When I, too, was a child, our school Readers had lots of poems which we learnt by heart, then recited in class. I remember them all to this day. I consider it a great loss for our children that this teaching no longer applies today.
Poetry is magical and funny. It tells stories about life. Within it, poets intimate, reveal, share and confess parts of their life experiences in passionate, angry, absurd, moving and hilarious ways.
This exciting book is filled with these kinds of poems by Australian authors for Australian children. It opens with a startling and entertaining rendition of Advance Australia Fair by Elizabeth Honey, as heard by a child’s ear, and translated in a child’s words (perhaps sometimes by adults too).
The book contains 45 poems from 35 poets. It is broken into sections on specific subjects. Each emotive poem is full of meaning. There are poems about memories that warm the soul and nurture the spirit; and poems on sadness and joy. They hold lines such as these from My Tenth Birthday by Robert Adamson: ‘on a night my father set out the nets and slept beside me for the only time in his life’. So much is revealed in this group of words.
Then there is Immigrant House by Warrick Wynne where ‘his mother smiles at me with a European accent’. Indigenous reflections are contained in The Last of His Tribe. There are hilarious revelations about the company kept by Uncle Jack from the outback, in Christmas Visitor by Bill Condon, and try translating the Strine in Fishermen by Anonymous. Hills by Lydia Pender, called me back to my youth and the joy, freedom and daring of rolling or running down grass slopes.
This well-chosen collection is brilliant in every way. Authors included are Sally Murphy, Sophie Masson, Janeen Brian, Robin Klein, Lorraine Marwood, C J Dennis, and Jill McDougall. I’m thrilled that here, poetry is something alive and vibrant for children to read and learn from. I see hope reborn each time I see a collection of poetry compiled for children (and adults that love words).
Title: Our Home Is Dirt by Sea: Australian Poems for Australian Kids
Author: Various authors, selected by Dianne Bates
Publisher: Walker Books, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: May 2016
For ages: 8+
Type: Australian Poetry Collection