Happy World Poetry Day!
Today is a wonderful day for me as I’ve always loved reading and writing poetry.
I can’t remember exactly where this love started but I do know it didn’t come about through acrostic, haiku or diamente poems. (I’m looking at YOU boring school curriculum!)
I remember my primary school librarian, Miss Patterson, sharing the works of classics such as Dorothea McKellar, Henry Lawson and, my favourite, Banjo Paterson.
She also shared the rule bending work of Spike Milligan (who loved writing nonsense poems such as ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’) and C.J Dennis (who’s imagination produced the unforgettable ‘Triantewontegongolope’).
Miss Paterson loved words. She loved the way you could move them and bend them and fascinate others with them.
And that’s how she presented poetry to us.
It was fun, freeing and enjoyable.
When it came to writing poetry, Banjo Ptterson was my biggest mentor.
I loved the way he could tell a good yarn, include humour and do it all with an unforced rhythmic fluency. Incredible!
Plus, I was always drawn to the underdog in his tales (think Geebung Polo club and poor old Mulga Bill).
I’ve fallen in love with many more poets and poems since those days and today, in order to celebrate World Poetry Day, I thought I’d share some of my favourites.
Some of my favourite pieces of performance/ spoken word poetry
In recent years I’ve fallen head-over-heals in love with spoken word / performance poetry. I love the passion, energy and thinking these poems cause.
I once heard a spoken word poet describe this form of poetry as “dancing in chains.” She said you had to get as much information across in as few words as possible. Spoken word poets are experts at this.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Hate He Said– a poem to present an Indigenous perspective on Australia Day celebrations.
- Unforgettable- a poem about the importance of pronouncing people’s names correctly (especially if they’re from non-English speaking origins)
- Native Tongue- this poem discusses the English language and forces us to question and reflect on who has the power in the language world. This poem reminds me of the book ‘The Dictionary of Lost Words.’ It really makes you think.
- Alexander Hamilton- how could a list of favourite spoken word poetry NOT include a piece from Lin Manuel Miranda? I am in compete awe of his ability to take an enormous amount of information, synthesise it and communicate it in such an engaging manner. He exemplifies what it is to play with, exploit and celebrate words.
Some of my favourite verse novels
Novels written completely in verse (poetry) are a favourite of mine.
Besides being quick to read (which is a huge selling point for kids) I love being constantly surprised and inspired by the way the poets have crafted their sentences and reimagined the use of words in these novels.
Verse novels model the concept of poetry as being “the right words in the right order.” This is exactly what makes them great mentor texts for building student word choice in writing!
Here are a few of my favourite verse novels:
- Sister Heart– this book, by Sally Morgan, explores a story from Australia’s Stolen Generation and is a must read for students in years 5+
- The Simple Gift– this book, by Steven Herrick (a personal favourite poet of mine), is a beautiful and heart warming book about a teenager who becomes homeless after running away. It includes his usual humour and unique take on things.
- Bindi– this is a recently published book by Kirli Saunders (illustrations by Dub Leffler). It’s a gorgeous read and one that has been listed as a CBCA notable this year.
- Poet X– I read Elizabeth Acevado’s YA novel soon after reading The Hate U Give. It deals with similar themes and is an enthralling read that had me reading late into the night.
Some of my favourite verse picture story books
Ahhh, this category is WAY TOO HARD!
There are so many great picture story books written in verse format. How on earth am I supposed to choose just a handful of good ones?
Here are some of my current favourites (definitely not a comprehensive list though!)
- How to Make a Bird– Meg McKinlay’s book is exquisite! This is a masterclass in writing well.
- When We Say Black Lives Matter– Maxine Beneba Clark is a favourite author of mine. I love her rhythm and her way with words.
- Coming Home to Country– Bronwyn Bancroft’s book is beautifully lyrical. She has a knack for seeing things through a writer’s eyes.
- The Great Realisation– Tomos Roberts wrote this book after the 2020 lockdowns. It’s a book that gets you thinking and reflecting on what our lives have become. (Thanks to Kirby for recommending this one to me).
- Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns– An oldie but a goodie. I can’t help but love books about old ladies (especially nuns) who act in ways they aren’t ‘meant’ to act.
There are so many more than this that I love but theses are just 5 I’ve put my finger on at this minute.(My sincerest apology to every other verse PSB).
Important note: not all poems rhyme! This is not something all students understand. Books such as ‘How to Make a Bird’ and ‘Coming Home to Country’ can help students understand that poetry is all about crafting beautiful language in creative ways (rather than always sticking to predetermined structures and recipes).
A piece of my own writing
Finally, I thought I’d share a Banjo Paterson inspired poem I wrote to celebrate my nephew’s (long time coming) first goal in football.
‘Twas Isaac McCloud from Raywood town who caught the football craze,
He collected all those trading cards and watched the game most days.
He dreamt the dream of every player, where he would bag a tonne;
Though fast approaching his 20th game, was yet to kick a single one!
His parents had driven him here and there to get to weekend matches,
He’d played through wind and rain and hail and on grounds with muddy patches.
Up back he’d played and on the wing and rucked in the middle mix,
But never had he had the luck of kicking one through the sticks.
Then one fine day, when least expected, where he was playing up front,
Young Isaac McCloud from Raywood town performed an awe-inspiring stunt!
The ball came near, his opponent leapt and missed his mark (somehow)
Isaac crumbed and grabbed the ball then dropped it and KERPOW!
He’d got the ball onto his boot and kicked it as quick as a flash,
The Bloods didn’t know what to do, they’d no time to make a dash!
The ball went sailing through the air towards an open goal…
(Ok, so it was more of an endless dribble, a kind of wonky–oblong-roll).
The crowd leaned forward, his grandparents stared, they all were shouting ‘GO!’
Time slowed down; the ball kept rolling (though now it started to slow…)
“Will it make it to the goals?” He thought, “please make it just go through!”
“Why weren’t there defenders in the square? This is too good to be true!”
The crowd erupted; the car horns honked- a miracle had taken place,
Players came sprinting from down the field, with huge smiles across their face.
‘Twas Isaac McCloud from Raywood town who’d finally broken his curse,
And everyone will always remember the day he kicked his first!
What are your favourite poems? Share yours in the comments below or join in the conversation over the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook Group.