“I hope that if there are any children reading this blog, they will be inspired by the passions of the various poets interviewed on the site to explore verse as a means of expressing the feelings and experiences that relate to their own everyday lives.”
– Jenny Erlanger
When did your interest in poetry begin and what were the circumstances?
I’m pretty sure it was through reading AA Milne’s poetry as a child that I became interested in poetry, particularly in rhyming, rhythmic verse. As a child myself, I enjoyed the humour he conveyed in simple poems about everyday events, as well as the musicality of his lines.
What was your experience with poetry as a child at school?
I don’t remember ever having studied poetry at school but I do remember my Grade 4 teacher – who actually became a valued family friend – being very supportive of my own poetry writing and encouraging me to share my poems with the rest of the class.
Did you write poetry as a child?
I started writing poetry during my second year of primary school and for the next couple of years I was a prolific writer. At certain stages during that time I was penning a poem a day. Many poems were lost along the way since I wrote them on single sheets of paper, but a number of them have survived in an exercise book my father bought me specifically for my poetry efforts.
When was your first poem published?
Apparently one of my poems was read out on the radio during a session of the Argonauts’ Club but I missed it! The first publication, though, was the collection of poetry, “Giggles and Niggles” in 2007.
Who are some poets whose writing you love?
I’ve already mentioned AA Milne, but I’m also a fan of Shel Silverstein and Pam Ayres.
Have you had any poetry writing mentors?
I don’t have any ongoing mentors but through my participation last year in the Maurice Saxby Mentorship Program I was fortunate to have Jackie Hosking as a mentor. She gave me valuable feedback on a couple of picture book manuscripts I’d written.
What inspires you to write poetry?
I think poems are a great vehicle for conveying feelings about and reactions to so much of what happens in our lives. In a few succinct words a particular moment in time, or the repercussions of that moment , can be captured in a neat and engaging framework.
My own love of nature has also been a huge inspiration for many of my reflectional poems. I’ve found poetry a fantastic outlet for expressing my awe of certain aspects of nature and exploring what I see as the messages the natural world has for us regarding different aspects of our everyday lives as human beings.
When you are writing a poem, what comes first — a subject, a line, a word?
I would always start with a subject. I could never see myself starting with a line and then wondering where it will go from there. The inspiration for that subject, though, might come from a single word, a play on words, a funny expression or, in the case of my children’s poetry, some humorous event.
It is frequently the last line of a poem that comes to me first. It is this line – normally a punch line or a twist of some sort – that dictates the type of rhyming patterns and rhythmic construction I’ll be using.
Do you workshop your poems with anyone?
I’ve recently joined a writers’ group that meets once a month, so if I’ve written something between visits I take it along to share. For many years though, I haven’t really workshopped my poems. My long-suffering husband is usually the one who’s bombarded with a new poem as soon as he walks in the door after work.
How do you know a poem you write is finished?
I never consider a poem to have been completely finished. Most of my poems have proved to be works in progress. There are always a few tweaks to make a few hours, days or weeks after I’ve composed a poem but I’ve also found myself making the occasional changes to poems I wrote years ago.
How do you know a poem is ‘good’?
If a poem can still make me smile or touch me in some other way after several readings or recitations, I’m prepared to classify it as a good one.