A POEM A WEEK: 2009

Brought to you once again 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.

POEM A WEEK IN 2009!

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.

Merri Creek
by Meredith Costain

Riding along, with Molly and Jack
Down to the creek on the bicycle track
Birds in the air
Wind in my hair
Creek full of ripples and ducks that go quack!

Bicycle track
Molly and Jack
Creek full of ripples and ducks that go quack!

Off to the creek with a snack in my pack
Wheels whizzing round with a clickity-clack
Kites in the breeze
Magpies in trees
Dogs running free and the sun on my back

Clickity-clack
Snack in my pack
Dogs running free and the sun on my back.

Riding back home on the bicycle track
Hungry for dinner with Molly and Jack
Bike in the shed
Jump into bed
To dream of tomorrow when we can go back!

Birds in the air
Wind in my hair
Kites in the breeze
Magpies in trees
Bike in the shed
Jump into bed
To dream of tomorrow when we can go back!

Meredith says: When I was young, I rode my bike to school along the banks of a river. The steady rhythm of the wheels going round helped to bring words and images into my head, and I wrote my first poems this way. For this poem, I wanted to try to reproduce that mesmerising rhythm. These days, I ride along the banks of the Merri Creek in inner-city Melbourne with the dogs from the poem – Molly and Jack. And the turning wheels definitely helped to bring the lines and images I needed. You should try it some time!

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), where this poem is from. Her other books include several titles in the Aussie Nibbles series, Musical Harriet, No Noise at Our House and My Baby Love. Visit her at www.meredithcostain.com

Write your own poem: What is something you know about that has a rhythm of its own? Someone playing drums? The train going past? Your mum tapping her fingernails on the table? A friend bouncing a ball? Write a poem about the action, but try to write it in a way that gives us the rhythm as well. You don't need to use rhyme - repetition works just as well - but if you want to rhyme, have a go!

SCREECH TREE
by Lorraine Marwood

This is the morning doorway
                                skyway
                                screeching.

Cockatoos landing, dip
yellow crowns and beak speak.
Cockatoos leaving, dip
white breast coats and beat feet.

A whole river reflection
from tree so many centuries high,
as cockatoos bustle
the same unbroken hustle.
As eyes like water jewels
preen the comings
and goings from SCREECH TREE!

Lorraine says: We were in a caravan park with lots of very old gum trees, and a little stream nearby. At
 sunrise the cockatoos  would screech away, then at dusk they would fly home to roost in the hollows of tall
tree trunks. What a glorious noise they made as they flew out, then flew in again. A cockatoo is such an
iconic Australian bird, I just had to write it a poem! I sat near those trees and wrote the first draft. Screech
tree identifies the most striking feature of the Cockatoo- its noise.

Lorraine loves writing poetry. Her latest book 'Star Jumps' is written in prose poetry (published by Walker
Books). She believes poetry both cuts to the essence of a story or emotion, yet at the same time provides
layer after layer of surprise and sensory  detail. Her website is www.lorrainemarwood.com Write your own sound poem: What do you hear every day? Have you ever stopped to listen to each and every sound?
Try closing your eyes and identifying each sound, which one is close, which one is far away. Do you know what
every sound is? Which one resonates with you the most? Write a poem about it.

After the Fires
by Jenni Overend

May moisture fall softly on the tender scorched earth
May a green haze spread amongst the blackened stumps
May bunches of leaves sprout on charred trunks
May small creatures find sheltering hollows left by fire
May birds find food and fill the air with song
May autumn rains gain strength to
        fill rivers and moisten wetlands
        for frogs and waterbirds
May the earth feel renewed and restored
May human hearts lose their fear
        and communities unite
        and grow strong
And broken hearts find joy where least expected.

Jenni says: We live in Toolangi which is about 15 minutes drive from Kinglake, a 
little township devastated by the bushfires of February 7.  The wind changed late in the afternoon as the fires were sweeping toward our township, swinging north, and we were saved. But every time I drive back to Toolangi, I drive through acres of scorched forest.  This is what inspired 'After the Fires'.

Jenni Overend is a writer and  teacher who lives in the mountains above the Yarra Valley.  She writes for adults and children, but her books are for kids.  Her most recent book, Stride's Summer was about a boy and his pet cockatoo and their experience when a bushfire swept 
through their home town.

Write your own poem: This kind of poem is known as a litany, where you repeat the same words at the beginning of each line. In earlier times, it was also called a prayer. You can write your own litany about almost anything, but it works best when the repeated words add extra meaning. Some examples of repeating words are: I remember, This time I, This is what it means, Have you ever. Choose a repeating phrase that sings to you, and write your own litany.

 

TWO TRIBES
by Sherryl Clark

Which two? Can you
name them, tell me
who they are?
Do they live together,
or are they at
each other’s throats?
This world, so bent on
assimilation, so vocal
about fitting in,
wants one tribe,
one way of living.
Drums beat, words spin,
you climb into an aeroplane
and flash across
a web of countries,
flying over people
you never see.
Try this – live with
the other tribe
without knowing their language,
their customs, their version
of courtesy.
See how well they treat you.
See how well
you treat them.

First published in Trust Me! (Ford Street, 2008)

Sherryl says: The idea for this poem came from hearing someone complain about people in Australia not speaking English and not ‘fitting in’. I remembered when I first traveled overseas what a confronting experience it was to be in a country where English wasn’t spoken – you suddenly understand something of what it must be like for new immigrants here!

Sherryl Clark has more than 34 children’s and YA books in print, including her verse novel, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), a CBCA Honour Book. Her latest book is Tracey Binns is Lost (UQP). Her website is at www.sherrylclark.com

Write your own poem: Is there something you feel very strongly about? The environment? War? Famine? Try a political poem – but don’t preach. Instead, use imagery and ideas to get your readers thinking.

 

NIGHT RAIN
by Jackie Hosking

It begins with a drip
Like a clap
At the back of the hall

As the curtain comes down
There’s another
Like the other

Tip tapping
Pitter patting
Hands clapping
Keeping rhythm
With the rain as it falls

Till it rises again
Like a skirt in the wind
Flip flapping
Slip slapping of skin
Against skin
Till they’re pelting the stage
With applause

Jackie says: Night Rain was first published in The School Magazine (Blast Off) in 2008. I wrote it after listening to the rain one night in bed and I realised how much like clapping it sounded, especially as it got heavier and heavier. I could imagine a large crowd of people jumping to their feet to applaud something amazing.

Bio: Jackie thinks she might be a poet, or if not a poet, a place where poems like to hide. And when she finds one she is really grateful that it chose her for its hiding spot. If you’d like to read some more of Jackie’s poems you can go to her website at www.jackiehosking.com

Write your own poem: When we write a poem about one thing (like night rain) and compare it to another (like a performance) without using the words like or as, we're creating a metaphor. Think of something you are familiar with, or have seen or heard or experienced. What did it remind you of? Do the cars in your street remind you of an amusement park? Does your local shopping mall/cnetre remind you of a circus? Write a poem in which you describe this by using words that would also describe the thing it reminds you of.

THE SCHOOL CLEANER’S STOREROOM
by Anne Young

In the damp-earth dark where no child goes
Fat white bottles nestle like molars
Spray bottles clutter, triggers poised to spurt or mist
Cloths jumble in bright buckets
Germ-killer chemicals swell the air with sickly sweet
Posters and notes command: Take Care! Watch Out! Do This, Do That
A cluster of brooms shelters beneath the king mop,
                                                           wide and orange and shaggy
The vacuum cleaner coils like a ridged serpent, waiting.

They lurk ‘til the quiet of all-children-gone
Then slurp and suck and wipe and swish
Rubbish gone, mess gone, grime gone
        
Silent and clean

Return to the damp-earth dark
Where no child goes.

Anne says: Schools without children are like shells without the sea – remembering, waiting. Occasionally a treasure is hiding in the stillness, as I found one afternoon when I stayed late in a small rural school.

Anne Young: ‘I write in a variety of genres, mostly for children. My true love, in writing and reading, is picture books. I use them in learning activities and read them aloud for pleasure across all primary school grades. I'm the author of one published picture book, Just Like Me.'

Write your own poem: Do you know of a secret place? Somewhere that you’ve discovered? Somewhere all your own? Or somewhere imaginary? It might be a cubby, it might be under your bed or in your wardrobe. Write a poem that describes this place and what happens there.

 

WINTER
by Claire Saxby

Winter is a frostling,
fingers long and sharpened.
It scales up and down my back,
flicks at my cheek.

Winter is a gustling,
fingers bold and stinging.
It needles through my skin,
tours through my bones.

Winter is a soakling,
fingers swirl and flick.
It rivers down my neck,
ices up my toes.

Winter is a crispling,
fingers fresh and vibrant.
It blows bright into my lungs.
reminds me I’m alive.

Claire says: I mostly write free verse but sometimes I like the idea of some structure. This is the second poem I’ve written using this repeating structure. The first was themed around Autumn. Winter is often described as having long cold fingers and I wanted to take that idea further. I didn’t want it to rhyme, but I wanted a strong rhythm. I saw winter as a series of imps, each doing their bit to make the day unbearable. But although winter can sometimes be long and cold, it can also be clear, sparkling and invigorating.

Claire writes poetry, fiction and non fiction for children. Her poem, ‘Pompeii Dog’ is currently touring suburban Melbourne aboard a Connex train in the Moving Galleries exhibition. Her books include ‘Ebi’s Boat’ (CBCA Notable Book 2007) and ‘A Nest for Kora’. You can see more of Claire’s work at www.clairesaxby.com

Write your own poem: One of the fun things you can do in a poem is make up words. Choose a subject (it could be a season, or a sport, or an animal - anything really) and make up four new words that describe your subject. Look at Claire's poem again for examples of how to do it. Then write your own poem and include your new words.

 

BIRD IMPRESSIONS
by Janeen Brian

Two cockatoos soar and
pin back blue sky
with yellow-beak screeches and
snow-white wings.

Left in their wake,
two tiny clouds,
crested-white and angel-winged,
drift

like bird impressions.

Janeen says: I’d stepped out of a suburban shop, thinking about what I’d just bought. When I heard screeches in the sky I looked up. What I saw was a pair of cockatoos – two pure white creatures flapping jubilantly against a bright, blue sky. That was startling and satisfying enough. But then I glanced to one side. Immediately behind the birds, were two small, fleecy clouds. They were bird shaped, with wings outstretched - almost replicas of the cockatoos. I couldn’t believe. It was a magic moment. My purchase seemed dull and inconsequential after that!

Bio: ‘I am constantly looking about in my environment. I love noticing things, or finding things and then writing poems; crystallising experiences or images into the right words, with the right flavour and with an inherent rhythm. I have three books of verse, Silly Galah!, Nature’s Way A –Z and By Jingo! and also two picture books in narrative verse: The Super Parp-buster! and Columbia Sneezes! My latest book is Oddball (Walker Books) and my website is: www.janeenbrian.com'

Write your own poem: When did you last get a surprise or a fright? Was it real, or did you imagine it? Write a poem that describes the experience - what surprised or frightened you, how you felt, what was the outcome ...

 

POSSUM
by Jenni Overend

I see you through the skylight
in the black wattle
silhouetted against early blue.
We are exchanging our waking and sleeping, you and I.
You stretch and scratch
and ready yourself for sleep,
I stretch and yawn and watch the sky lighten.

Sleep well
small mammal
'til the stars burn through again tonight.

Jenni says: Our home is in the mountains above the Yarra Valley in Victoria.  We live in an old country house of many rooms and levels.  When I wrote this poem, my bedroom was in an attic with a skylight so I could see the stars at night.  Our roof is overhung by trees, which are visible through my ceiling window. One morning I woke early, just as the stars were fading, to hear the sound of a possum on the roof.  I watched it as it clambered onto a branch visible from my bed and settled itself ready for sleep…just as I was getting ready for my daytime.

Jenni Overend’s most well known book is Hello Baby illustrated by Julie Vivas and shortlisted by the CBC in 2000.  Her most recent book, Stride’s Summer, her first novel for young adults, was published in 2007. She also teaches adults and children the joys of writing stories and poems.  She loves writing poetry most of all, and this is the first of her poems to be published.

Write your own poem: It's fun to observe animals, how they behave, how they move, how different they are from humans. Write a poem about an animal where you include some of these observations, and also include yourself in the poem! How are you different? The same?

THE DREAMS OF DOGS
by Michelle Taylor

Have you watched a dog at night
dreaming at your feet?
No, it isn't just asleep!
When its eyelids grow heavy
and its breathing too,
then your dog is running
away from you
to the world of its wildest dreams.

You may try to guess
where it goes, but remember -
it's only the dog
that truly knows
when it twitches its whiskers
or flashes a fang,
when it growls
or whimpers
or its paws hit the floor
with a BANG!

Is it living a nightmare
or fulfilling a fantasy?
Have you wondered
where doggy heaven might be?
Maybe your dog's escaped
to a yard that's full of bones
or perhaps your pet's a person
and you've been locked out
of your home!
What if your dog's
become a pure bred hound
that fusses over food
and sleeps on the lounge,
or perhaps a sheep-dog
working for its keep.

I wonder though
if the greatest dog dream
is drifting back in time:
reunited with wild ancestors -
dingo, wolf, coyote.
Hunting its prey
sleeping on dirt or snow,
howling beneath a full moon,
knowing what only dogs know...

This poem is from If Bees Rode Shiny Bicycles (UQP, 2003).

Michelle says: The idea for The Dreams of Dogs came from growing up with a bevy of dogs.  We always owned at least one, but neighbours' dogs were welcome at our place too, as my Mum was a great dog-lover. I loved watching our dogs asleep at my feet at night.  They could be so restless - twitching their noses, revealing their fangs, whimpering or muffled woofing, paws going and clawing away at the carpet, even their tails wagging.  It occurred to my for the first time back then as a child, that dogs must dream, just like humans.  I let my imagination go when it came to writing this poem, and had a lot of fun wondering just what kinds of things dogs might dream about...

About Michelle Taylor: "I'm passionate about poetry and its potential to bring some magic into our lives. I believe that poetry can allow both young and old to express themselves more fully, and to appreciate themselves and the world around them with new wonder. I want those I work with to go away feeling two things – firstly energised, and secondly, empowered by words and their endless possibilities in our lives." Michelle's books include If Bees Rode Shiny Bicycles and If the World Belonged to Dogs.

Writing Exercise: What do you think your pet dreams about when it's asleep? Or an animal in the bush, like a kangaroo? Write a poem that answers this question!

EQUALITY
by Edel Wignell

Life is a game of chess
with kings, queens and knights,
Bishops, rooks and pawns
standing in their places.

It's a play for ultimate power
with tactics, manoeuvres and schemes.
There's winning and losing, rules
observed, removal, completion.

At the end of the game, however,
the players - from king to pawns -
Are tossed, powerless at last,
into a box - equal.

Edel says: I have a large, heavy chess board made of wood inlay. One day, when I was struggling to move it, the idea of the chess game as a metaphor for equality zipped into my brain. I wrote and re-wrote until I was satisfied.

Edel Wignell likes playing with words and ideas. You can read some of her poetry and verse, both serious and humorous, on her website: www.edelwignell.com.au Her latest books are a picture-story, Big Eyes, Scary Voice, illustrated by Carl Pearce (Tamarind Books, UK, available fromRandom House Australia) - for ages 3- 5 years, and The White Elephant: Drama based on Asian Folk Tales (Teaching Solutions), for Years 3 to 6.

Try one of these yourself: An 'idea' poem often starts with something concrete. Think of an item: e.g. a piece of furniture (in the house), a fence (in the country), a lighthouse (by the sea). How would you describe it? What does it mean to you - or to others? Put your descriptions and meanings into a poem - blend the two together.

It's one of those days
by Vicki Thornton

when you sleep through the alarm
wake up to find that someone has hidden your shoes
your face has been tumble dried warm
your hair has a mind of its own
and decided that beehives are back in a big way.
when the bus is late
the train early
you're all fingers and two left feet
words are swallowed whole
your tongue lies in a knot at the back of your throat
and even just smiling hurts.
when you did your Math homework
forgot your English
remembered to bring the egg sandwich
your mum made for lunch
your music lesson goes on forever
and you know tomorrow has to be better
has to be better
has to be. Vicki says: I think everyone has one of THOSE days- when nothing goes right
and the day seems to drag on and on forever. I wanted to contrast with
how we feel on one of those days with the belief that tomorrow has to
get better. Doesn't it? Vicki Thornton writes poetry, plays, novels and short stories for
children. Her books Whistler's Mine published by Thomson Nelson and
Cinnamon and Spot, Who is Cinnamon Smith? and Cinnamon Finds a Sport
were published by Oxford University Press. She works in a library where
she runs a Storytime session, being surrounded by children and books is
a great way to stir up ideas. Writing Exercise: Write a poem about the worst day of your life. Pretend you are telling a very small story -
show us what happened through word pictures. Or if all of your days are good ones (lucky you!), write a poem
about an imaginary disastrous day. If you have several disasters in a row, put each one in a separate verse or
stanza. How will you finish the poem? Looking forward to tomorrow? Think about how to create a satisfying
ending.