Posted in interviews, poetry

100 Ways to Fly: an interview with Michelle Taylor

Michelle TaylorMEET THE AUTHOR

Michelle Taylor is an award-winning poet and has been writing and publishing for over twenty years. Michelle tells young people that poetry is like making magic with words, and her sessions typically involve audience participation and a lot of interaction. Her latest book is 100 Ways to Fly, her third poetry collection for children.

From Michelle:

Poetry is not meant to be scary! It’s the opposite! It can make you laugh, make you feel normal, even brave, especially if you feel sad or alone. When I set out to write 100 Ways To Fly I wanted this book to be a little different to the others. After five years of careful crafting, multiple test runs of poems with children and exercising my imagination muscles until they ached, I bring you these 100 (or so) poems! Poems to celebrate our amazing senses and sense of humour, poems to twist your tongues and thoughts, poems about creatures that live in the land of nonsense. 

We are very excited to welcome Michelle Taylor to Alphabet Soup today!


100 ways to fly. A poetry book for children.When you were putting together 100 Ways to Fly, how did you decide which poems to include, and what order to put them in?
That’s one of the trickier jobs. For 100 Ways to Fly I set out to write lots of different kinds of poems – ones about our senses, scary poems, gross poems and nonsense poems, serious poems to help us feel more confident. I did what I do with every collection. After writing for about a year, I printed all the poems and laid them out all over the lounge room floor. Then I started to look for patterns. It’s messy but it’s very exciting. From here I saw the themes that kept coming up and these formed the sections of the book such as, ‘The Word Zoo’, ‘How Many Noses In a Nostril?’, ‘A Pocket Full of Poems’ and so on. Then I could think about which sections I needed to write more poems for. The hardest part is the order. For this I imagine being the reader of my collection. What I want is to start on a high and be hooked in straight away. I also want to end on a hopeful note that invites me to go away and keep reading or writing poems. Then all the poems in between need to go up and down, a bit like a rollercoaster to keep me reading through the whole book.

How do you like to go about drafting a concrete poem (a shape poem)?
I don’t have any rules for a concrete poem but I am very visual and I love art. So for each poem I think to myself, ‘What shape or form will work best?’. A concrete poem is just an exaggerated way of echoing the words with a shape on the page. A concrete poem seems to help my brain ‘get’ certain ideas better and as a bonus I can enjoy looking at it. I had fun writing ‘Summer Lies’, finding shapes for each separate idea as I wrote the poem. It’s an example of how just a few spaces can bring words to life. With ‘Hope’ I wanted to see what hope might look like. We talk about hope a lot but what might symbolise it? Even if I don’t remember all the words – I don’t have a great memory! – I know the feeling of that poem and think of going up the steps.

Do you have a favourite from this collection for performing/reading aloud to kids?
A favourite poem to read is ‘I Wish For You’ because it’s like giving a present to the people listening, and afterwards I invite kids to write their own wish poem for someone they care about. I naturally like sharing poems that get big reactions, so the section ‘Spooky and Sick’ is very popular, and we also have a load of fun when we do the actions for ‘Boom Crash Poem’. We do things like patting ourselves on the back and giving ourselves big hugs!

Your collection includes rhyming and unrhymed poetry. Do you find one comes more naturally than the other?
Rhyming is more of a challenge. When I say rhyme I mean rhyme at the end of lines or end rhyme. Some of my poems contain end rhyme. For ‘The Termite Rap’ I deliberately chose end rhyme schemes to reinforce what this poem is about – the repetitive sounds of termites! Internal rhymes come more naturally for me though. These are similar sounds occurring within and across the lines and which have less tendency to follow a pattern. Maybe that’s because I’m not so fond of rules, or because some of my poems are expressing uncertainty and choice and internal things like our feelings.

Do you have a writing tip for young poets?
Be kind to yourself. Let the writing of a poem be your friend. It may not be perfect or easy. It might take lots of tries. Your teacher or another reader may not like it the same way you do, or they may not think it’s important at all. That will happen so you need to be prepared for this because it’s a normal part of writing. Sometimes the best writing is the writing that gives us a way to think or talk about confusing or hard or wonderful things. The main thing is to start, write something, write anything and begin! Who knows what it might lead to!

Michelle Taylor signing copies of 100 Ways to Fly.


Awesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

100 ways to fly. A poetry book for children.

Click here for a review of the book. (Review by Julie Thorndyke for the Reading Time website.)

Click here for Teacher’s Notes.

Click here to visit Michelle Taylor’s website.

100 Ways to Fly by Michelle Taylor is out now! Ask for it at your nearest bookshop or library. 

Posted in poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Visiting poet: Sally Murphy

Sally murphy

Do Not Forget Australia coverToday 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.

"Pearl Verses the World"

toppling (cover)

Here is a poem I wrote about writing a poem:

WRITING A POEM

Kids crying

kids sighing

kids chewing pens

or writing.

Giggling

and wriggling

and impatiently jiggling.

Passing notes

scrumpling and crumpling pieces of paper

as the clock tick tock ticks

and Miss Imms paces the room

waiting for our poems to appear.

See how I wrote the poem (and maybe write one of your own) here.

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.

You can learn more about Sally Murphy, her books and poetry by visiting her website and by checking out this earlier post on Soup Blog.  

Interview with Sally Murphy © 2013 Sally Murphy and Rebecca Newman https://soupblog.wordpress.com