Last year at the Perth Writers Festival family Day I got a free magnet board and enough letter magnets to spell my name. This year got a sheet of magnet words. Today I finally opened both – and wrote a poem.
If you’ve been dropping in regularly then you’ll know that all month I’ve been hosting visting bloggers who have been dropping in to help me celebrate the release of Toppling by telling me (and you) what it is that they like about chidlren’s poetry. Please welcome today Jackie Hosking, poet, chidlren’s writer and editor of the Pass It On newsletter. Welcome Jackie.
Why I like poetry.
I’ve always liked white space.
I’ve found, over time, that I am more likely to read a thing if there is less of it. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy reading novels, because I do, but I definitely enjoy reading pages that are broken up into lots of paragraphs more than pages that look like slabs of ants fighting for a parking space. With this in mind, as a reader, the verse novel suits me very well. As a writer, on the other hand, I find the verse novel to be somewhat tricky because I like to write in rhyme. It seems, for me that I am better at novel verse, than I am at verse novels, so thank goodness for authors like Sally Murphy who are able to write them for me.
Pearl Verses the World is the fifth verse novel that I’ve read and I loved it. I loved that Pearl preferred not to write in rhyme because life is not all hats and cats. (By the way I’ve written a couple of rhyming poems about cats but none about hats so thanks for that pearl, Pearl – I’ll get right onto it.) Did you notice my use of humour just then? It was very subtle but I think you’ll agree that it was definitely there. Sally uses Pearl’s aversion to rhyme as a way to add some comic relief to what is a very serious story and I think that this is probably key. While rhyming poetry can be a tool to express ideas of a serious nature, many of my poems aren’t funny at all, free verse tends to lend itself to such matters in a smoother fashion.
Toppling, Sally’s second verse novel published by Walker Books, tells another serious story. It’s an important book because illness does not just occur in an adult world. Writing such a story as a verse novel, with plenty of white space, allows the reader to take lots of breaths allowing the story to be delivered gently, like a lullaby.
I admire writers of verse novels because of their ability to pare down story to its essential elements. Rhymers do this too but in a more ordered fashion and such is the beauty of verse, free or otherwise – the VERSEatility of it all.
Thanks Sally for allowing me to share why I like poetry with your readers and for saving me the trouble of trying to write a verse novel of my own, thus giving me the freedom to write another rhyming poem about cats…
This one’s called – Bedraggled
A paw in a puddle
A cat in a muddle
She tiptoes in vain
to get out of the rain
And howls at the door
to loudly complain
Wet to the skin
Looking comically thin
We fluff her and puff her
and wrap her in towels
ignoring her howls as
she wriggles and squirms
we each take our turn
to ensure that her fur
is as soft as her purr
And if you have a children’s rhyming poem or story that just won’t behave itself, you can contact Jackie’s rhyming manuscript editing service via her blog http://www.jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/
Editor/Compiler “PASS IT ON”
Thanks for that jackie. I love your poem – and laughed at your jokes, too!
One of my favorite things about children’s poetry is the beginner’s mind. Babies acquire up to 40 words a day. As the baby grows she will share her word collection: “Da Da” and “Ma Ma.” In the next step, she will actively start collecting words by asking, “What is it?” Sometimes children don’t even need to know what it is, to appreciate a word.
When my son was three, we moved to a new house. After checking that I had packed his toys, he asked, “What else are we taking?” I said we would take our couch, chairs, and tables. Then he asked, “But, Mom, what about the furniture?”
Young children appreciate the sounds of words. To my son, “furniture” sounded like a grown-up word. It was big enough to correspond with the huge task of moving a household. Children like the way that words snap, tickle, and slide over each other. They enjoy the musical sounds of rhymes.
Besides sound, poetry deals in details. Nothing is too small to be captured in a poem. The answers to “what is it” are the details of life. A child begins by naming the things around her: banana, apple, a spoon, a cat or dog. In poetry, the details are so specific that readers are compelled to step closer to see them just as we draw near to examine a small painting. So, when poets write about the red-winged black bird or a giant panda, readers are brought closer to the natural world.
As children grow they continue to gather more words. Words become a basic part of their relationships in life. A child might talk to his Mom different from how he talks with his best friend. A boy can tell his Mom that he was scared at a movie. But he will not admit this to his friend.
Poets use words to crack open silence. Then we gather the silence back around the words in the art of the pause. This creates a frame to showcase the language. A poem may be built on the tension between pauses and the right words. And the right words are arranged on scaffolding that disappears in the poem, especially in free verse poetry.
Choosing exactly the right words is part of the thrift of poetry. Words are chosen and spent with great care. Non-poets will collect and discard words to participate in a common vocabulary of a community. But a poet will not limit herself. She collects words that lay on the fringes of society. Poets extend a democratic hand to any word. Then they save it and wait to use it in the right poem.
By the time a child reaches adulthood, the world can begin to look a bit tarnished and old. Adult poets try to find new ways of looking at our old world. This brings us back to the beginner’s mind. When it is applied to poetry, this is the stuff of miracles. Anything can happen.
Thanks for dropping in Laura and for sharing such insightful thoughts. Laura Evans has published more than five dozen poems in literary journals. Her blog at http://www.teachpoetryk12.com/ introduces newbie
children’s poets to the world of children’s poetry. And she reviews poetry books for teachers and parents.
What fun to be guest blogging on Sally’s site on what I like about children’s poetry!
I like the zing of verse novels; their raw emotional intensity. They look just like other novels sitting on the shelf, but open them and you find words, carefully chosen words strung together in free verse with the power to crumple your heart and open your mind.
I discovered YA verse novels while working in a school library, first Steven Herrick’s, then Margaret Wild and Catherine Bateson’s titles. I was amazed how these authors could tell such compelling tales using so few words and so much white space. On the first page the reader is introduced to the characters, the narrator and the situation and then quickly flung into the action. The reader feels a part of this wild ride. It can be a quick read because of the economy of words, but intense.
Children love poetry written for them because it speaks of their experiences, their lives. Think of Laura Purdie Salas’ Stampede!: Poems to celebrate the wild side of school. And to have these poems read aloud or performed! Audiences quickly make the connection that poetry is life captured on the page (or stage). Congratulations to Sally, who’s adding to the genre with Toppling.
My challenge: add a poetry wall to your home, your school, your place of work. Encourage people to write their poems in ink, on postcards or post-its, or project poems onto the surface. Use magnetic poetry. Poetry forces you to clarify your thoughts.
Just like that pure moment when you bite into your first summer watermelon!
Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts, Alison!
As you’ll know, if you’ve been following my blog, I love to write poetry for children. From a quick rhyme to a verse novel, I love the way that poetry allows a depth of expression it’s harder to capture in prose. And kids like reading and listening to poetry, too.
I find that when I’m busy in my non-writing life, I can often catch ten minutes to write a first draft of a poem, wheras I may not have time to write something longer. Of coruse, whilst it sounds easy to use thsoe ten minutes to write a poem there is always a need to then take time later to revise and rework. No first draft is ever complete.
If you are trying to get your children’s poetry published, you may find this article useful. Whilst it does not focus on technique, it has good general advice about getting started and finding markets. Well worth a read.