Australian Children’s Poetry Interview
When did your interest in poetry begin?
As far back as I can remember, I have loved poetry. I gained that love from my mother who had a way with rhyme and used to write short poems to entertain the family. For my sixth birthday my mother gave me a hardcover copy of Louis Untermeyer’s ‘The Golden Treasury of Poetry’ which I still treasure. It’s full of flowers and leaves I pressed as a child. In the foreword Louis Untermeyer writes, “In these pages are poems that will become favourites; you will never lose your taste for them. They will be part of you as long as you live.”
Did you write poetry as a child?
For many years growing up my family didn’t have a television so I was always writing something, usually poetry, plays or stories. As a child I liked to illustrate my work (with varied results).
When was your first poem published?
In the school magazine my primary school produced when I was about 10. I was living in Germany with my family at the time. I became more serious about writing children’s poetry in my late twenties and began sending my work to magazines.
Who are some poets whose writing you love?
Where to start? Here are the names of a few poets that I love to read: Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wendy Cope, Ogden Nash and Benjamin Zephaniah.
Have you had any poetry writing mentors?
Not really, although I have learnt a great deal from reading others poets’ work.
What inspires you to write poetry?
I find poetry in nature and everyday situations. Perhaps a cockatoo will drop a feather in my garden or I’ll be blowing bubbles with my children and it will inspire a poem. My children are really good at getting me to write humorous poetry.
When you are writing a poem, what comes first – a subject, a line, a word?
Usually it’s the subject that inspires me to write. I like to write about things I’ve experienced – an encounter with a dragonfly, a hailstorm or just my cat being silly.
Do you workshop your poems with anyone?
I’m a member of a small writing group of four members. The members write fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They help me refine my children’s poetry and are always very encouraging.
How do you know when a poem is finished?
When the rhythm works well and when I have made sure that every word does its job properly.
How do you know if a poem is good?
I get a warm fuzzy feeling and then cross my fingers.
What is your top tip for aspiring children’s poets?
Believe in yourself, read lots and write, write, write. Turn off your internal editor during the creative process, then edit your work and then edit some more. Enjoy being creative. There is nothing more satisfying that writing a good poem.
Vanessa Proctor lives in Sydney with her husband, two children, dog, cats and an array of visiting wildlife. She is the current President of the Australian Haiku Society. She loves all kinds of poetry and writes children’s poetry, haiku and its related forms and free verse. One of her haiku is inscribed on a boulder on the Katikati Haiku Pathway in New Zealand and her haiku have been known to appear on teabag tags. Her latest book is ‘Blowing Up Balloons: baby poems for parents’ (Red Moon Press 2017).
fluffy pink beehive
whirled full of the thrill of
the rocketing rollercoaster
unravelling like my brain
as I ride on the hurricane
its sticky spun sugar is
as sweet as a week
That kitten so sweetly
curled up in the sun,
who would believe
he kills just for fun?
Pink nose, long whiskers,
soft ginger pelt,
he cuddles us closely
and makes our hearts melt.
But when we’re not looking,
when we’re unaware,
he sharpens his claws
and pads down the stairs.
he’s a skink-slinker,
down right stinker.
Right through the house
he drops feathers and fur
and all he can do
is happily purr,
then snuggle on somebody’s
lap in the sun.
Who would believe
he kills just for fun?
Rocky the Cocky
I admire you,
I really do.
But do you think
my head was made
as a perch
for a cockatoo?