Kate O’Neil

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love words and books and poems and stories.  I still remember my excitement (way back in the 1950s) at discovering the existence of libraries, and how long the time seemed between visits. The first book I borrowed was Pookie by Ivy Wallace. It’s still a favourite.

I always sought out poetry.  I would write out the ones I liked in a notebook so I would have them forever, but found the joy of storing them in my head too.

Fortunately I can’t remember much of my early writing, but something about “Gerald the Grasshopper” was read on radio when I was in primary school.  One of my high school efforts was a parody of the prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – featuring school staff members. It began:

Me thynketh it according to resoun

To tell how in this institucioun

There lyveth certayn folk it seemes to me

Whos lyf is chalk and books eternalee

and concluded with:

So I have told you soothly, in a clause, th’estat, th’array,

but I know nat the cause,

Why so assembled is this companye,

So ‘questio quid juris’ will I crie.

In between were portraits of individual teachers. Risky stuff, but somehow I was awarded the poetry prize.

I have been a teacher of speech and drama for many years, helping children from 7 – 20 prepare chosen texts for performance in exams, eisteddfod competitions and auditions. I love being part of the encounter between a child and a text. Out loud. Live. It can really spark.

My poems have been published in The Voice, the magazine of the Speech and Drama Association of NSW (editor Zita Denholm, Triple D Books, Wagga) and in The Crock of Charms anthology compiled by Sally Odgers, 2013.

Please visit my new website: http://www.kateoneil.com.au/


Some of my poems:

The Reading Bug Explorer

Today we found a tiny beetle crawling on the floor

towards the children’s bookshelf and its slightly opened door.

He showed a sense of purpose in the steady way he went;

we sat quite still to try and see what made him so intent.

Was he frightened? Was he hungry? Or did he need a drink?

We’d never seen a bug like this. What were we to think?

We watched him while we wondered what his visit could be for

and while we watched and wondered, this is what we saw—

he struggled to the bottom shelf – the Aussie Nibble books,

and in and out he wandered taking eager hungry looks.

When he’d finished he seemed bigger and he climbed a little higher

to the Fairy Tales and Aussie Bites— he didn’t seem to tire,

but instead grew even stronger so the Aussie Chomps were next.

Would this creature ever satisfy his appetite for text?

We watched him browse through History – he seemed to lap up Time –

And he even moved in rhythm when he’d spent a while in Rhyme.

At last he found a lullaby and satisfied and snug

the Reading Bug climbed down again to sleep upon the rug.

© Kate O’Neil


Paperbark Lament

In my green springtime

I liked my smooth style.

Supple and lithe

I could bend, dance and sway

with the best of them…


But time and the weather

have stiffened me now,

and I’m growing stout.

My vest is too tight,

and it’s worn out.

I’m so uncomfortable,

I really have to strip.

© Kate O’Neil



Beetrootome my darling.

I cannot broccoli.

But since you are so very swede

I’ll love you ’til I fry.


Beetrootome my darling

if you carrot all.

I’ll have no peas until you’ve bean

and side by side we boil.


Beetrootome my darling.

Don’t go raisin doubt.

I yam your loyal lover

so don’t let worries sprout.


Beetrootome my darling.

You’ve artichoke my heart.

There’s not mushroom but we can be

quite comfrey in this tart.


Beetrootome my darling.

I pine for you my dear.

So lettuce settle on the date

when we become a pear.

© Kate O’Neil

4 thoughts on “Kate O’Neil

  1. Pingback: Friday update | Australian Children's Poetry

  2. Thanks Jackie – There’ll be a short response to Beetrootome in Sally Odgers’ ‘Prints Rhyming’ collection. Will there be a happy ending in this romance?

  3. Pingback: Poetry Journey of Kate O’Neil – Thoughts Become Words

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