'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 28 January 2011

Guest Post: Verse Novels and Poetry by Lorraine Marwood

We are thrilled to welcome poet and author Lorraine Marwood to KBR today. Lorraine's novel, Star Jumps, was honoured the 2010 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Children’s Fiction. Today, Lorraine shares her passion for verse with us.

I've always written poetry - for a long time now. So the verse novel had immediate appeal. But it wasn't the conventional writing in small complete poems for each character, but a flow of narrative that placed the reader in a 3D atmosphere - well that's how I like to think it happens. Because poetry has sensory qualities and sharpness that often prose doesn't quite capture.
Take for example a small scene from my verse novel Star Jumps where a night time birth is in trouble (cows always liked giving birth in the middle of a cold and stormy night):

Now it feels like a stage
for all the dark,
quiet paddocks to watch.
Dad takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves
lifts the cow's tail, sees the feet peeping out.
“It should come front feet and nose first.
Otherwise there's a problem.”
And I wonder how Dad knows about
Maybe from Pa. He was a dairy farmer too.
Maybe dad was like me,
watching from the rails
on other stormy nights,
years and years ago.

Here in the space of a small paragraph I can set the emotional scene, the emotional stakes and the physical setting as well. I love the brevity and the full emotional impact of poetry.

I realise that many readers baulk at the idea of a novel written in verse, but once you plunge in, the swimming is effortless. As a poet I find a way to reach out to my audience and a way to translate the seemingly everyday happenings with a glitter of sunlight still attached (see I'm wanting to write poetry already!)

My hands tingle with the thought of writing and my words come out in clusters of poetry. Poetry isn't an easy road for a writer to take. One's readership is limited, yet I find that the most effective way of encouraging children and adults alike to write is through poetry. It's the sense of accomplishment and the aura of the vignette.

And I can apply that to my early apprenticeship in writing. I'd snatch time in between the morning milking and getting the kids off to school, by quickly writing down a line, a sensory impression that I could later tackle and complete. When my life was at its busiest I'd write up to three poems a day, nearly every day - my journals were dense and the ideas I toyed with years ago now come to complete fruition in the novels and poetry collections that are currently being published.

Lately I've been trawling those note books for little gems to complete for my next collection with Walker. I can even go back to when I was 18 (a long time ago now) and marvel that the things that I wrote about then are still resonating/evolving now.

I believe that poetry should be grounded in concrete nouns and verbs, be readable and above all transport the reader into another level of understanding, of perspective through sensory atmosphere.

In this way readers find empathy with situations and stories that they may never physically encounter. As a poet and author that's the gift I want to create.

Cows with legs tucked
begin to rise like seals on a dark beach,
some rise quickly,
others just stare.
Warm breath makes ghostlings
as I carefully
step my way to Dad.

(From Star Jumps published by Walker Books, 2009)

Lorraine's latest book is A Ute picnic and other Australian poems, published by Walker Books, 2010.

Visit Lorraine Marwood's website for more about her work

Read our review of Star Jumps