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

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Virginia Lowe

In 2016 Virginia was awarded the Leila St John Award for services to children’s literature in Victoria. Here she is with the medal.

1. What is your earliest memory of poetry?

My mother was a pianist. She was always at the piano, and I could sing 80 nursery rhymes when I was two (so my baby book says). Then there were the Zoe McHenry songs as well. All of these are rhymes, of course, so my first introduction to poetry was via song. The piano was a player piano, and we had rolls of most of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas as well. As soon as I could read, I could sing these too – and loved them.

I think we also had to  AA Milne When We were Very Young and Now We are Six, as I vaguely remember ‘Jonathan Jo had a mouth like an O’, ‘Christopher Robin is saying his prayers’ (oh no, it’s called ‘Vespers’ isn’t it?) and ‘Buckingham Palace’ – but I read them so often to my own children later, that it’s hard to think back through that to my own childhood experiences.

We learned quite a lot at school, for which I am very grateful – they stay with you for ever. I remember some of Walter de la Mare’s, Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, and Shelley’s ‘The Cloud’ from elocution  in secondary school).

 

 

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

I have written poetry for as long as I can remember (at least since adolescence) and I am interested in children’s literature.  I have been a children’s and school librarian and lectured on children’s literature at uni, the book from my thesis is Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell, and for the last twenty years I have run a manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. Some of my poetry naturally turns out to be for children.

Published by Routledge in 2006.

 

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

Pretty much the same – it’s all about playing with words, and settling on just the right words in just the right order, whether it’s for adults or children. I do think children like rhyming poetry better. At least the poems I remember from school – the ones of Walter de la Mare for instance, all rhyme. And the favourites of my own children – by Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll and Doug McLeod for instance – also rhyme.

 

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

Emily Dickinson. I wouldn’t really want her isolated life, but in her few pithy words she can sum up a situation and an idea – it leaves me breathless sometimes! Such a philosopher.

 


5. Give five words to describe your poetry?

Narrative, socially aware. Take a simple idea and elevate it by cleverly twisting it and putting it in a poem. (Just needed some extra words for this one!)
6. Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

From ‘Baby Walking’

a baby, much too small

stands stolidly erect

then deliberately

loses balance

to step forwards

into his future

as a biped

 

7. What is your favourite form of poetry?

The really short pithy ones telling a philosophical or social truth – but I can rarely manage it myself.

 

8. Tell me about how you like to perform your poems?

Other people’s poems: I used to take a poetry basket into schools, with about 30 little objects in, and everyone in the class would have a chance to feel in and take something out and hold it while I recited/read ‘its’ poem.

I just read mine, when I have a chance.

 

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

In my study, at my computer. I rarely know what I think till I see what I say (as EM Foster had it…)

Sometimes I also think of a few lines, or solutions to lyrical problems, while I am swimming laps in the pool – there is pen and paper in the car for me to write them down as soon as I get out.

 

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

Keep writing poems. Some of them will turn out to be suitable for children, some not. And read, read, read. Get a name for yourself by publishing to the weekly prompts on Australian Children’s Poetry https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/

 

To find out more about Virginia

https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/?s=virginia+lowe.

https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/?s=virginia+lowe.

www.createakidsbook.com

 

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

 

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.)

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: J.R.Poulter/J.R.McRae

1.What is  your earliest memory of poetry?

I’m told, I knew all my nursery rhymes by heart before I went to Kindergarten. So someone, possibly my mother or maternal grandmother, taught me. My love of verse came from listening, firstly, to my father recite comic verses by Lewis Carroll and melodramatic poetry by Mrs Felicia Hemans [Casablanca, in particular, which he recited with flair] and, secondly, to my maternal grandfather recite The Man from Snowy River, and reading The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll.

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

I started writing poetry and illustrating my verse whilst in primary. Many of the poems were either narrative or humorous or both, which I read or wrote to my maternal grandmother, who is responsible for having encouraged this behaviour in her granddaughter..

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

That it is written for children should not in any way diminish the pleasure it can give adults. The drama of the ballad, from medieval Barbara Allen to Gothic Edgar Allan Poe and Walter de la Mare and the rollicking humour of poets like Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Ogden Nash are as entertaining for adults as they are for children. Verse is everywhere – it surrounds us – advertising jungles, verse on birthday cards, songs are poems set to music, movie and TV theme songs, national anthems, rally cries, and football team songs.

However, there are categories of poems that are more for the adult reader, rather than the child. The child grows into these latter verse forms – love poems, protest poems and the more convoluted literary forms. The more exposure to verse in its playful and dramatic aspects, the more the child is likely to explore the poetic medium for themselves as they mature.

 

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

Shakespeare! In my maternal grandparents’ home, Shakespeare and the Bible were quoted with equal regularity. They introduced me to the stories of the Shakespearean plays whilst I was in primary. The eloquence, drama and beautiful flow of Shakespearean language is something to aspire to, a ‘gold standard.’

5. What are five words that describe your poetry?

Broadly speaking – Dramatic, rhythmic, storyful, humorous, imaginative

 

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

From Babi Yar, published in Quadrant, December 2011

Verse 4 and last line –

Deep inside collective mind

The forest grows upon mankind.

It hides the children clinging to

The bones of mothers, fathers, kin

Silent as the night within

At Babi Yar.

 

 7. What is your favourite form of poetry?

All forms!:)

 

8. Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration? And or Tell me about how you like to perform your poems?

Yes. Over 100 of my poems have been illustrated by wonderful artist/illustrator collaborators in our Poster Poem Project. I have illustrated a number of my own poems as well.

I love the added visual dimension that illustration gives the written word.

Doing dramatic readings is a passion!

Speech and Drama lessons in high school taught me how to better bring to vivid life a dramatic or humorous reading. It introduced me to the flow of language in a new way and gave me a deeper appreciation of the ‘sounds’ words make, how often words echo their own sense [onomatopoeia].

It is also a great advantage in ‘proofing’ my own book texts, whether  rhyming or in prose.  Flow is important in telling story – pause and emphasis give heightened dramatic effect; a good rhythm carries the story along, especially in verse.

 

 

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

Anywhere and any time the inspiration hits!

 

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

Hopefully, they will have never lost their ‘inner child,’ the ability to see the world with eyes open wide and wondering.

Revisit the poets you loved as a child, back as far as favourite nursery rhymes. Think about why you loved them and how they got their message /story across to you. Start by challenging yourself with a limerick version of a nursery rhyme or a ballad form retelling of a fairytale or fable. Read what you write out loud to test the flow. Further test what you have written on children.  If they respond enthusiastically, [and not because they are your kids and know they better!] you have nailed it.

 

J.R.Poulter is a Multi-awarded writer /poet with 30+ traditionally published children’s and education books in Australia, UK, USA and Europe, a former senior educator, librarian, book reviewer, she once worked in a circus. Awards include Children’s Choice, New Zealand, Top Ten Children’s & YA Books, NZ, Premier’s Recommended Reading List, Australia, Simone Wood Award, USA. J.R. teaches poetry & prose and heads Word Wings collaborative, 50+ creatives from 20+ countries. As J.R.McRae, she is an awarded, internationally published poet, fiction / YA writer and artist. Works include novels Free Passage and Cats’ Eyes, Picturebook/YA crossovers Dream of the Fox Women, Tatter Wings and The Dolls’ House in the Forest. International anthologies containing her poetry, stories, art include – Colours of Refuge, Mytho, Musings, A Mosaic, Best of Vines Leaves, Trust and Treachery, 100 Stories for Queensland, Basics of Life, Quadrant Book of Poetry, 2000-2010, The Spirit of Poe, Poe-It and Guide to Sydney Rivers.

 

You can find out more about her works here:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/wordwings

www.wordwings.wix.com/publishing

https://www.facebook.com/WordWingsPublishing/

 

(Interview part of a series of blogs, Ten things about Poetry and Me, by June Perkins)

 

 

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)

Innovation

9781741140156

I am currently trying simultaneous narratives as suggested by Hazel Smith in The Writing Experiment, Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing – and having a great time innovating my poetry practice with this kind of structure.

I love the idea of a poem that can read in three ways!

I can’t share this work yet as I am submitting it to places for publication or competitions, but yesterday was a fabulous poetry morning, and I drafted a long piece with a series of poetic variations drawing upon some of my favourite plants and music.

How do you innovate your poetry practice?

 

#innovativewriting #useful #poetry #story #novel working with #structure #sound #surrealism #realism #satire

Breathe

brokenchurch_april2011_0447

There’s a lady with coloured birds
who knows how to breathe
long and deep
from head to toe
all through her body.

She told me it’s easy to take the
thoughts and put them aside
good or indifferent, stressed or
restless and
just breathe

in and out watching the breath
aware of the presence
that keeps us alive
taking in the oxygen
forgetting all else but this
breath.

She tells us not to sleep
as we become aware of each toe
and each part of our hand

And our chests rising and falling
our thoughts are not welling up stillness
except for the breath.

But someone is snoring because
she has become so calm
but that is alright too
as she is free for a moment

from the broken tarp rooves
wind gusts
rubbish
insurance companies
quotes
and all that interrupts
the breath

And she breathes…

In goes the pain
but out comes a dream
a dream of a calm sea
and a green rainforest
but she must let go even of this
future dream
and breathe.

Sinking in as she leans
on a chair and feels all the tension
drift away
fall away and she can fly
in a way
she can swim in a way

With the breath . . .

By June Perkins

Hot Day Jazz

Trumpet Boy 92013-05-011

With the current heat wave on in Brisbane and several parts of Australia, it seemed like a good day to share this poem.

Hot day like a trumpet blast
of melodic riffs that rise but
never quite fall;

each note finally dripping into
a sweat drop
going flip flop on
the pavement.

Overheated notes trying to
keep the jazz afloat
fingers that won’t stop
pushing the buttons
in the search for cool.

Calling out for the cool change
seeking the release from the water key
brass melt away
hot day.

Trumpet make the people
rain dance
pump the pavement
with their call for cool.

(c) June Perkins