Over the next few months I will be interviewing children’s poets from all around the world. I’m hoping that this will give those interested in children’s poetry some insight into this wonderful genre.
First up we have the amazing Australian children’s author and poet – Meredith Costain. Thank you Meredith for taking the time to answer the following questions.
What poets did you enjoy reading as a child?
A A Milne, CJ Dennis and Hilaire Belloc.
Do you remember the first poem that you ever wrote? How old were you? Can you share it with us?
There were lots of little bits and pieces from the time I was six, but the first poem with a real sense of structure was written when I was eight. It was published in the Junior Age section of The Age newspaper. It was also my first ‘paid’ publication – I received a whole 17 shillings and sixpence! An absolute fortune back then.
My Little Creek
Through crisp ferny bracken
Where tree ferns grow tall
My little creek went winding
Near a rushing waterfall.
It told me many a story
Of pioneering days
As it gurgled on its stony bed
Beneath the warm sun’s rays.
But then a fearsome fire came
Scorching the countryside
Destroying all the bushland plants
Across that valley wide.
There’s no more ferny bracken
There’s no more tree ferns tall
But still my creek goes winding
Near the rushing waterfall.
As you can see, heavily influenced by the very ‘Australian’ poetry in the Victorian Education Department School Readers. And totally lacking any understanding of bush regeneration. Still, I was only eight … and all the bush where I lived had been cleared for pasture.
Do you write mostly in rhyme or in free verse? Do you know why?
Mostly in rhyme. No idea why. The rhythms are in my head, and it’s a wonderful sense of achievement when the rhymes ‘work’. Like solving a big puzzle.
Are your poems best performed aloud or read quietly to oneself? Can you provide an example?
Again, a mixture. However the poems in Doodledum Dancing were written to be performed aloud.
DINOSAUR SWAMP STOMP
Stomping, stamping dinosaurs
Clomping round on bumpy paws
Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!
Oozy, snoozy dinosaurs
Scratching sides with spiky claws
Scratch! Scratch! Scratch!
Munching, crunching dinosaurs
Chomping bones with snapping jaws
Snap! Snap! Snap!
Who first published your poetry?
As an adult, my first poems were published in Comet and Explore magazines, back in the 80s.
Where else have your poems been published?
I had some adult poems published in a small literary magazine, Brave New Word, in the early 90s. My collection of verse for the very young, Doodledum Dancing, was published as a picture book by Penguin in 2006 (illustrated by Pamela Allen). I’ve also had some poems in the Kids Night In anthology (Penguin), the When We Were Young anthology (Penguin) and Short (Black Dog Books). Many of the emergent readers I write for educational publishers contain rhyming verse.
Anthologies are often places for poets to seek publication. How would you suggest a new poet find out about upcoming anthologies?
The same way you find out about any other publishing opportunities: network!
Have you published a collection of your own poems? Where would we find a copy?
Doodledum Dancing, Penguin, 2006
Available in all good book stores. The paperback version is due in February 2010.
What are you working on at the moment?
A verse novel. Something a bit different for me!
Do you have a website/blog/facebook where we can find out more about you?
Do you have a favourite poetry websites?
This site was set up by Sherryl Clark (and me) to showcase Australian children’s poets, and help cultivate a culture of poetry in primary school classrooms.
Would you like to share one of your poems with us?
Wintry Weather (from Doodledum Dancing)
I love the wintry weather
When we rug up warm together
Watching lightning flickerflashing round the sky.
I love it when it’s chilly
And the garden’s daffodilly
And the kitchen smells of toast and apple pie.
I love it when it’s raining
And the ducks are aquaplaning
Over puddles in the middle of our street.
I go squelching, stomping, splashing
Kicking stones and spatterdashing
Making wintry weather patterns with my feet.