© Janeen Brian
Growing up takes a long time. While I was growing up, I came to understand that my perceptions of experiences and incidents were always going to be different to everybody else’s. In particular it struck me how differently people perceive something they see.
For example, once while travelling around New Zealand, I saw a huge rounded mountain. While other members of the group commented on the mountain’s size and other geographical features, I immediately imagined the shape as a giant’s head. It struck me at that moment that although factual information interested me, it wasn’t my passion.
Making-up was my passion.
A simple rhyme and a rhythm began to form in my mind:
A forest giant went out one day,
Incidentally, I developed those two lines into a rhyming narrative, entitled Thumpety-rah which later was published as a picture-book school reader by Wendy Pye in New Zealand.
However, despite that earlier light-globe popping moment, I still had a long way to go before I reached an understanding that writers and in particular, poets, have different perception-type antennae, which they use almost subconsciously. Gradually, I felt more confident in expressing myself in whatever way I felt natural to me. Now, I know deep down, I am a poet.
Here’s how I took an everyday event and scratched out a poem.
One day I saw my two chooks scrabbling happily in their pen, with not an egg in sight. Again! Whereas other people might pass a comment of annoyance, or head off to research information about Chooks and Their Spasmodic Egg-laying Habits, I jotted down a few words to recall the experience. Eventually that incident worked its way into a poem called Chooks. How did I develop it from a few words into a poem? What was my process?
My first step was to randomly throw words, phrases and thoughts onto paper, shutting out any of those critical niggles, or inner-head whines that drive you crazy by asking, Why are you putting that down? What’s that supposed to mean? I wrote down anything and everything about the way chooks act or sound; words like peck, flick, stare, croon, strut and ruffle. Words were soon scattered across the page as if the chooks themselves had been having a good scratch around.
I was able to carry out that stage even though I wasn’t in a ‘writing zone’; you know, that different world where writing simply flows; where it seems there are no hurdles to jump, gates to open or mud to slog through. I did all that toss-and-see stuff on paper preferring not to use a computer at that time.
Normally, I’d then leave the word collection alone for a while. But, as in this case, before I did, I gave it a sideways glance to see if there were any interesting connections or patterns lurking about, just right for the grabbing. I discovered a couple, so I highlighted them for a future time. So what did I mark out as interesting? Recently, I’d enjoyed reading a number of two-word-per-line poems. Perhaps I could couple up some of those independent words and somehow link them to a theme of non-laying chooks. It might work.
But after that thought, I knew that if I tried to take the poem process any further, it’d end up feeling and sounding contrived. I wasn’t fresh or alert enough, and I had to be when I tackled the next stage. Later I scrabbled about linking some strong verbs and nouns to develop the two-word-per-line idea. I had fun with claw grab and bottom squat which I felt also added to the visual image. Later still, I felt the poem needed more of a narrative structure and I decided the perfect vehicle was the use of different heights. I’d use the three levels of height that existed in our own chook pen; the yard, the roosting rail and the pen roof. I was also able to repeat those three levels when bringing the poem to its closure before the final command!
I had fun writing the poem and it was published in the July 2012 Countdown edition of The School Magazine. Kerry Millard’s quirky, fun illustrations matched the tone perfectly.
When I’m out at schools, I have enormous enjoyment performing this poem with children. They LOVE being chooks, and they also love shouting the last line, commanding the chooks to LAY SOME EGGS!
So, in an eggshell, it’s all about perception. Poetry is about taking the moment to react to experiences and seeing things around you in a different way. Many say it’s like putting on a different pair of glasses.
Well, I’m here to tell you, I enjoy wearing glasses!
Chooks in the
Chooks on the
Chooks on the
in the chook yard
on the roosting rail
and on the pen roof
get into the nesting boxes
LAY SOME EGGS!
About Janeen Brian Janeen began playing around with words in her thirties. An avid reader, she began writing short verses for her own fun and that of her two young daughters. Janeen has now been published widely across many genres, and as an award-winning author has had over 85 books published. Her main loves are picture books, short fiction and poetry. Her recent foray into the world of novel writing has met with great success with the release of That Boy, Jack, which won a Notable Award in the 2014 CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Awards. She is currently writing another commissioned novel and has three more books due for publication.
Janeen writes both rhyming and free verse and sees her rhyming verse mainly as her vehicle for humour. Her work has appeared in 16 anthologies and over 150 of her poems have appeared in children’s magazines both nationally and in USA. She’s also been shortlisted or won awards for both her children’s and adult poetry.
Three books, Silly Galah, Its and Bits of Nature (reprinted as Nature’s Way) and By Jingo! are picture-poetry books, while The Super parp-buster, Columbia Sneezes, Shirl and the Wollomby Show, I Spy Dad, I Spy Mum, I’m A Dirty Dinosaur are picture books told in rhyme. I’m a Dirty Dinosaur has been Shortlisted in the 2014 CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Awards and the Speech Pathology of Australia Awards. Another picture-poetry book called Our Village in the Sky, was recently released (2014). It was illustrated by the award-winning illustrator and published by Allen & Unwin.
postal: 11 Short Ave, Glenelg East SA 5045
phone / fax: (08) 8294 5703
That Boy, Jack: A Notable in the Younger Readers’ category for 2014 CBCA Awards
I’m a Dirty Dinosaur: Shortlisted for the Early Childhood category in the 2014 CBCA Awards, Selected for Get Reading! 2013
Eddie Pipper: Shortlisted for Speech Pathology Awards, 2013