poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Visiting poet – Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian

Today we have Janeen Brian visiting Soup Blog to talk about her poetry and poetry-writing. (Janeen also writes picture books, short stories, nonfiction and novels. She’s a busy writer!)

When did you first start writing poetry?

I can’t remember writing anything much at all as a child, so I’d guess I began writing poetry in my late twenties or early thirties.

What sort of poetry do you like writing best of all?

Both rhyming and free verse. I tend to use rhyme for more of my humorous pieces, but not exclusively. I love the word-manipulation, the struggle and the joy of creating rhyme. Free verse excites me too, but for a different reason. There, I aim to convey something to the reader by way of a new point-of view, a twist at the end, a particular rhythmic pattern, or a feeling. I love selecting the right word. It can take hours, or longer. But when it does — oh, what a feeling!

What sort of poetry do you like reading?

I love reading ballads, humorous, quirky, clever verses, verse novels, free verse and rhyming verse. I prefer reading children’s poetry because that’s the main area in which I write, but I also read adult poetry and have also written in that field.

Where can we find your poetry?

My poetry has been included in the following anthologies:

  • 100 Australian Poems for Children
  • There was a big fish (limericks)
  • Christmas Crackers
  • Fractured Fairytales and Ruptured Rhymes
  • Four and Twenty Lamingtons
  • Petrifying Poems
  • Stay Loose Mother Goose
  • Off the Planet
  • Vile Verse
  • Putrid Poems
  • Side by Side
  • Machino Supremo

(Tadpoles in the Torrens due for release September, 2013. Our Home is Dirt by Sea due for release 2014)

By jingo!Books of my own poetry:

  • By Jingo!
  • Silly Galah!
  • Nature’s Way A-Z of biodiversity.

(Our Village in the Sky due for release 2014)

Rhyming picture books:

  • I’m a dirty dinosaur
  • Meet Ned Kelly
  • I Spy Mum!
  • I Spy Dad!
  • The super parp-buster!
  • Shirl and the Wollomby Show
  • Columbia Sneezes.

Over 150 poems have been published nationally and internationally in the following magazines:

  • The School Magazine
  • the Victorian Education Magazines
  • Spider
  • Ladybird
  • Ladybug
  • Contagious.

Comma Dog © Janeen Brian

There’s a comma
of a dog
lying on the mat.
Dozing belly and
curl of tail
ears no longer
playtime exclamation marks
eyes closed as hyphens
and soft brackets of sighs
snuffling from
that comma of a dog
in a circle
of sun.

Published in The School Magazine: Orbit. May 2012

How often do you write?

I write every day. It might be my diary, my ideas book, some research notes, a page of practice writing, a draft of a poem or story or rewriting earlier drafts of work.

Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper or straight onto the computer?

Note-taking, ideas gathering, early paragraphs or lines of poetry are mostly done by hand with pen and paper (an exercise book), but I gradually take the work onto the computer and work from there on.

What’s your number one tip for budding poets?

Choose a book of poetry. Write out several poems that you like and then work out how the poet has written them. Think and discover. And practise.

Janeen’s Poetry Prescription corner

IF YOU’RE HAVING A SHAMBLY DAY — read the following poem:

‘Cat Burial’ (from Note on the Door by Lorraine Marwood).

Some books by Janeen Brian

For even more about Janeen Brian and her books and poetry — visit her website!

Interview with Janeen Brian © 2013 Janeen Brian and Rebecca Newman https://soupblog.wordpress.com
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:


Kids crying

kids sighing

kids chewing pens

or writing.


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
poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Tuesday Challenge – A list poem

Today’s challenge is to write a list poem. A list poem can be rhymed or unrhymed and usually involves a list (of course!) of items or activities linked to a theme or the title. I like list poems with a twist at the end and I also love the ones that include repetition (maybe each line of the poem begins the same way).

Check out this list poem Shel Silverstein wrote called ‘Sick’.

Here’s a site with some ideas for writing list poems. It even includes a ‘fill in the box’ method for writing your own poem. I tried it out and here’s what I came up with. (Mine rhymes but yours doesn’t have to!).

What’s in my head? by Rebecca Newman

Ideas for my project on Captain Cook

Places to search for my library book

Multiple strategies for tough maths questions

A list of birthday gift suggestions

The quickest way to pass Level 4

Directions to get to the lolly store

Twenty two quotes from Pencil of Doom!

(Too much to remember to clean my room.)

What would you write a list poem about? We’d love to read yours — if it’s OK with your parents/teacher, post your list poems in the comments below!*

~ Rebecca (Soup Blog’s editor) 

*G-rated poems by grownups also welcome, so ask your teacher or your grandma to join in …

poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Time for a poem: Seal Lullaby

Seal Lullaby by Rudyard Kipling

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow.
Oh, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas.


We’re sharing this poem as part of the Soup Blog Poetry Festival — until the end of August we’ll be posting poems, interviews with children’s poets, tips for reading and writing poetry, and Poetry Prescriptions (poetry is good for the soul!).

Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Tuesday Challenge – a 5-senses poem

autumn leavesToday’s challenge is to write a 5-line poem using your five senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. You might like to write a poem describing apples, a season, or your favourite colour (or your least favourite colour!).

Here’s one our editor (Rebecca) wrote:

Autumn is orange, red and brown

It sounds like rice bubbles for breakfast

It tastes like apple pie

It smells like freshly dug earth

It feels like skipping into the wind

Perhaps you could write a 5-senses poem about a feeling or an idea. (Check out some interesting Senses Poems here.)

We’d love to read your 5-senses poems — if it’s OK with your parents or teacher, post yours in the comments below!

poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Visiting poet: Jackie Hosking

Jackie HoskingToday we welcome Jackie Hosking who is visiting as part of the Soup Blog Poetry Festival. We’re big fans of Jackie’s poetry and you might remember reading some of her poems in Alphabet Soup magazine — like ‘Paperwork’, ‘The Moon’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’, and ‘I Wish I Were a Dragon’.

I wrote my first poem when I was 17 years old. It was called ‘Consequence’, a rhyming nonsense poem that made the use of opposites. It began …

A Christmas tree stood on the beach

Within my grasp but out of reach

What sort of poetry do you like writing?

Best of all I like writing rhyming and rhythmical poetry. I’ve tried to write free verse poems and I’ve enjoyed the process but rhyme and meter suit me best of all.

What sort of poetry do you like reading?

I like to ready any poems that make me go aaaahhhhh …

Where could a reader find your poetry?

My poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies, websites, on a train, educational texts and next year in a picture book titled The Croc and the Platypus.

You can read some more of my poems on my blog.

How often do you write?

Not as often as I should probably — but when I do I’m so absorbed that many hours can pass without me realising it. It’s really exciting when this happens.

Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper or straight onto the computer?

Straight onto the computer, though I will record ideas if I’m out on a walk with no computer in site. Love my phone for this!

Your number one tip for budding poets?

Write about what moves YOU. There is nothing more compelling than reading a piece that was written with passion.

Jackie’s Poetry Prescription:

IF YOU’RE HAVING A GRUMPY DAY — read the following poem! (I wrote ‘The Quarrel’ as it’s perfect for stamping your grumpies out.)


The giants are moaning

And mumbling and groaning

They’re grumbling with all of their might

They’re stamping and stomping

And ranting and romping

They’re all in the mood for a fight

The giants are raving

And whining and waving

They’re snatching the clouds; every one

They’re howling and wailing

And flapping and flailing

And heaving the clouds at the sun

The giants are lurching

And stumbling and searching

For weapons to settle the score

They’re ploughing and plunging

And digging and lunging

For dinosaur bones from before

They’re kicking and thrashing

And slicing and slashing

Electrical tension is frightening

They’re whacking and whizzing

And static is fizzing

Exploding the sky with its lightening

The giants are jumping

While jeering and thumping

The dinosaur bones as they plunder

And the flash in the night

Well might give you a fright

But just wait for the crack of the thunder

© Jackie Hosking

Thank you, Jackie! If you’d like to learn more about Jackie Hosking and her poetry, check out her website and this earlier post on Soup Blog.

Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Tuesday Challenge … limerick

On Tuesdays, until the end of August, we’ll post a tiny poem challenge for you. So here’s today’s challenge!

Write your own limerick and then read it out to someone to see if you can make them laugh … [OK, groaning counts].

A limerick has five lines — three long ones and two short ones — and a particular rhythm and rhyme. Limericks are often nonsensical and funny. Do you know any? Here are two we like:


There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said ‘It is just as I feared! —
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

– Edward Lear


An ambitious young fellow named Matt
Tried to parachute using his hat.
Folks below looked so small
As he started to fall,
Then got bigger and bigger and SPLAT!

Graham Lester

Would you like some help writing your first limerick? You’ll find some instructions here.

If you think your limerick is a humdinger, ask a parent to email it to us and we’ll post it here! (If we post your limerick, we’ll only publish your first name, age, and state – or country if you are outside Australia.)


This limerick was written for Leith’s cousin Angus’s 2nd birthday card (good idea, Leith!).

There once was a boy named Gus,
Who drove to school on a bus.
He ate all the cake,
And got a belly-ache,
And made a terrible fuss.

by Leith , age 7,  QLD
poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Time for a poem: Old Man Platypus

Old Man Platypus by AB (Banjo) Paterson

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown —
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.
Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!


Today is the first day of the Soup Blog’s Poetry Festival — until the end of August we’ll be posting poems, interviews with children’s poets, tips for reading and writing poetry, and Poetry Prescriptions.