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Thursday 12 March 2015

Lorraine Marwood on How to Make a Fun Start with Poetry

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Australian author and poet Lorraine Marwood with some advice on easy ways for children (and adults) make a fun start with poetry. Lorraine's latest poetry collection is Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry, published in January 2015 by Walker Books.

(This sometimes happens when I say I’m a poet...)

Poetry, so you’re a poet? (and sometimes the conversation goes lukewarm)

Yes I am. I am a poet and have written hundreds upon hundreds of poems and had lots and lots published. (I’m too shy to say this aloud, but because words are my gifting I can write it here.)

So what can I do as a poet and teacher to engage children and adults in the delight and often inner health benefits of reading and writing poetry?

Hmm.  I often feel poetry is neglected, discarded, brushed aside and overlooked in preference to what a child once called ‘normal writing.’  That is novels and the like.

But in my many years experience of teaching poetry and writing poetry, I often find that poetry unlocks a response, a writing response where stories tend to block a child.


Well for a start a poem is achievable in a small amount of time.  It can be finished with less words, the right words, than a story.  It puts a halt to rambling, repetition of ideas and is a clear, vibrant, attention-grabbing format for children and adults alike to express themselves.

So let’s try a writing poetry technique that is fun, taps into what the child knows and shows the rudimentary differences between prose and poetry.

In my new collection Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry, I make use of this technique in various forms.

A two word poem - that is two words to each line.

So let’s consider the celebration of Easter coming up.

make a word bank
of course chocolate will be first
bunny, hot cross buns, autumn, hunt, Good Friday,
baskets, (I’m sure you can think of many more and just the act of compiling a word bank begins the writing process and as you write you come up with more words- that’s the surprise of writing!)

Now let’s begin- the only rule is two words per line, like steps of a ladder.

Chocolate hunt
eggs hollow
melting richness
autumn sun
looking, peeping
basket filling
tinsel wrapping
sharing surprises
long holiday
Good Friday

Ok, you have a poem, with a rhythm made by two words and the important essence of what makes a celebration.  There are no unnecessary words and you have to chose wisely.

Of course your poem will be different and you can even rearrange the lines to make them flow in a sequence or to choose the best order of the lines.

Other topics to write using this technique- autumn, holiday, birthday, best friend, weekend, sport. (I’m sure you can think of many more!)

Once children and adults take the plunge, poetry is a fun easy way of expressing oneself.  I have many more techniques and ideas tucked up my poetic sleeve but for now let’s celebrate those moments in life through the vehicle of a poem!

Lorraine Marwood is a poet and author.  Her books include StarJumps, winner of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for children’s fiction. Her poetry collections are A Ute Picnic and other poems about Australia, Note on the Door and other poems about family life, and Guinea Pig Town and other animal poems, all published by Walker books. Visit Lorraine's website for more information on her books and additional resources. You can also find Lorraine on Facebook.