Imagine the tragedy that
Had befallen me
The boomerang flung through the air
No, it didn’t hit me
I walked through the long grass
No, a snake didn’t bite me
The sunset was blooming
The boys were on their gleaming motorbikes
No, they didn’t run me over
But the noise should’ve killed me.
I took it all in
And leaned on the fence
Right in front of me
I, of course, had forgotten
That I was on a farm
And when fences are silver
You don’t lean on them.
Dianne (Di) Bates has published 120+ books mostly for young readers. Some of her books have won children’s choice book awards. Di is a former teacher, schools’ performer and newspaper editor, and has worked as an editor on three children’s magazines. In 2008, Di was awarded The Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children’s Literature. Di lives near Wollongong, NSW, Australia, with her prize-winning YA author husband, Bill Condon.
Di is visiting Alphabet Soup today to tell us about a new anthology of children’s poetry coming out in 2016!
You are the commissioning editor for a poetry anthology for children coming out with Walker Books. What was your role in the book?
I spent many hours finding poems which were written by Australians and which would suit the themes I’d decided on for the anthology (such as sport, families, being a kid). I had to record the source of each poem (if it was in a single poet collection, an anthology, a magazine or if it was unpublished). I also tracked down contact addresses of the poets, gave the anthology a title (Our Home is Dirt by Sea) and then had to find a publisher for the whole anthology. This all sounds easy, but it took me several years.
Note: A poetry collection is written by a single poet; an anthology contains poems by numerous poets.
There are a lot of poems in an anthology. Do all the poets get paid if they have a poem published in an anthology?
Yes, poets are paid. As the editor, I get paid, as well. Unfortunately the publisher couldn’t include all the poems I wanted, because of financial limitations.
Does an editor ever change the words in a poem once it’s accepted for an anthology? Does the poet have a say in any changes?
I would never change the words — or the punctuation — in a poem without approval from the poet. I didn’t change any of the poems in my anthology.
Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming anthology?
Titled Our Home is Dirt by Sea, the anthology consists of 60 poems in the following categories: Australia, Mostly Me, Families, People, Animals, Sport, School, and Special Times. A few of the poems are lyrical, some make children think and some are humorous, but all are child-friendly and relatively short. The style of poems ranges from rhyming verse to free verse. I aimed for poems which make the reader feel some emotion when reading them, and for children to ‘see’ themselves or the world around them. Some of the poets are well-known such as Steven Herrick, Elizabeth Honey, Doug McLeod and Max Fatchen, but others are lesser known (to children) such as Robert Adamson, Kyle Seeburg, Andrew Leggett and Rodney Hall.
I have also compiled two other children’s poetry anthologies, but they are so far unpublished. And I’ve published a book of mad verse for children titled Erky Perky Silly Stuff (Five Senses Education).
Do you write poetry yourself? (Does that help when you are selecting poems for an anthology?)
Yes, I do write poems, but I don’t consider myself a very good poet. There are none of my poems in Our Home is Dirt by Sea, though there are a few by my husband, Bill Condon (who has published three collections). I know a lot about poetry from having a life-long love of poetry, teaching verse speaking, performing poetry and reading extensively. I’ve also run children’s poetry competitions and have a blog, Australian Children’s Poetry which showcases Australian children’s poets.
We’re nearing the end of our 2014 poetry festival. Before you start feeling despondent, here’s something to cheer you up.
WIN a book of fabulous poems — specifically, this one:
This poetry anthology was compiled by Julia Donaldson when she was the UK Children’s Laureate (2011–2013). The poems were selected because they are fantastic to read aloud by more than one voice — from two voices, up to a whole class! This is a book that you are guaranteed to want to share with a friend … or two … or three …
Scattered throughout the book are striking black-and-white lino-cut illustrations by Clare Melinksy.
Julia Donaldson has included a section called ‘Suggestions for performance’ at the back of the book. (If you are new to performing poetry in public, you’ll find this section very handy.)
This giveaway has now closed. The winner is Ernie Donato.
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.
We’re very pleased to have Lorraine Marwood visiting us at Alphabet Soup today. Lorraine writes verse novels and poetry collections for children and she has a new poetry collection coming out in 2015. Here’s the cover in all its glory!
Your earlier poetry collections have themes (‘notes’ and ‘animals’). Does your upcoming collection have a theme?
Yes my new book does have a theme — ‘Celebrations!’ And the title reflects this. Celebrating Australia: a year in poetry.
When you were writing poems for this collection , did you set out to write to a particular theme? Or did a theme emerge?
Yes the theme began the collection and I began to research those celebrations that I had little first hand knowledge about — the journey was fascinating.
How long did it take you to finish this book?
About 18 months, some poems had to be re-written completely to suit the overall nature of the collection.
How do you choose which poems to include (and which poems to leave out) for a collection?
Ah, a good question. I wrote in batches — for example I researched ideas and words for the Valentine’s day poem and after the initial draft my editor suggested it needed to be more grounded in what kids might do — this is where a refrain came in to make the poem flow: ‘cutie pie, cutie pie, my high five, be mine forever.’ It was hard trying to make something like Bastille day or United Nations day poetic. My editor suggested significant milestone celebrations in the Australian calendar and I chose some myself like ‘International dot day’ and ‘Talk like a pirate day.’
I tried to make a variety of formats for the poems, including some with refrains, even one that rhymes, some humourous, some grounded in image and emotion.
Do you have a tip for young writers who want to try writing in free verse?
I think a good way to begin is to think of using images. Here’s an example. Let’s liken the sky to:
a crinkle of aluminum foil or a smudge of vanilla yoghurt.
It can be set out like this:
Today the sky is like a crinkle of aluminum foil
Have a go! Look at the sky right now and think of an object or a colour in your fridge or kitchen and liken the sky to that — it will make the sky more visual, more sensory, more striking for the reader and that’s what we want, to be different and move away from cliché. Sometimes rhyming leads us into cliché.
Is there anything else you can tell us about Celebrating Australia: a year in poetry?
I loved the hard work put into my collection by my editor and the final finishing touches by graphic designer Amy Daoud. For me each poem was a mini story in itself — with its own research, own format, own rhythm and own beginning and end. I learnt so much about other culture’s celebrations and embraced the whole multi-cultural feel of Australia right now.
I am planning for a launch with the Bendigo, Goldfields library in February, can’t wait!
To find out more about Lorraine Marwood and her poetry and books, visit her website. And check out our other interviews with Lorraine here and here.
This is a book where the poems are all by an Australian poet, written in Australian bush style. But not everything is about Australia — like the poem called ‘The Poles’ (as in the north and south) and there’s a dinosaur section.
Some of the poems remind me of me (especially the poem about cleaning your room). As I do with poem books, I picked out the extra interesting looking ones first and then later I went back and read the others. Some of the ones that looked interesting at first were ‘The Sash’, ‘The Saucing of the Pies’ and ‘The Icecream that Hurt’. They were all very good poems.
My favourite poems in this collection are: ‘The Poles’ and ‘The Comforts of Home’. I like the ideas behind them and the rhythms, and they’re good to say out loud as well as to read to yourself in your head.
There aren’t many pictures in this book. The illustrations are black and white and they stand out well.
Children aged 6 and above will love this book — even adults, because the style of the poems suits children and adults. My number one tip is to read the poems out loud or get someone to read them out loud to you. I’d like to read more poems by Stephen Whiteside. I like these so much I might choose one of these poems for my next school Oracy exam.
This book is best read while eating pies with sauce.