I love pockets, and the bits and pieces carried around in them (except tissues, after the washing machine—I don’t love those). Carrying a poem around in your pocket is fun. You can read it to yourself if you need cheering up. You can read it to someone else if they need cheering up. You can give it to someone—as a Poem in Your Pocket Day present. And you can even use it for inspiration to write your own poem.
The first poem I ever remember learning (if you don’t count nursery rhymes) was The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson. My mum used to recite it whenever we went to the park and we begged her to push us on the swings.
The first poem I remember learning at school was Forgiven by AA Milne. And that’s the poem I have in my pocket today.
by AA Milne
I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day …
And Nanny let my beetle out—
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out—
She went and let my beetle out—
And Beetle ran away.
She said she didn’t mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches and she just took off the lid,
She said that she was sorry, but it’s difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you’ve mistaken for a match.
She said that she was sorry, and I really mustn’t mind,
As there’s lots and lots of beetles which she’s certain we could find,
If we looked about the garden for the holes where beetles hid—
And we’d get another match-box and write BEETLE on the lid.
We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
“A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!”
It was Alexander Beetle I’m as certain as can be,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it must be Me,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought he ought to say:
“I’m very very sorry that I tried to run away.”
And Nanny’s very sorry too for you-know-what-she-did,
And she’s writing ALEXANDER very blackly on the lid,
So Nan and Me are friends, because it’s difficult to catch
An excited Alexander you’ve mistaken for a match.
Do you know a poem you’d like to put in your pocket? If you had a poem in your pocket, would you keep it a secret? Or would you read it to someone?
Michael Rosen’s poetry is fantastic. Check out this interview on Jackie Hosking’s blog:
This week please welcome Michel Rosen to the blog. Thanks Michael for taking the time to answer my questions. What poets did you enjoy reading as a child? Before I was about 12 or 13, I’m not sure that I did really like the poetry I heard or read. But around 12 I heard Louis Macneice’s poem about the unborn child, Browning’s Last Duchess and then not long after some DH Lawrence poems like Snake, Bat, etc…I think what I was responding to was the … Read More
Today is ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’! And we’re thrilled to have a wonderful poet visiting the blog today: Jackie Hosking. You can find one of her poems in the current issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (issue 6).
Welcome, Jackie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a Nigerian born, Cornish, Australian. How can that be? Well, my parents are Cornish, they were living in Nigeria when I was born, they moved to Victoria, Australia when I was ten where I became an Australian Citizen. I left my parents’ home with my kitten, Gizzy when I was 18 years old. Gizzy lived to be 21 years old and I wrote a poem, ‘My Cat,’ in her memory. Now I live in a beautiful seaside town with my puppy Rex. Rex is a Blue Staffy and he wrecks (Rex) everything. I love walking by the sea and in the bush and discover many of my poems this way. I also love to read.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry for about 25 years. I wrote my very first poem when I was 17. I have been writing for children for about 5 years.
You seem to love rhyming poetry in particular. Can you tell us why?
I grew up reading poems by A.A. Milne. He wrote the ‘Winnie The Pooh’ books, and I always enjoyed discovering when a poem rhymed. I thought it was really clever and so doubly satisfying. Even though I love rhyme, I like the rhyme to be incidental, a bonus, not the whole focus but the icing on the cake.
Do you prefer writing poems to writing stories?
I much prefer to write a poem. I think it might be because I have a short attention span. I love how a poem can condense thoughts, feelings and descriptions into a powerful piece of writing. Poems are bite sized stories to be consumed greedily.
Why do you like writing poems for children?
I think because I never really grew up. Also I think when I write a poem, I try to write with a fresh eye, a child’s eye. Instead of having a bird’s eye view, I write with a child’s eye view. I have also written poems for adults, a few serious ones but mostly funny ones for parents with small children.
Did you like poetry as a child?
I didn’t really enjoy reading adult poetry as a child but I always enjoyed the children’s poets. I’ve mentioned A.A. Milne and there’s also C.J. Dennis, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl.
Who are some children’s poets you admire today?
Of course, all of those mentioned above, as well as – Lorraine Marwood, Meredith Costain, Claire Saxby, Sally Murphy, Janeen Brian, Stephen Whiteside, Sherryl Clark and Edel Wignell, just to name a few.
Do you have a favourite style of poem when you are writing?
I like to think about my poetry as an artist might think of a painting. Poetry, to me, is painting with words. I’ve written all types of poetry, funny, sad, pretty, long, short, limericks but what is most important, for me, is the rhythm or the meter. It has to be perfect and I enjoy the challenge of getting it that way.
Have you ever done anything unusual with one of your poems? (e.g. purposely left one on a train … )
Funny that you should mention a train. Two of my poems are travelling around Melbourne on the trains as part of the ‘Moving Galleries’ project. It’s such fun when someone contacts me to let me know that they’ve seen one. I also entered a very personal (and a little bit rude!) valentine’s poem into a competition where it ended up being included in the anthology.
Do you have any advice for kids who want to write poetry?
Think of poetry like making gravy – it needs to be reduced. It needs to be the essence of what you want to say. Less is always more where poetry is concerned. Use strong, sparkly words, become friends with metaphor and simile and don’t be afraid to be unique. Never use clichés – never say that something was ‘as cold as ice’. Find a new way like … the water was as cold as money.
Ideas can come from anywhere. Walking stirs up lots of ideas, as do my pets. Nature is a favourite, the flowers, the birds, the beach. I love to capture all of these things and display them on the page.
Today is ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’. Would you share one of your poems with us today?
Here’s one I prepared earlier …
‘I had a little poem’
I had a little poem
I held it in my hand
It whispered muffled secrets
Only I could understand
I had a little poem
I kept it in a locket
And every time I went outside
I popped it in my pocket
As we mentioned earlier, April is National Poetry Month in the US, and we’ve borrowed the idea because we rather like poetry. Later in the week we hope to have a real live poet visiting the blog, so be sure to check back!
In the meantime, here is a fantastic book by Paul B. Janeczko (illustrated by Chris Raschka).
This book is a collection of poems with a brief explanation about the rules for each form included. 29 forms are covered – some of them are ones you might already recognise, like Haiku, Tanka, Cinquain, Villanelle and List Poem. Perhaps you can find a copy of A Kick in the Head at your library. Be inspired to write your own poem, and then you can carry it around with you on Thursday for Poem In Your Pocket Day! (Or leave a short poem in our comments, and we’ll pretend it’s an online pocket!)
Here’s a couplet I wrote after reading A Kick in the Head:
I wish that it were chocolate cake –
but CAULIFLOWER is in to bake.*
*Actually, I love cauliflower cheese. It’s just that sometimes I’d rather have cake …
This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.