Writing on the Rocks

The last month, I’ve been alternating between polishing (and submitting) picture books, and writing poetry. I’m busily at work on my Antarctic historical verse novel – trying new poetic forms and realising all over again how beneficial poetry is for writing. Truly seriously, if you are a principal, literacy coach, or classroom teacher (if you value writing muscle and creativity), you NEED poetry in your classrooms. Regularly! I know I say it often – but after an extended period of time fashioning facts into strict poetic forms I’m going to say it again – nothing builds writing muscle better than poetry. Nothing sparks creativity, wordplay and experimentation with literary devices better than poetry. It’s a challenge. It’s invigorating and rewarding. It’s valuable. It’s FUN!

Why aren’t we encouraging and enabling more kids to write more poetry?

Why do we clutter their curriculum with so many persuasives that kids can’t even be persuaded to want to WRITE!?  Everything feels so prescribed. Actually, I had a little rant about something similar on Twitter last week. So maybe I should just combine the two, and do the job properly! In the hope that someone who writes curriculum might one day stumble on my blog, I’m just going to include a couple of the tweets here…

To illustrate my point, about the muscle, creativity and economy of poetry, I’ll include a little snippet from my Antarctic WIP. And a picture. From Antarctica… (Any excuse to revisit Antarctica!!)

The poem is a tetractys, (or in this case, a double tetractys) and follows a specific syllable count.

Line 1 – 1 syllable
Line 2 – 2 syllables
Line 3 – 3 syllables
Line 4 – 4 syllables
Line 5 – 10 syllables

The double tetractys reverses the syllable count in the second half. A tetractys  can rhyme. Often mine do – but in this one I was focused on the facts and wordplay. And so many details! (Read more about the tetractys.)

The process. Early versions of a tetractys draft – though I know there were many other combinations that don’t seem to be in my document. #Ooops  There are ERRORS in the above, btw. Can you spot them?

The portion of text that shaped the poem.

Current version (after three days of tweaks) – which I can’t guarantee won’t change… but I’m feeling pretty chuffed with!

Dark
hill slope,
blinding snow,
slick, too-smooth ice,
frozen obstacle course and push-pull squalls.
Do not snuff the lantern! Record results.
Face and fingers
frostbitten;
wind has
teeth.

Tetractys © Kathryn Apel 2017 – All rights reserved

Different bay, different season, different era, different character, but… Antarctica! (So that’s okay – right?) #breakingalltherules

There are so many different forms of poetry – something for every reader, writer and situation. Some forms have ‘rules’, like the tetractys, while others offer freedom. Poetry is a wealth of creativity just waiting to be unleashed!

Irene will help you Live Your Poem (Yay!) as she collects the links for the #PoetryFriday round-up today. Thanks, Irene. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, an educator or a student, (anyone, really) I’m sure you’ll find good stuff there!

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Abecedarian – Tree to be…

Each month, Michelle puts out a poetry challenge on Today’s Little Ditty. And this month was no exception. Write an Abecedarian poem, which is an acrostic-type poem working through the alphabet – in alphabetical order.

Usually life is so busy, the month has whisked past before I get to try the challenge – but this month, I was prepared! Perhaps I cheated – because in truth, this one was all-but written. 🙂

Abecedarian: Abby & Callan – Tree to Be…

Abby sprawled on the bed,
as thoughts wafted adrift in her head,
bemused at how she would fill her day
bereft of friends. Some holiday!
Callan slouched through the door –
slumped on the floor.
‘D’ya think they’d let us
drive the ol’ dunger – get us
escape from nowhere,
even if it’s just around … here and there?’
‘Forget it,’ Abby groaned,
‘Fat chance of anything fun,’ she moaned.
‘Grandma’s house is so boring, and she
gets all uptight and uppity.
How she imagines we’re going to get hurt –
her hovering ever alert …
It’s driving me insane!
I’d rather live and bear the pain.’
‘Just for another two days, Abbs. No
jape. Things’ll settle when we’re home, you know.’
‘Kinda too late by then,’ Abby said –
Kicking the end of her bed.
‘Lucky us. Let loose right in time for school.
Like that’s so cool.’
Memory tickled and Abby stilled …
‘Maybe I’ve got an idea,’ she whispered, thrilled.
‘Never say,’ Callan praised,
nudging his sis, eyebrows raised
‘Out with it. What’s
on your mind. I hope you’ve got lots
planned because I’m in!’
Possibilities were explored therein.
Quiet voices.
Quick words exploring choices.
Rather than risk being busted they
relocated outside. ‘What do you say?’
‘So long as no-one gets hurt
something tells me they won’t kick up dirt.’
They wandered along the dusty track,
talking it all out, before heading back.
Under the old fig tree, Callan paused, peered
up, inspecting thickly muscled branches that disappeared …
Vaulting into the canopy, Callan looked down from his
vantage point. ‘C’mon up, Abby. This is
what we’ve been imagining, only better by far!’
‘Wait for me,’ Abby grunted, scrambling up, ‘Ah,’
Excitement was thick. ‘Don’t slip!’ Callan warned, ‘Or you’ll be
X-rayed and in a cast so fast – and pity help me!’
‘You see if you can stop me now,
Yes, I’m free as a bird on a bough.’
‘Zilch can touch us,’ Callan smiled, ‘This is our
zone. Tree to be… The fun starts now!’

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

Tree to be…

Needless to say, I’ve taken the Abecedarian and tweaked the form to suit me – so there’s two lines for each letter, and a touch of rhyme.

The poem itself was not inspired by my life – other than that leafy escape ending. There was a tree at my Grandparents’ – and Grandma would have had fits if she knew how some of us (not me!) balanced along branches and onto the roof of the house. For me, it was enough to be clinging like a limpet, inching my way across to the concrete tank… a favourite spot with the cousins when we were all fortunate enough to be there together. (I had the best cousins!)

My boys had the old fig tree down the track in our house paddock, that featured in an earlier ‘Tree to be…‘ post – along with their WIP treehouse.

The tree pictured in today’s post is one of the locations for the Text As Art project I’m involved with, for the upcoming Crush Festival. It’s found in the main street of Bundaberg – but with careful angling, all things city could be concealed. 😛

Amy is hosting Poetry Friday this week at The Poem Farm, where you’ll find links to all sorts of poetry goodness. Thanks for hosting, Amy. And congratulations on your new book, ‘READ! READ! READ!’. It’s school holidays here in Queensland – the perfect time to climb trees… and READ!

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Bookings Open – 2018

Poetry inspires creativity and builds writing muscles that flex across all curriculum areas and genres. A passionate and diverse poet and children’s author, I have an ever-increasing bag of tricks to share with your staff and students – primary and secondary. If your school is considering an author visit, register your interest below.

Student poetry workshops involve fun activities that enable wordplay – and success for all students.

Staff poetry workshop equip teachers with easy take-away activities to use in their classrooms – across curriculum areas and grades.

A Celebration of Friends incorporates activities inspired by ‘Too Many Friends’, blending DIY toys with creative wordplay. Make a palm snake, create a paper chain of poetry friends, power a plane with words, or create a triple twirl word swirl.

During author talks, I share what inspired and shaped my stories, and how I turn reality into fiction. Content varies dependent on the age group, touching on topics of bullying, friendship, sibling rivalry, sporting excellence, identity, self-worth, rural living, a glimpse at Antarctica, and creative things kids can do without a TV!

As a trained teacher and former literacy co-ordinator, working in a P-10 context, I am familiar with the demands of the Australian Curriculum, and the NAPLAN Reading and Writing assessment tasks. My goal is to engage students to play with words and be creative!

I have five days available in Brisbane, February 12 – 17, 2018. ASA Rates for Author Visits are set to rise for 2018 – so book before December 2017 to secure your visit at current prices.

Complete the form below to to express your interest, and inspire your staff and students in the new school year. Other enquiries also welcome. 

More information: Author Talks

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The Bowerbird – a poem

I was scrolling through the Instagram feed yesterday when this brightly colourful post by imagination.mama caught my eye;

Cue the memories! Because I might know a think about that… In fact, I may have even written a poem or two when my boys were in preschool.

For my international Poetry Friday friends, bowerbirds are endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea. There are a number of varieties, but I’ll link you to Graeme Chapman‘s page of photos – where you can see pics of the male Satin Bowerbird and his collection of blue treasures. And David Attenborough’s BBC video, showing the elaborate bower created. (It’s astonishing!)

A lot of years have passed since that poem was written… but not much has changed. The bowerbirds still make something out of nothing – and I can’t regret it! Having seen the benefits of creativity and problem-solving throughout the years, and the complexity of the projects they now undertake, I am quick to extol the virtues of creative play and recycled projects at a very young age. If there is one thing I did well as a mother, it was to feed my bowerbirds! And I’m thrilled that kids are starting to be inspired to play and be creative, through my author visits.

‘You said to go home and make things with boxes… so we did!’

To squeeze more poetry into your weekend, be sure to visit Heidi at her juicy little universe, where you’ll find the full round-up of the links. Thanks, Heidi!

How to Storybird

Last week I posted about my discovery of Storybird. (You can read more here.) Storybird has been around since 2010, so I was feeling a little late to the party… but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t the only late arrival. So… for those of you who’ve never flown the nest, here’s a little peek into the process of creating a poem in Storybird. (You can also write picture books and chapter books, without the word ‘tags’ but I love the immediacy of the poetry – and haven’t yet spread my wings much in the other areas. And besides, this is Poetry Friday. 😉 )

First, you choose a photo (1) as inspiration. There are so many illustrations to choose from, generously shared by incredibly talented artists. There are vibrant pieces with an abundance of colour, or simpler black and white illustrations – or muted colours in between. (Something for every mood and preference!) For this example, I chose bright rain by thedreamygiraffe

Storybird Collage01 Sm
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Holiday Home – Shanty Town

shanty:   A roughly built, often ramshackle cabin; a shack.  (http://www.thefreedictionary.com)

After a ‘forget-your-head’ busy term (more here), my boys have been relishing The Holidays; a chance to be at home almost 24/7, and throw themselves into a couple of projects. (There is, of course, also a large proportion of time spent reading!)

During the term, the boys scratched around collecting materials and making false-starts on a cubby house. Day One of The Holidays they began in earnest.

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New Year Wordout

I have been indulging in a little poetry to herald the new year. A poem a day and more – because some are very short!

I think rhythm is important in all aspects of writing – and what better way to develop rhythm than through poetry. There’s also a lot to be said for brevity, while poetic devices like alliteration, metaphors and similes – and that simple ‘play on words’ – enrich all forms of writing.

A poem a day to start the new year is an exercise in creativity.

Here’s a couple of short poems, inspired by life in 2010…

dingoes,
dogged in
pursuit,
run the roos
and rue the ute
that roars beside
with slip
’n’ slide
and wheels
the wild dogs
off their stride.

working up a sweat
while jogging in the wet –
tRAINing

Ebb and Flow – How do you write?

How do you write?

I used to feel inadequate when I heard writers say they set aside a certain number of hours each (and every) day for solid writing. When many of those same writers then questioned the dedication of others who didn’t adhere to this rigid discipline… I for one would cringe.

Because I don’t think all writers follow that set rule – and I certainly don’t. It’s not that I’m not committed. And it’s not that I don’t love my writing. It’s just that I don’t work that way.

For myself, I find the ‘real’ writing comes in waves. Sometimes my head is a swirling pool of ideas and I write and write and write – or drive everyone crazy!

Other times, I (gasp!) write nothing. I may not have the time or headspace to write. I may be caught up in other aspects of my life, like work and family. I might be trapped in the ‘business’ of writing. Sometimes I just (gulp) don’t have the ideas.

But then there are those wonderful times when the writing flows out of my fingers like a river in flood and I know that I still am a writer.

For me, writing in bursts is a case of quality verse quantity. I am at my best when my life is busiest. I find I am focused and productive. I make every moment count – every word count. Then, with my head cleared of thoughts, I have time, space and energy to devote to other important areas of my life.

And funnily enough, those ‘other areas’ are often my greatest sources of inspiration. So though I’m not writing, I’m doing research. Being inspired… Drifting with the flow… Subconsciously churning plots and plans ready to ride the next wave of creativity.

Now, I don’t force it – except when I slip up. And I don’t fight it. I’d go crazy! I know my best writing happens when I relax and enjoy the ebb-and-flow of writing.