Today have a talented visitor — Sally Murphy, writer of children’s books and poetry. You might have read some of her poems in Alphabet Soup magazine and she also has two verse novels published. Her latest books include Meet Mary MacKillop and Do Not Forget Australia (these aren’t poetry books but they are good reads!). Sally is visiting today as part of our Poetry Festival.
When did you first start writing poetry?
I don’t remember — it feels like I always wrote poetry. I loved playing with words and making up stories from when I was really little, and as soon as I learnt to write I wrote them down. In primary school I wrote poetry in class, and also entered writing competitions and wrote poems for my family. My first published poetry was in school magazines and I remember also being published in the local paper as part of writing competitions.
What sort of poetry do you like writing?
Most of my poetry is what you would call free verse — unrhymed, almost narrative poems. But I also love playing with rhyme.
What sort of poetry do you like reading?
Good poetry. I don’t care what the structure is, I just like to read a poem that makes me go “ooooooh”. Usually it does that by saying something almost perfectly in a way that makes me think.
Where can we find your poetry?
In books — I’ve had two verse novels published by Walker Books (Pearl Verses the World and Toppling), a rhyming picture book (Pemberthy Bear) and a collection of performance poetry (Assembly). I’ve also been published in magazines including The School Magazine and the wonderful Alphabet Soup.
Here is a poem I wrote about writing a poem:
WRITING A POEM
kids chewing pens
and impatiently jiggling.
scrumpling and crumpling pieces of paper
as the clock tick tock ticks
and Miss Imms paces the room
waiting for our poems to appear.
How often do you write?
I try to write every day, though I will confess it doesn’t always happen. But I carry a notebook wherever I go, and try to snatch even just five minutes to write whenever I can.
Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper or straight onto the computer?
Pen and paper, when writing poetry. I think it helps to connect with my creative side, and allows me freedom to just write it all down without worrying about spelling or anything. Then I can cross out and rearrange and experiment. I also have sets of magnetic words which I like to play with to create poems.
Your number one tip for budding poets?
Write a lot. Don’t worry if it isn’t all perfect — have fun messing about with words. The more you write the better your writing will get. Oh, and I know you only asked for one tip, but it goes hand in hand: read a lot. If you want to write poetry, read a lot of poetry.
Sally’s Poetry Prescription
IF YOU’RE HAVING A CRANKY DAY — read the following poem:
I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
The language is a little old fashioned (it was written in the nineteenth century!) but the image of thousands of daffodils always makes me smile.