An interview with Janeen Brian


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“Poetry is on an exciting tipping edge at the moment. It’s ripe for picking and we want to keep on applauding those teachers and parents who lay poetry before children as often as possible. And also applaud the School Magazine and other children’s magazines that wholeheartedly support and show the value of poets and poetry in our lives.”

-Janeen Brian

When did your interest in poetry begin and what were the circumstances?

It’s hard to recall an actual moment but I always loved the rhythm of words, the puns, the skipping rhymes and special words that jumped from a page of writing. I didn’t put any special feelings to this; it just was what it was. Poetry at home? Dad had funny sayings and skitty little rhymes, so I suppose I absorbed the language of those. Poetry at school? Only those poems found in the general classroom readers and one especially which was taught to us in Year 7 called Silver, by Walter de la Mare. I loved the sounds and the tranquility of the poem, beginning with: Slowly, silently, now the moon/walks the night in her silver shoon./This way and that she peers and sees/silver fruit upon silver trees.

Did you write poetry as a child?

I don’t remember doing very much writing of any sort as a child. I may have, but sadly, it’s a vanished memory.

When was your first poem published?

Two poems came out at the same time, but in different magazine age levels in the School Magazine, in 1983. One was called A Circle of Song and the other, Jigsaw Bits. I still like them.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

Lorraine Marwood, Stephen Herrick, Sharon Creech, Michelle A. Taylor, John Malone, Rachel Rooney, Claire Saxby, Max Fatchen, Michael Rosen, Jack Prelutsky, Louise Greig, Rosemary Dobson, and many other early Australian poets, plus Basho, the Japanese poet who writes haiku.

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

I once did an online course with Lorraine Marwood. Great!

What inspires you to write poetry?

It’s the brevity of the writing. It’s ‘handleable’, manageable and so self-contained. I can take a moment and transform it. I can play with words and hold my breath at unexpected outcomes. It’s tight and charged with a fuse that can light up emotions.

When you are writing a poem, what comes first – a subject, a line, a word?

More often than not it’s a word or a phrase that I’ve either thought of or, hopefully, written down. It’s usually weighted with some experience or emotion from the time – but that may change according to the poem and how the words are released.

Do you workshop you poems with anyone?

Sometimes with Lorraine, but no-one else, really.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it’s said all it, or I, have to say. When it’s as clear, simple and as rich as I can make it at the time. When I’ve checked that I’ve come up with appropriate words, or metaphors, or sensory images. However, if I leave the poem for a while, there’s often another tweak done here and there!

How do you know if a poem is good?

I think one of my poems is good, when it fulfils all those comments mentioned above and when I can read it with satisfaction and still experience the same, positive feeling each time.


From the School Magazine.


2 thoughts on “An interview with Janeen Brian

  1. How wonderful to see an interview on the blog with Janeen! I remember learning ‘Silver’ in fifth class with Miss Arthur, also Ozymandias, Matilda, The Listeners and The Highway Man. I wonder how many of today’s teachers are presenting poems to their students?

  2. Greetings Janeen!Couldn’t agree more about letting children ‘taste the joy’ of is their right.And de la Mare remains timeless..Remember those rollicking farmers who danced each other’Off the Ground’..and the gentle’Nod’ ?You have started me on a trip to Nostalgia -wherever that may be.I loved them as did my children.Cheers and thanks
    Anne Bell

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