Thursday, 30 January 2014

AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN’S POETRY

There was a time when poetry was routinely taught in Australian schools and children memorised and recited poems. However, this practice seems to have died and so it seems timely, especially with the new national curriculum pressing for the teaching of poetry, for closer attention to be paid to bringing poetry into the lives of all Australian school students.

In the UK it is commonplace for children’s poets to be invited into schools to recite their work, and too, there is a current campaign by the UK government to get children to learn poems by heart. In Australia at the moment there is only one regular outlet for children’s poetry: the NSW Department of Education School Magazine. The publishers in our country that release collections and/or anthologies of children’s poetry can be counted on one hand.

So it is that I have decided to introduce a blog to be called Australian Children’s Poetry, currently being constructed and to be launched by the end of this year. This free site will have an A to Z bibliographical database of contemporary Australian children’s poets, listing their collections of poetry (or verse novels), providing a showcase of their poems, and detailing how interested parties can contact the poets.

The Australian Children’s Poetry site will also feature interviews with poets, compilers and publishers about their work, and provide lists of Australian children’s poetry anthologies and collections. As well, there will be links to children’s poetry websites in Australia and overseas, and articles about children’s poetry and poets plus reviews of poetry books.

My love of poetry began when I was a toddler with my mother re-reading many times my favourite rhyme, ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. Now aged in my mid-60s, I still remember poems my fifth grade teacher taught and which I memorised (Oh, the value of a great teacher!) As a teenager I somehow came into possession of a battered poetry anthology; I read and re-read the poems in it many times. Then as a teacher I taught verse-speaking and poetry writing to my students. Working as a schools’ performer I always incorporated verse into my performances and as a lover of poetry I have collected and hand-made many anthologies both for myself and for children in my life. I have also written poetry for children and adults, some of which has been published in literary magazines. Interestingly, my husband Bill Condon is a well-published children’s poet.

A few years ago I decided to see if I could get published an anthology of contemporary Australian children’s poetry. It was a mammoth task finding the right poems and organising them into a collection which showcased many poetic styles and themes. Our Home is Dirt by Sea (from a line in Elizabeth Honey’s poem ‘Advance Australia Fair’) will be published by Walker Books Australia in 2015. In the meantime, my book of silly verse, Erky Perky Silly Stuff, has been published by Five Senses Education, and too I have compiled two other anthologies, Every Day is a Birthday and All Sing with Hilda, currently with a publisher.

At the moment I am seeking biographies and bibliographies from published Australian children’s poets. If you are eligible, or you know of anyone who is, please feel free to have them contact me at dibates@outlook.com. If you have a relevant article or other information for the blog, I’d love to hear from you, too.

Dianne (Di) Bates is the author of 120+ books for young readers including a verse novel, Nobody’s Boy (Celapene Press). Di is a recipient of the Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children’s literature. Her website is www.enterprisingwords.com.au

 
 
 

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