Saturday, August 30, 2008

Week 8

(We'll be back with new poems on 5 October, after the holiday break.)

Janeen Brian

I am put together
with no choice in how I look.
I must resemble a nightmare
in clothes worn-in
and worn-out.
Wind tugs at them
Like sails on the ocean.
Rain wets them,
chills my insides.
heat stalks its way
through a hat
that sits crooked,
cuts off a triangle of view.

What do you see when you look at my face?
When I am warm
and there is no taste
of crows’ taunts in my mouth,
then I feel the rod of my back straighten
and I feel soft
and beating inside –
can you see that on my face?
When the wind
screeches at fields,
shaves soil to dust
and tears hair from my head –
can you see that on my face?

When green tips nudge
tiny clods of earth
and push upwards to the sun –
can you see that on my face?
Does my expression
change – or not?

Each day I wake to the same view,
but long to see a sunrise.
Each day I feel there are steps
that would excite
would lead to places
my head cannot yet know.

One night, when the moon is bright
and a star swings low,
I will pluck that star and cut the rod that holds me
and I will leave the field
and make my own path
in the moonlight.

Janeen says: the idea for this poem comes from when I was driving through the countryside of South Australia. In the middle of a paddock was a scarecrow. Part of him had been created with hay bales and he was beginning to look a bit shabby. I started to wonder what a scarecrow’s life would be as like – unable to have choices and stuck facing the same direction and view each day. And I wondered if one day he might be able to have a freedom of sorts. I also think some people are content being scarecrows, doing the same things every day in the same way. Perhaps they might it find it exciting to one day make their ‘own path in the moonlight.’

Poetry exercise: Imagine yourself as an object - something with a face, such as a doll or a puppet or a garden gnome. What kind of personality would you have? What would your days be like? How would you see the world around you? How would you feel? Write a poem that shows the reader all of these things (and whatever else you can imagine).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week 7


Mum screams
Dad and I
come running
and my sister grins

she’s been under the woodpile
holds gently in her hand
not a lizard
or a grass snake
but a hairy-legged
wolf spider
“it tickles,” she says

I feel those
tickling legs
up my shirt
in my hair
down my back
all day.

from Farm Kid (Penguin)

Sherryl says: This came from a real experience when I was a kid. I was scared of spiders (I still am!) and my grandmother thought she could help me to get over it by actually holding a spider in my hand. She couldn’t understand why I screamed and ran away! She had no trouble picking one up at all.

Sherryl Clark has been writing poetry for over thirty years. Her first verse novel Farm Kid won the 2005 NSW Premier’s Award for Children’s Books. Her second, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) was recently awarded an Honour Book in the CBCA awards. Sherryl prefers to write poems that don’t rhyme, but she loves rhythm and language in all their aspects.

Poetry exercise: What is something you are really scared of? Is it spiders? Mice? Heights? Eating cauliflower? Write a poem that describes your feelings at being confronted by your fear – try not to use the word feel. Try to create a word picture that shows the reader what it’s like!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Week 6

The Hippos

by Elizabeth Honey

They do exercises together in the slow lane,
laughing till their walnut faces are as wrinkled
as their rubber bathing caps.
They take ten minutes to submerge
and when they do the tide comes in!

We duck-dive down and watch them.
Flower skirts twenty years old
float around the old hippo hips.
They laugh and pedal and bob.
They dance on the tips of their hippo toes,
and breast stroke neatly to the music.
Slowly they bounce from side to side,
doing dainty underwater kicks.

Then in the changing room we take sly glances.
They don’t care who sees what.
Wrinkled saggy baggy old white hippos
wobble like jelly when they laugh.
But usually they’ve gone by the time we get out of the pool.
Just little drifts of powder on the tiles,
and a waft of lavender.

From Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin)

Liz says: The idea for the hippos poem came from the Richmond Baths where I go for a swim a couple of times a week. Us writers have to get exercise or we turn into computer-zombie-fatbottomblobs. (I also have quite a few good ideas when I'm swimming—I think it's something to do with the breathing, and the fogged up goggles.)
The hippos poem is all true. These women really enjoy themselves, being dainty and weightless in the pool together, and boy, they love to laugh! They seem old fashioned. I bet their grandchildren love them. I do.

Elizabeth Honey is an award-winning author of poetry, picture books and junior novels. Her playful humour, originality and irrepressible energy strike a chord with kids everywhere and her stories about the Stella Street mob have been translated into many languages. Her poetry collections include Honey Sandwich, The Man in the Moon and her latest book, I’m Still Awake, Still.

Poetry exercise: Write your own poem comparing a person or a group of people to a particular type of animal. Think about the way they move or the sounds they make as well as the way they look. You could also include a description of their ‘habitat’: a playground, a footy field, an all-you-can-eat food buffet.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Week Five

Wintry Weather
by Meredith Costain

I love the wintry weather
When we rug up warm together
Watching lightning flicker-flashing round the sky.

I love it when it's chilly
And the garden's daffodilly
And the kitchen smells of toast and apple pie.

I love it when it’s raining
And the ducks are aquaplaning
Over puddles in the middle of our street.

I go squelching, stomping, splashing
Kicking stones and spatterdashing
Making wintry weather patterns with my feet.

Meredith says: ‘My dogs love splashing through puddles and so did I as a kid. I wanted to fill this poem up with lots of images and sounds that reminded me of the things I enjoy about cold days. And I was very excited to discover a wonderful new word – spatterdashing! – when I was looking up rhymes for flashing and splashing.’

Meredith has been writing doggerel – and catterel! – since she was six. Her poems have appeared in various publications but she is best known for her book of action verse for the very young, Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2007) from which this poem is taken. Her other books include several titles in the Aussie Nibbles series, Musical Harriet and No Noise at Our House (due in September). Visit her at

Poetry exercise: what do you like best about winter? The footy? Snow? Woolly gloves? Write a poem that shows everyone your favourite winter thing - don't forget smells, sounds, taste and touch as well as what you can see.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Week Four

This week, some small poems from Peter Bakowski:

The Letter 'S'

dreams of becoming
a dollar sign.

In the Hardware Store

Bald men
the heads
of mops.


A tomato
on the sill:
to a snail.


A way
to edit

What Peter says: I think inanimate objects and letters of the alphabet have secret lives. I like to put them under the spotlight, to remind the reader of their existence and to lead the reader into thinking further about them.
I get my poems by observing small objects and creatures, human beings and world events and thinking about them.

Melbourne poet Peter Bakowski has been writing poems for 25 years. He tries to write as clearly as possible with a painter's eye. These poems are from The Heart at 3a.m. His other books include Days That We Couldn't Rehearse and In The Human Night.

Poetry Exercise: In order to write a very small poem, you can begin to think of it as a word picture. Choose a small object or experience - look around your room, your house, your school, your neighbourhood - find a small thing to write about that intrigues or interests you.
Think of how to describe it with one simple image or simile or metaphor. You are aiming to show other people how you see the small thing in a new way, a view they might not have thought of. Even a gum leaf can inspire you. E.g.

Gum Leaf
a green road map
for ants.