Lorraine Marwood is one of Australia’s great poets. It is always a privilege to read her works, and enlightening to hear her insights. With the release of Lorraine’s new book, ‘Celebrating Australia – a year in poetry’, I asked Lorraine what brings a collection of poems together – looking at the challenge of variety in poems, balanced with editorial expectations. This is Lorraine’s fourth poetry collection for children, so I think she’s well qualified to answer that question. :)
Welcome, Lorraine! How wonderful to have you visit on my blog again. And what a varied collection this is. Such joyful celebration, but also solemnity and sweet sentiment. (I love your vibrant cover!)
Thanks Kat, always a challenge to pull a collection together and this one ‘Celebrations’ excited me. Of course I knew the backbone poems I would include would be the seasons, Easter, Christmas, New Year, Australia day. In fact the first poem I wrote was ‘Autumn’. This provided the progression and idea of ‘chapters’ in a poetry collection.
But my editor Mary and also Sarah Foster suggested celebrations that I might not know much about but were important to the concept of celebration in our multi cultural Australia: Chinese New Year, Bastille Day, Hanukah, Ramadan to name a few.
One of the challenging aspects was of course, maintaining a variety of formats and expressions, layout and language for my poems.
Some poems naturally suggested their own layout like ‘Talk like a pirate day.’ This was a rollicking fun piece of writing.
‘I’m reaching for my peg leg
I’m calling for my parrot
I’m pulling on my long boots’
© Lorraine Marwood
The immediacy of first person helped as well as researching words, ideas to do with pirates. Of course the sayings, quite cliché, made great rhythm for the structure of the poem.
The idea of ‘Celebration, a year in poetry,’ provided its own progression. But woven in with the fun, exuberant expressions are more sombre celebrations, that needed contemplation, reverence, Meditation. ‘Anzac day’, grief and memory poems fall into that category.
So the poems here were more lyrical and the choice of words more symbolic. I chose a rose to represent grief and memory and the strange thing was that as I edited my poems I was experiencing first hand grief, as my father finally extinguished his hold on life.
‘This rose grows both thorns and flowers
draws tears, spreads perfume..’
And yes there is even a rhyming poem to fulfill all expectations across the poetic range.
Some poems were hard to make a beginning- once I have tone and point of view, I can more easily master the poetic aspects of the subject matter. Several poems were completely scrapped and written in a ‘more child friendly’ way- this was a directive from my editors. So Valentine’s day, Father’s day, Grandparents’ day all harked back to my own experiences or the vast experiences of my own children.
This is when all those scrapbooks of child- drawn cards and sentiments and sayings came into their own- Father’s day was written entirely from the prompt of one of my son’s cards to his dad.
Several poems like ‘Labour Day’, and ‘Walk to school day,’ were so hard to write- they didn’t have that chink of human entry, but I got there eventually.
One suggestion charged by my editors was to write a child- centered Nativity poem. So the Christmas poem I had, was tossed and I wrote a new child- centered experience. The boy chosen to take the part of the donkey, blew me away- what resulted was fun yet highly significant too. Sometimes being told to write a completely new poem has its own treasure- laden reward.
There is a balance between long poems and short poems, list poems, and gag poems, where I set the reader up for a surprise at the end and there are the seasons’ poems which follow the same format.
The last poem written was ‘Lullaby’- and I knew it was a fitting end to the collection. There are generic poems as well, what I mean by that is that they fit the shape of the many ways we tend to celebrate in Australia; like barbeque, decorations and birthdays.
Of course we had to have left field celebrations like ‘International dot day,’ which provide unexpected new ideas to explore.
SEASONAL CELEBRATION CHALLENGE
Lorraine threw down the gauntlet with this blog tour, and has invited a number of her poet friends to complete a Seasonal Celebration Challenge. (I’m a little daunted by what I read on Jackie Hoskings Blog yesterday. Gorgeous, Jackie!)
As Lorraine explains, the challenge is this…
Here is the poem ‘Autumn’ and the challenge is to write your own version either of autumn or substitute a celebration like a birthday, Christmas , a memory, a special day in the calendar that means something to you. Below is my seasonal poem on autumn and for the remaining seasons in the book I followed the same patterning, of words, line breaks etc.
Read through this poem.
Autumn is loud crushing sounds
a foot scuffing rap-tapping shuffle.
One day a light dusting
of pathway obstruction
by week’s end a whole mound
of slip, slide, crunch, crackle.
Autumn is loud splashing colours
a yellow, rust, tangerine explosion.
One day a brightness in twos, threes
of pathway palette,
by week’s end a whole Monet mosaic
of buffs, shades, tints and silhouettes.
© Lorraine Marwood
Now chose your topic, remember the suggestions above.
• Brainstorm- if it’s autumn you choose: think colours, events, weather, your reaction to autumn.
Write all those words down- look up words to do with autumn, think of different words for yellow or brown- I love the word tangerine and have used it here. Poetry is unusual words that sound great and provide word pictures. Even look to photos, calendars, magazines; online for visual representations of your subject matter, you are trying to surprise and entertain your reader with a new perspective of a tried and true celebration.
• Now write the first line of my poem in your notebook. Pattern the words- for example:
• Now add the sounds of your subject- three words only. And that’s the first line done.
• Second line actually goes into detail of the sounds of autumn (or whatever subject matter you’ve chosen), details are so important to the vibrancy of your poem.
a foot scuffing rap-tapping shuffle
• Again the same patterning.
Begin with ‘a’ then five words to make the musicality of the sound impact on the reader.
• Third line, so begin this line with ‘one day’, then add your four words
One day a light leafy dusting
• Fourth line ‘of pathway obstruction’. Here whatever you chose to flow on from the third line and it’s a line identifying place- where the sound is happening, will be used in the second stanza with just the last word changing. So it’s three words using ‘of’ as your beginning word.
• Fifth Line ‘by week’s end a whole mound’ this is a time frame line showing the change in autumn as it progresses with ‘by week’s end’ again repeated in the second stanza with the last three words different.
• Sixth line ‘of slip, slide, crunch, crackle’. So we are honing into the premise of the first line of ‘loud crashing sounds’ and providing a final explosion of sound (don’t repeat any sound words you’ve used before though)
• Now to the final stanza- same patterning but this time the focus is on colour.
How did you go?
Was it hard to write? Are you surprised by the results?
I chose to do a Queensland-take on Autumn – because we don’t tend to experience autumn as such. We have an extended summer… and overnight it’s suddenly winter. Although it just a quickly switches back to summer… then winter… and that’s what I was hoping to capture.
BUT… I found it difficult to work with those extreme contrasts, whilst keeping it sensory… and following the rules. (Though it is possible my head is also very busy at the moment…) So, I’m not really happy with my attempt, and thought about writing anotherie on a completely different subject – but I decided I’d be honest, and put my Autumn poem out there, flaws and all.
A Queensland Autumn
Autumn is ummmm … undecided;
a clinking of coat hangers shuffled.
One day huffing and hissing
of sunshine’s sizzle,
by week’s end a leafy pom-pom pizzazz
of swish, sway, rah-rah rustling.
Autumn is heat-haze blown away.
a shuffling of summer winter outlooks.
One day a brilliance; searing sharp contrast
of sun-baked vibrance,
by week’s end a festive carnival crowd
of mismatched, multi-hued, musty winter woolies.
© Kathryn Apel
As to my writing process… This is a screenshot of my document, with ‘must have’ bits underlined, and number of additional words required in brackets – and Lorraine’s showpiece off to the side, because otherwise I was always flicking across to be sure I was doing it right!
And finally, a pic, with the lovely Lorraine, when we finally met in person, as she was travelling around Queensland, just as this collection was almost finalised, last year.
Thank-you for sharing your tips with us, Lorraine – and for your poetry challenge, which I’m sure others would love to try at home – or at school. And if you do try this at home/school, we’d love to see what it prompts, so feel free to share in the comments below.
Kat, it is always special to have a fellow poet and friend host a blog tour. Thank you!
BLOG TOUR DATES & LINKS
2nd March Jackie Hosking: Topic: What makes a good poem ( according to LM)
3rd March Kathryn Apel: Topic: Bringing a poetry collection together
4th March Rebecca Newman: Topic: Researching for poetry writing
5th March Claire Saxby: Topic: Inside this collection
6th March Janeen Brian: Topic: How you create for the creators: how you create ideas to excite children and adults to write poems of their own.
9th March Alphabet Soup: Topic: Writing a class poem – the results!