Delicate, intricate

Handiwork done

Designer departs

To start

The next one.

Serrates, decorates

All my plants in this way.

I confess

I’m impressed

At this leaf lace display.

 

 7.What is your favourite form of poetry?

Rhyme. I get a lot of pleasure from playing with different rhyming patterns, so I might focus on rhymes within lines, or an AAB, CCB end line rhyme pattern. Whatever pattern I choose, it’s always a challenge to make the rhyme feel natural rather than contrived. I also enjoy reading well-written rhyming poems.

 

8, Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration? 

All of the poems I’ve had accepted by The School Magazine (about 20 in all, several also reprinted) have been accompanied by wonderful illustrations. It’s always a thrill to receive my copies of the magazine in the mail and see how an artist has interpreted my words.

 

9. Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

I don’t have a best spot. Once I have an idea, I will mull it around in my head as I go about my daily activities, jotting down fragments or lines in a notebook as they come to me. Often I’ll mentally work on a poem if I’m awake during the night. When I’m a passenger in the car also seems to trigger my poetic impulses. Of course, the real work of refining poetry happens in my office when I start keying my random bits and pieces into the computer.  

 

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

Read the work of contemporary poets to get a sense of what is being written and published now. Today’s children are incredibly savvy and they’re exposed to very different influences than earlier generations through technology and social media. Keep in mind who it is you are writing for, and don’t forget there is still a child in you who knows what it is to be a child. Write from that place.

You can find out more about Tina here

Website: www.teenaraffamulligan.com

FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan/

Twitter: @TraffaM

Blog: https://intheirownwrite.wordpress.com

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Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Nadine Cranenburgh

 

1.  What is your earliest memory of poetry?
The earliest poems I remember hearing were ‘Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace’ by AA Milne, and  The Swing, ‘Bed in Summer’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I enjoyed imagining myself as a soldier in a beefeater hat and hearing words about playing in the park and going to bed in daylight as they were things I actually did! I must have been very young (under five) when my mum read them to me, and they were early influences when I began writing poetry for children.

 

2. When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?
When I had kids! At first I didn’t write anything down, I made verses up and recited them aloud to entertain and occupy my sons when they were babies and toddlers. Not surprisingly, the first poems I thought up were about them. When I was studying children’s writing around that time, and was asked to write a children’s poem – I was lucky to have one in my head ready to go. My poetry has gotten older as they have, although I still sometimes write for very young children.

 

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different as writing for adults?
That’s a good question. I often write for children in a child’s voice, but not always. A recent poem I wrote in my own (adult) voice was picked up by a literary journal for children aged 12 and up.
I suppose a good poem should appeal to all readers, whatever their age. The most important thing is a clear theme, and carefully chosen words that paint vivid images, and that is the same for children and adults. The themes and language need to resonate with the age you are writing for, and that means the experiences and feelings described must fall within those children know or can imagine. But extending experience and language is something that poetry can do as well – so it is good to push the limits a bit.

 

4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?
Can I choose more than one? That’s a doozy of a question! Julia Donaldson has the most fun of any poet I’ve come across recently, and she’s still alive – so I pick her. Seriously though, Donaldson is consistently an amazing read-out-loud rhyming poet, who becomes more enjoyable with every read. And that’s important when reading to young kids over, and over and over.

 

 

5. Give five words to describe your poetry?
Playful, curious, quirky, real, musical

 

6. Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

Wind whistles past my eardrums
a cyclone raging near
My toes are rockets blasting off
the bedsprings creak in fear

 

7. What is your favourite form of poetry?
Up until a couple of years ago, I would have said rhyming poetry, but I’ve been enjoying trying out other forms of poetry, including free verse, and syllabic poems including haiku and cinkqu.
I still love a good rhyme, they are super-satisfying to read out loud.

 

8. Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration
Yes! I’ve had two poems illustrated. Both were organised by publishers, without any input from me and I’ve loved both of the interpretations. The illustrators have brought their own layers to the poems and made them so much more than I could have imagined.

9. Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?
In my head, wherever inspiration strikes. Sometimes I need to scrabble for a scrap of paper or notebook and pen, so I try to keep them handy.

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?
Tap into your inner child, and listen to the children in your life – whether they are kids, grandkids or classmates. Some of my best lines come from listening to children. And read out loud, to make sure the poem sounds the way you want it to. If you are just starting out – read and re-read the children’s poets you love, and practice writing in their style until you find your own voice, it’s a great way of building your skills.

Nadine has poems and stories for children published online at Australian Children’s Poetry, and in Cricket Media magazines (US), Balloons Lit. Journal (Hong Kong), Comet and Alphabet SoupShe has a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT and is currently working on a hybrid graphic novel for young adults (Dark Room: Do Not Enter). In 2016-17 she won an ASA mentorship to develop her work.

 

To find out more about Nadine Cranenburgh

http://nadinecranenburgh.blogspot.com.au/

(Interview by June Perkins, This blog is part of a series on Poets for Children, Ten Things About Poetry and Me.)

10 Things About Poetry and Me: Andrea Gallagher

1.        What is your earliest memory of poetry?

My earliest memory of poetry was having a teacher introduce my class to Spike Milligan’s work in children’s books. He seemed incredibly fun.

 2.       When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I have worked as a professional writer for more than 15 years in the corporate  world and while this is a great career, I wasn’t finding it massively inspiring. I loved writing poetry and creative writing in all forms when I was young, but I went over to the very serious side of writing to make my living after school and that took a lot of fun out of it for quite a while.

So in 2013, I just started writing rhymes as a hobby to get my creative juices flowing after my very serious work days, and then the ideas for my two children’s books, Superstar Grandmas, and, Mega-rad Grandads, just took over.

3.       Do you think writing for children is the same or different as writing for adults (explain)?

I think it is absolutely different. I think that writing for every new audience is different if you are doing it with care. If you want to write for the enjoyment, understanding, or action of any audience you need to step into their shoes and write for them, with them specifically in mind – and I believe this is especially important when your audience are children. I like to get down low and think about the world as if I were still 7 years old. I’ll sometimes go back to places I lived back then to try to recapture those feelings and thoughts and then try to write for the little book-loving girl I once was (who still lives inside of the adult me).

4.       If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

T.S Elliot, not because I hope to emulate the style, but simply because I read this poetry when I was a teenager and the thought of this work makes me feel connected to that time in my life.

5.       What are five words that describe your poetry?

 Vibrant, punchy, symmetrical, rhyming, childish.

6.       Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

I wrote my first published poem when I was 11 and, although it’s simple and childish, it helped me tell the world what my very unusual experience of life was like (I was going through a battle with cancer and writing was a great outlet for a lot of confusion and grief). It makes me cringe a little but I’m still proud that I found any sort of positive way to express what was going on for me at such a dramatic time:

 

Wish so hard upon a star,

wish that you weren’t who you are.

Cry all night without a tear

to know the end may soon be near.

Hurt so bad it doesn’t show,

dream, but never let them grow.

Write, but never touch the paper,

not quite now but maybe later.

Think of days that may not come,

the coldest feelings leave me numb.

Carry on and value life,

but sickness cuts deep like a knife.

7.       What is your favourite form of poetry?

I like to write simple and very structured pieces that use rhyme, however I love to read long, meandering prose that uses strong visual elements to tell heartfelt stories. I hope to write like that when I grow up.   

8.       Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration?

Yes – I love the bright and vibrant illustration of Superstar Grandmas and Mega-rad Grandads (created by artist, David Clare) because I think it matches the energy of the characters created with the four-line rhyme I used throughout.

 9.        Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

On planes – no real idea why that is but I do a lot of creative writing when I’m on planes. It may be about the movement between my regular life and going somewhere else.  I also wake up with poetic ideas some mornings – words coming out of dreams and sleep!

10.   What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

Be childish – remember what it is to feel like a child.

Want to know more about Andrea, head to these links.

www.andreagallagher.com.au

www.facebook.com/superstargrandmas

www.facebook.com/megaradgrandads

Read a Kids Book review of her latest book HERE

LAUNCHING MEGA RAD GRANDADS

After a bit of a wait, the Mega-rad Grandads book is almost here and (following the fun of the Superstar Grandmas book launch in December).

Mega-rad Grandads Community Book Launch

Sunday, 2-4pm, 23 April 2017

Grange Bowls Club

79 Sellheim St

Grange QLD 4051

Dave Clare’s art will be on display, and there will be games outside that everyone in the family can enjoy together.

RSVP to andrea@penelopeandpeter.com

Interviewed by June Perkins (part of an ongoing series on children’s poets)

Searching for Poems

Even when I am not writing
I am.

Seeing things like statues
in the park
makes me wonder
why they were put there.

A statue of  perhaps local Indigenous people
a family
at the water
is a tribute to first peoples
making them ever present.

Does it mourn the massacres
or celebrate their survival?

I need to find out more.

I like to stop
to photograph tiny details
like grasses of different
textures and maybe later
I will ask my friends who
know plants well – ‘What’s this one called?

I love the wildlife so close
everywhere in Brisbane city.
Someone was thoughtful at town planning
and valued keeping small pockets
of land for lakes
and ponds especially for the birds.

The swamp hens and the ibis are so close.

Sometimes one could
almost forget the traffic surrounds
and mini sky scrapers
going up and up.

Brisbane what is your hidden history
what are your hidden stories?

As as writer I search for your poems
try to make sense of you
as a place.

 

(c) June Perkins 26/04/2015