Poetry book review

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Our Home is Dirt by Sea

Australian poems for Australian kids

Selected by Dianne Bates

Walker Books ISBN 9781925081190 PB RRP $16.99

Reviewed by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

our-home-is-dirt-by-sea-coverFrom the title with its play on the line from our national anthem to the content and the creators, this anthology is Australian in flavour and is sure to become a popular addition to home and school libraries.

Dianne Bates, who selected the poems for inclusion, said her aim in compiling the anthology was to honour some fine Australian children’s poets and there are many names that will be familiar to poetry lovers.

The book is well presented and easy to read and features a diverse range of child-friendly, well-crafted poems sorted into categories of Mostly Me, Families, People, Animals, Sport, School and Special Times.

“In choosing which poems to include I was guided by numerous factors,” Bates said.

“First I needed to believe that any given poem would appeal to child readers; I asked myself would they understand the poem and would they like it.

“For me, a poem needs to touch the readers in some way, not just intellectually but emotionally. The reader ought to have an ‘ah’ moment.

“What matters most in a collection of poems like this is that the reader will want to dip into it again and again.”

Our Home is Dirt by Sea fulfils Bates’ intent.

It’s difficult to highlight individual poems from an anthology of this quality. Among my personal favourites are If I Were a Kid (Jane Williams), Quite Bizarre (Kylie Seeberg), The Lady (Ann Coleridge), A Dancing Cat (Janeen Brian) and Christmas Visitor (Bill Condon).

Some poems will amuse and entertain, while others will prompt serious thought, such as Auschwitz Flower by Ian McBryde and The Last of His Tribe by Henry Kendall.

The anthology is a wonderful resource for schools. I’ve used it in my creative writing sessions for young people and adults and find it offers excellent examples of diversity in style and voice.

The only aspect of the book that jarred with me was the background graphic of the Foreword, About the Poets and First Lines Index. It works on the colour cover but interferes with text clarity in mono in the interior of the book.

Bates said the anthology took a decade from research to publication. It’s been worth the wait. Anyone who enjoys poetry – child or adult – is sure to find many poems to love and share in its pages.

Our Home is Dirt by Sea is available from the publisher here.

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