Continuing with my interviews with children’s poets please welcome Edel Wignell to the blog.
Which poets did you enjoy reading as a child?
I was a lucky kid poetry-wise. Long before I read poetry, I heard it. I lived on a sheep farm and my grandmother, whose house was only 100 yards from ours, loved reciting poetry and telling stories. She and her sisters were brought up as ‘ladies’, learning painting and elocution. My grandmother taught at the rural school and married a farmer – my grandfather.
At primary school I read The Victorian Readers. The Third Book included simple poems by John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, R. L Stevenson… I read poems by A. B. Paterson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mary Gilmore (Fourth Book); Henry Lawson, John Shaw Neilson, Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Tennyson, John Masefield… (Fifth Book); William Wordsworth, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Robert Browning, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Longfellow… (Sixth Book). I read the monthly School Paper, too – magazines which contained many poems.
I loved the humour of C. J. Dennis’s verse, and Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’ was my favourite poem.
Do you remember the first poem that you ever wrote? How old were you? Can you share it with us?
I wrote many poems as a child, probably from the age of eight. Most were about the farm, the animals, the weather – but none of them was kept.
Do you write mostly in rhyme or in free verse? Do you know why?
I write mostly in rhyme because my childhood was full of it, and recitation was a school subject. We recited every day and in the end-of-the-year school concert.
As a teen at High School, I studied the Victorian poets (Tennyson, Browning, Arnold) and the Regency poets (Byron, Shelley, Keats), and adored the latter, learning verses to quote in exams.
I was introduced to free verse, too, with Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Richard II’ and ‘Macbeth’, and memorized the significant soliloquies. However, I didn’t begin to write free verse until eleven years ago. My first, ‘Inside Secrets’, has been Commended (twice) and Highly Commended in Contemporary Verse Competitions, and read on radio.
Are your poems best performed aloud or read quietly to oneself? Can you provide an example?
I write both. I like writing humorous poems (playing with words and ideas) and some are best read to oneself – to appreciate the word play and the pattern on the page. Here is a short one:
There was a young lassie called Ruth,
Who wriggled a little looth tooth,
She hitched and she twitched
Like a goblin bewitched,
Till that tooth came looth from her mooth.
Edel Wignell ©
Who first published your poetry?
My poetry was first published in the Echuca High School Magazine, The Murray Log, in the 1950s.
As an adult, my first published verse was a long story-poem, ‘Magnificent Mumps’ in Explore Magazine (Education Department of Victoria) in 1987.
Where else have your poems been published?
Magazines for children:
Comet, Explore, Challenge (Ministry of Education, Victoria/Pearson Education); Countdown, Blast Off, Orbit, Touchdown: School Magazine (Ministry of Education, NSW), Puffinalia (Penguin Puffin Club), Contagious, Little Ears, Young Yellow Moon, Quark (Zil Press, WA), Riding Free (journal of the Riding for the Disabled Association), The Dragoner (Newsletter of the Dromkeen Dragons), Practically Primary, School Journal (New Zealand), Wee Ones e-Magazine (USA), Children’s Book Insider (USA), Calli’s Tales (USA), Young American Student News, Junior Education (UK)
Anthologies for children:
Fun and Fantasy (Jacaranda Wiley), Stay Loose, Mother Goose: Stories and Poems to Read Aloud (Omnibus/Puffin), Annette Kosseris-Haynes (comp.) Here We Go Again, (Kindamindi Publishing), Pam Chessell and Hazel Edwards, Do Frogs Wear Jeans? (Longman Cheshire), Zita Denholm (ed.) Celebrate! The End of Year Reciter (Triple D Books), Theodore E. Wade (comp.) Bubbles: Poetry for Fun and Meaning, (Gazelle Publications, USA), SIRS Mandarin (Social Issues Resource Series, USA) database and CD-ROM
Newspapers and Magazines for adults:
The Gippsland Writer, The Newcastle Herald, Stringybark & Greenhide, The Daily Mercury, (Mackay, Qld), Yellow Moon, Word-Thirst, Pixel Papers, The Dawn, Paddy’s Post e-journal, The Reston Review (Virginia, USA), Green Teacher (UK)
Anthologies for adults:
Ros Flett and Phil Ilton (eds) Rhymes for the Times (Pulse Publications, Melbourne), Bette Diane Beckingham (ed.) Clinging to the Coast: Lines from Lancelin and Beyond (Samphire Publications, WA), Galloping On VII (Access Press, Northbridge), Robin Joyce (ed.) Social Images 1891-1991 (ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party, 1991), Joan Ackland (ed.), The Whirling Spindle, National Council of Women (Victoria), The Naked Pomegranate: Collected Womn’s Writing, No. 3, Kathryn Duncan (ed.) Short and Twisted: Stories and Poems with a Twist (2006 and 2008,Celapene Press, Knoxfield), Amhurst Society, American Poetry Annual
Also, several poems have been read on radio programs, ‘Write Now’, Southern FM 88.3 and ‘The Poetry of the People’, Radio North Shore FM 91.5, and published on the Scribbli Gum website: www.scribbligum.com
Anthologies are often places for poets to seek publication. How would you suggest a new poet find out about upcoming anthologies?
It’s difficult for new poets to discover such information. It’s difficult for established poets, also, unless they have been recognized. I know poets who have been regularly published in various children’s magazines for up to 20 years but aren’t invited. Much depends on the compiler and the publisher, their knowledge of the scene, how widely they search, whether they’re interested in New as well as Big Names. It’s important for new poets to join professional organizations such as the Australian Society of Authors, the Fellowship of Australian Writers and the Writers’ Centre in their state capital, and to network so that they have opportunities to read and hear of publishing opportunities.
Have you published a collection of your own poems? Where would we find a copy?
I have two unpublished collections of my poems – one humorous and one general. Neither has been accepted for publication and I’m not prepared to self-publish. An editor in an English publishing house congratulated me on my humorous verse, saying that it reminded him of the work of the English poets, Roger McGough, Kit Wright and John Hegley – words to treasure. Unfortunately he didn’t need a new collection at that time.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am in the early stage of creating a story poem. I often use snippets of history and story synopses from the ‘Odd Spot’, The Age, as story starters.
‘Pledge’, a ballad written recently for adults, was inspired by the following:
Fourteen fathers… have signed a pledge not to allow their daughters to take music
lessons until they know how to bake good bread. Narrabri Herald, 17 July 1886
My last story poem for children began when I read the following ‘Odd Spot’ in The Age, 16 June 2008:
Harvey, a squat Staffordshire bull-terrier escaped from a back yard by bouncing on
the family’s trampoline.
Do you have a website/blog/facebook where we can find out more about you?
I have a website with two links to poetry:
The Poetry link leads to both humorous and serious poetry for children. The Writing for Adults link includes poetry, the latest being the award-winning poem, ‘A Go-er in Murtoa’, which won first prize in the Murtoa Big Day Out Poetry Competition – Humour section.
Do you have favourite poetry website?
Jackie Hosking’s poetry blog: www.versatilityrhymeandrhythm.blogspot.com
Sherryl Clark’s: www.poetry4kids.net
Meadowbrook Press, Giggle Poetry: www.gigglepoetry.com
Would you like to share one of your poems with us?
I’ll share a very brief one for adults. When I wrote it, it was eight lines. Then I realized that it would be more subtle if I reduced it to seven. I showed it to Bill Condon who is a splendid poet. He thought it would be more effective as four! This kind of subtlety can best be achieved if the title is hugely meaningful. The poem was Very Highly Commended in the Twiggy Branch ‘Gumnuts’ Competition, March 2007, and published on the Scribbli Gum website: www.scribbligum.com.
THE LAST THING I SAW
The blue-ringed octopus
rests on my palm:
a golf ball of poison…
Edel Wignell ©