A POEM A WEEK

Brought to you by Sherryl Clark and Meredith Costain!

Each week, we will post a poem here by an Australian children's writer. We'll also include a note on where the idea came from and some information about the writer. Some of them will be known to you as poets, some may surprise you! And some may be primarily writers for adults, but have written poems that we think you and your students will enjoy.

The purpose of this page is to give you great poems to use in the classroom - either to read and enjoy, to discuss, or to use as models for writing. For us, the main purpose is ENJOYMENT. We want to provide an instant resource that doesn't require you to buy a book or spend hours trawling the internet.

Please remember that these poems are copyrighted - acknowledge the poet if you make copies for your class - and also remember to include these on your CAL records.

And when you like a poet's work, do search out their websites and buy their books. If you enjoy these poems, then so will your students. All feedback very welcome - email us here.

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POEM A WEEK IN 2009! SO MANY GOOD POEMS - GO HERE FOR THE NEXT COLLECTION...

We are now presenting A Poem a Week as a blog too - this will make it easier for you to give us comments and feedback. You can either read the poems here, or go to the blog.

SUNGLASSES

by Sherryl Clark

Cool
I look cool
in these glasses
in the mirror
I am tinted
smooth
slick

My sister said
my old glasses
made me look like
a bogong moth
big black orbs
instead of eyes

Now I’m cool
lizard cool
beetle cool
cool insect
that’s me.

Sherryl says: This poem is from Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), but the bogong moth comment was one my sister made to me! My old sunglasses were very un-cool, but then the next pair I bought got broken when I accidentally sat on them!

Poetry exercise: Is there something that makes you feel special, or different? Is it glasses, or jeans or boots? Or your favourite cap or Tshirt? Write a poem about how you feel before you put it on, and then how it makes you feel when you're wearing it.

Iceberg

by Claire Saxby

In a blue Antarctic dawn
an iceberg calves -
shears from a glacier
and is released to the sea

sharp and angular
it hoards ancient weather
layers of ice clothing
a coat for each year volcanoes blew
and black ash fell like snow

deeply it sits
silent   peaceful
innocent whale
deadly danger

storms blow
tides swell
nights fall and fade
age blunts the underwater blades
wind softens the face
           
the iceberg travels on
past old grandfather blues
and cheeky growlers
to finally fall      and sleep
on a drift of fragile ice flowers

Claire says: I was helping my son research a project on food chains in the Antarctic and discovered the wonderful words that are used to describe the various life stages and shapes of an iceberg. From the moment it comes into being to its demise the iceberg is moving, transforming. So as my son constructed his project poster linking the ‘who-eats-who’, I collected iceberg words and scrabbled them together into a life history.

Claire is a writer of poetry, fiction and non fiction for children. One of her poems, ‘Pompeii Dog’ is currently travelling suburban Melbourne aboard a Connex train as part of a Moving Galleries exhibition. Her books include Ebi’s Boat and A Nest for Kora. You can see more of Claire’s work at www.clairesaxby.com

Leaving

by Margaret Campbell

We're leaving the shop
and the lolly jars on the counter,
the HOT WATER sign
and the boiler full of crabs.
We're leaving the petrol bowsers
and Dad's icecream churn.

We're leaving the boats,
the fish nets, full and gleaming,
the oysters on the Stony Wall
and the yabbies in the backwater.
We're leaving the sun-bright days
and the waves rolling and crashing.

We're leaving the beach
the cowrie shells and sandcastles,
just Dad and me together,
our ports are packed and strapped.
We're leaving Brampton Heads now,
for Army Camp and boarding school.

We're leaving.

Margaret says: This poem is from a verse novel called Cecelia's War. The poems are about me as a child during World War II, and later as a teenager. They reflect the life at that time - we owned a shop at the Heads - and how my father went off to join the Army, while I went to boarding school.

Margaret Campbell's first collection of poems, On the Outside, Looking In, was about reconciliation. Her YA novel, Shadow Across the Sun, was published by Lothian and she is working on a second. Cecelia's War is available to buy - email me for details.

Poetry exercise: Have you left a place you loved? Or lost something special? Write a poem about the place or thing, recalling all of your favourite memories about it. OR You could interview your parents or grandparents and write a poem about one of their favourite memories. You would have to listen closely and ask lots of questions! In Margaret's poem there are things you might not know about - bowsers, icecream churn, ports - ask someone older who can tell you. It will add to your reading of the poem.

To Catch a Dewdrop

by Jackie Hosking

Between the wooden fence posts
Is where to set your net
Though best to try to make one of your own
You’ll need the smallest needle
And the most exquisite thread
For it must be the finest ever sewn

Imagine you’re creating
Reams of silken fairy lace
Each stitch must be exact without exception
Then hang it from the fence posts
Like a veil between the space
A doily matched by none in its perfection

Leave the net till morning
And then check it with the sun
Though best to go at dawn when day is new
Where you might spy some other nets
You’re not the only one
Cause spiders like to capture dewdrops too
.

Jackie says:

Spider webs are amazing. Spider webs at dawn, dripping with dewdrops are nothing less than magical and I've wanted to write about them for a long time. I've always found nature to be perfect, something that we, as humans cannot copy no matter how hard we try. Nature needs no help from us and that's what I wanted to get across with this dewdrop poem.

Jackie Hosking is an economical writer - she loves short and sweet with a twist at the end so poetry suits her very well. She has been writing poetry for children since 2004 and she plans never to stop. Her poems have appeared in The School Magazine, Comet, Rigby Blueprints and various other publications. Her favourite style is rhyme as she enjoys the challenge of searching for the absolute right word that says exactly what she wants it to say and that also, just by coincidence, happens to rhyme.
You can visit Jackie at two places - www.jackiehosking.com and www.versatilityrhymeandrhythm.blogspot.com

 

 

Did you look at last week's haiku? This week we have more work from Kathryn Apel - these are haiga. Haiku that are part of an image.

haiga1

ice maiden

What do you notice about Haiga that is different from haiku? We have the same idea of few words and short lines, but now there is an image too. We don't want to simply duplicate the image with our words - we need to do something more.

Exercise: find an image (a photograph or picture from a magazine etc) that you like. Write a modern haiku to go with the image. Try not to just write what is in the image. Add something extra in your words. If you are not sure about what a haiga is, Google it for more examples!

This week we are looking at haiku. While many students are taught the traditional 5-7-5 syllables, modern haiku has a lot more flexibility - which makes it more fun!

Look at these from Kathryn Apel:

nocturnal predator -
gecko
nips lips

ping-pong ping-pong
even frogs
sing in the shower

Click - door opens
who's here?
the wind

whoosh
snap clack
black and white bomber

Kathryn says: In January I organised a Month of Haiku with poets from across Australia and America taking part. WE all wrote one haiku every day for the month. These come from my haiku diary.
The gecko haiku is true - my son was taking a close-up look at a gecko and it nipped him on the lip!

Kathryn wrote poetry during high school - but then didn't write anything until she was at home with her young children and reading rhyming picture books. She  enjoys writing in rhyme and fiddling with short form poetry, stretching boundaries and playing with words. Kathryn is eagerly awaiting her first (rhyming) picture book, 'This is the Mud!' to be released by Lothian Books in 2009. 

Poetry exercise: Try some haiku of your own, but don't get hung up on the 5-7-5 rule. Focus on creating a small word picture in three lines - the smaller, the better. And aim for your third line to be a small surprise of some kind.

ALIEN

Sherryl Clark

A lot of the time
I feel like I must be adopted
or my brain got wired wrong
or I’m secretly an alien
(but they didn’t tell me).

I don’t fit
in my family
or at school,
I have friends
but sometimes even they
think I’m weird.

I say dumb things
I wear stupid clothes
I can’t make my hair behave
some days the whole world
looks wrong to me.

I wish the space ship
would come back
and collect me.

Sherryl says: I often felt like this when I was a kid - out of place, out of sorts. And I can't tell you how many people have told me of similar experiences. This was the poem that started Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) and led to a story that was all about finding out who you really are inside.

Sherryl Clark's verse novels have won both the NSW Premier's Award (Farm Kid) and an Honour Book award in the CBCA awards this year (Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!)). She would love it if more kids read poetry and wrote it too! Her websites are about her books and writing and about poetry for kids.

Poetry exercise: Place says a lot about who you are or how you feel. Think about a place that means a lot to you - how do you feel when you are there? Can you write a poem that shows us the special place and how you feel, without using the word feel? Use descriptive mood words to help create atmosphere.

Rodney, Who Was Mean to his Sister, and Copped It Big Time:A Cautionary Tale

Meredith Costain

If you’ve ever had a brother
I know you’ll understand
That brothers are a nightmare and
Should totally be banned!

My brother loved to call me names
Like Ferret-Face and Freak
If I complained he’d pick me up
And dunk me in the creek.

Our creek was full of leeches
That latched on to my toes
And slimy eels and tadpole tails
That ended up my nose …

He tickled me relentlessly
Put toast crumbs in my bed
Gave all my dolls bad haircuts –
Then hanged them in the shed.

We’d wrestle in the lounge room where              
He’d pin me to the floor                                     
And twist my arm behind my back
Till I’d cry out ‘No more!’          
              
He’d cheat at every game we played
Refusing to take turns
My tiny arms were black and blue
From daily Chinese burns.

He’d pinch me and he’d punch me
Snap mousetraps on my thumb
He’d raid the cake and biscuit tins
Then dob me in to Mum.

One day I got my own back
It really wasn’t hard
I laid a trail of biscuits
That led out to our yard.

And there amongst the hay bales
He was cornered like a rat
I climbed aboard our tractor
And SQUASHED HIM FLAT!

So listen up dear brothers
Here’s my advice to you
Be gentle with your sisters or
They’ll GET YOU TOO!

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) This poem is from When We Were Young (Penguin). 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 www.meredithcostain.com

Poetry exercise: Choose someone you know who you'd like to write a poem about - sister, brother, friend, grandparent. Write down three things you know about them, and six descriptive words for them. Try to work all of these things into a poem - maybe you could write one verse about each thing, or tell a story in your poem about something that person did. Your poem doesn't need to rhyme - try writing it by focusing on story and using great descriptive words first.

 

Making Wardrobe Space
Lorraine Marwood

The huntsman spider hangs
last season's body suit
on the rough hooks of
the old wooden post.

Put out to air
in the drying summer sun,

see it twirl, spin,
move mock spider legs.

Passing by, I can almost
believe that the flesh and blood
owner is a puppeteer hiding
behind ridges of wood,
pulling silk wires to make
his old self do a predatory
dance.

Lorraine says: an idea came from watching the shell of a huntsman spider swinging on the fence post at our farm. It reminded me of outgrown clothes as children grow and that prompted me to think about spiders and their outgrown suits

www.lorrainemarwood.com
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). 

Poetry exercise: Is there something small but strange or different in your house? A secret corner? An insect's home? A tiny treasured object? Write a poem about something small that doesn't belong to you - imagine its owner, or create a small story about it and tell it through a poem.

Scarecrow
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).

 

WOODPILE

Mum screams
Dad and I
come running
and my sister grins

she’s been under the woodpile
again
holds gently in her hand
not a lizard
or a grass snake
but a hairy-legged
beady-eyed
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 poem 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!


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.
Vanished.
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.

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 www.meredithcostain.com

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.


Now, some small poems from Peter Bakowski:

The Letter 'S'

dreams of becoming
a dollar sign.

In the Hardware Store

Bald men
admiring
the heads
of mops.

Subtle

A tomato
reddening
on the sill:
sunset
to a snail.

Bathplug

A way
to edit
water.

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.

You will find an exercise on small word picture poems here.

PUFFER FISH
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.

Would you like an exercise about rhyming poetry? Click here.


OVER AND OVER

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.
www.janeenbrian.com 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.

Would you like a poetry exercise based on this poem? Click here.

LEFT BEHIND ON THE BEACH
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.'

Would you like a poetry exercise based on this poem? Click here.

www.lorrainemarwood.com
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.