Monday, July 28, 2008

Week Three

Doug MacLeod

My brother had a puffer fish,
He kept it on his desk.
A slimy little puffer fish,
Balloon-like and grotesque.
And if you took it by surprise
Or loudly slammed the door,
It puffed till it was twice the size
That it had been before.

One day, we found the puffer fish
Was absent from its bowl.
Our cat looked rather devilish,
For she had downed it whole.
And how my wicked brother laughed
When pussy said, ‘Mia-ow!’
Inflated like a rubber raft
Then loudly went kerpow.

Doug says: I apologise to cat-lovers for this poem. I am one myself, but I’m afraid the image of a cat expanding like a rubber raft was too good to pass up.

‘Puffer Fish’ is from a collection of humorous poems called Spiky, Spunky, My Pet Monkey (Puffin 2004). Other books of Doug’s include Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns, Tumble Turn and Kevin the Troll. Doug has also worked on many popular TV shows, including SeaChange and Kath and Kim.


Rhyming poems are lots of fun, but in fact are extremely difficult to write well. You need a good sense of rhythm, and know how to rhyme without it disrupting the poem you are trying to write.

A good start is to write a four line poem in which only the second and fourth lines rhyme. Choose a subject (it certainly doesn't have to be humorous) and think about what you want to the poem to say. Poems with short lines do lend themselves to humour, and longer lines allow you to sound more serious. If your rhymes are not working, or your rhythm is clunky, try a different pair of rhyming words.

The best thing you can do is to read good rhyming poems and listen to the rhythm and think about the rhyming words. Doug has used desk and grotesque to start with - his rhymes are surprising, and it adds to the fun!

Week Two

by Janeen Brian

Over and over the bar she swung,
the wonderful whizzing in
her stomach
and her hair falling soft and slack
about her face.

Over and over she swung until
the material of her shorts
caught and the skin on her legs
squeaked hard and tight.

Over and over she swung because
upside-down was fun –
everything was a wonderland.
Blood in her head
belly in her mouth
people in the sky
and grass making straight green clouds.

Janeen says: The idea for this poem came from a strong memory of the joy I had playing on the playground equipment at primary school. We had monkeybars and a jungle gym with a ladder, swing circles, a long bar and a swing bar. I particularly remembered the fun of linking both ankles and twirling around the big bar. From one minute to the next, everything changed; the sky, the trees, children’s feet, clothing, faces! It was a delicious feeling, both the turning and the everyday sights that became extraordinary.

Janeen enjoys writing poetry; both rhyming poems and free-writing poems where there is more of a subtle rhythm. She enjoys the magic and the music of words and delights in the sharp, concise clarity of getting the exact right word. Also she loves that the idea that poetry can be a hotline to your feelings or emotions. Apart from having 68 books published, Janeen has poems in 14 anthologies, two picture books in rhyming verse (The Super parp-buster! and Columbia Sneezes!) while By Jingo! and Silly Galah! also contain rhyming verses about birds and animals.


What is something you like to do over and over? Read your favourite book? Hit the ball hard in cricket? Skip or skate or swim at the beach?
Write a poem that describes what you love to do - use one or two words several times to give the idea of doing it over and over. How do you feel? Try to put a sense of motion in the poem, and see if you can re-create the feeling for the reader.

Week One

by Lorraine Marwood

Left behind on the beach:
two scoops of holes
for the sea to fill,
two mini holes
for the crabs to climb.

Left behind on the beach:
giggling waves, fists of shells,
treasures of seaweed necklaces,
diamonds of sun
and the crust of a sandwich:
seagull supper.

Left behind on the beach:
a summer holiday, carrying
beach towels, sunscreen and hats,
a beach chair for mum
and binoculars for dad.

Left behind on the beach:
the in/out breathing of waves,
the screech of seagulls,
the mizzle of mist
and somewhere out on the reef
the anchor of a long ago ship.

Lorraine says: 'The idea for this poem came from a rare summer holiday when we were dairyfarmers. Walking the beach on a not so summery day, I looked and looked as a beachcomber. I saw the usual bits and pieces left as evidence of a fun day at the beach. I just had to jot it down. The title came first- which is unusual and then after chopping the first stanza- which often only serves as a way into the poem; the poem came surfing along. I always carry my notebook with me and jot down lines, especially in a new location.'
Lorraine loves writing poetry. Poetry allows her freedom to gather images and to build them into a different slant on the world. Great satisfying fun. Lately her love of poetry has gown into a verse novel, out now: Ratwhiskers and me (Walker Books).
She has two collections of poetry for children published by Five Islands Press and her poems appear in School Magazine New South Wales and in anthologies.


Poems with repeated lines provide a handy structure. You could write your own Left Behind poem - Left behind at the park, Left behind at school, Left behind on the moon...
Or create your own repeating line: It's midnight and... I'll tell you a secret... In my room... Come and play this game...
There are lots of possibilities. Maybe your students could come up with their own for the whole class to write about!