The following is an interview conducted by Rebecca Newman of Alphabet Soup with Dianne (Di) Bates, the founder of Australian Children’s Poetry blog about an Australian children’s poetry anthology Di has compiled.
RN: You are the commissioning editor for a poetry anthology for children coming out with Walker Books. What was your role in the book? DB:I spent many hours finding poems which were written by Australians and which would suit the themes I’d decided on for the anthology (such as sport, families, being a kid). I had to record the source of each poem (if it was in a single poet collection, an anthology, a magazine or if it was unpublished). I also tracked down contact addresses of the poets, gave the anthology a title (Our Home is Dirt by Sea) and then had to find a publisher for the whole anthology. This all sounds easy, but it took me several years.
RN: There are a lot of poems in an anthology. Do all the poets get paid if they have a poem published in an anthology?
DB: Yes, poets are paid. As the editor, I get paid, as well. Unfortunately the publisher couldn’t include all the poems I wanted, because of financial limitations.
RN: Does an editor ever change the words in a poem once it’s accepted for an anthology? Does the poet have a say in any changes?
DB: I would never change the words — or the punctuation — in a poem without approval from the poet. I didn’t change any of the poems in my anthology.
RN: Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming anthology? DB: Titled Our Home is Dirt by Sea, the anthology consists of 60 poems in the following categories: Australia, Mostly Me, Families, People, Animals, Sport, School, and Special Times. A few of the poems are lyrical, some make children think and some are humorous, but all are child-friendly and relatively short. The style of poems ranges from rhyming verse to free verse. I aimed for poems which make the reader feel some emotion when reading them, and for children to ‘see’ themselves or the world around them. Some of the poets are well-known such as Steven Herrick, Elizabeth Honey, Doug McLeod and Max Fatchen, but others are lesser known (to children) such as Robert Adamson, Kyle Seeburg, Andrew Leggett and Rodney Hall. I have also compiled two other children’s poetry anthologies, but they are so far unpublished. And I’ve published a book of mad verse for children titled Erky Perky Silly Stuff (Five Senses Education).
RN: Do you write poetry yourself? (Does that help when you are selecting poems for an anthology?)
DB: Yes, I do write poems, but I don’t consider myself a very good poet. There are none of my poems in Our Home is Dirt by Sea, though there are a few by my husband, Bill Condon (who has published three collections). I know a lot about poetry from having a life-long love of poetry, teaching verse speaking, performing poetry and reading extensively. I’ve also run children’s poetry competitions and have a blog, Australian Children’s Poetry which showcases Australian children’s poets.