Meet Pat Simmons

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Pat is a writer of poems, short stories, flash fiction and children’s picture books.

Her work has been published in anthologies and children’s magazines (including NSW School Magazine, Alphabet Soup and Looking Glass Magazine) and she has won writer competitions in Australia and the UK.

Her picture book manuscript, Ziggy’s Zoo has been accepted for publication by Little Pink Dog Books in 2017 and she has independently published a collection of flash fiction stories for adults called 52 Twisted Tales.

She lives at Scarborough on the south coast of NSW with her four cats, three dogs and assorted mini beasts.

Visit Pat’s website: www.patsimmonswriter.com.au

pat-simmons

“Write about what you love, what you know, what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Read lots of children’s poetry to get a feel for what style suits you.”_Pat Simmons

 

When did your interest in poetry begin?

When I was a child, I think. I’ve always loved rhyme and nonsense poetry.

Did you write poetry as a child?

I don’t remember writing poetry until I was about twelve years old when a school friend and I co-wrote a poem about our pet guinea pigs which was published in the school magazine. (Fortunately I don’t still have a copy.)

What was the first poem you had published?

Well, moving on about 50 years, my poem, Mr Pickle’s Pet Shop won a UK poetry competition and was published in 2010.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

Ah, there are many, from the wonderful nonsense poetry of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll to Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, John Betjeman, Bob Dylan and many more.

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

No mentors as such, but the members of the writers’ group I belong to continue to encourage and inspire me.

What inspires you to write poetry?

Competitions and sites like ACP motivate me to write. I love writing but I don’t like writing lots of words! Poetry challenges me to write ‘tight’.

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

Prompt words work really well for me as they give me a starting point. I’m also inspired by various subject matter. With my children’s poetry I love writing about animals and particularly animals who existed in history.

Do you workshop your poems with anyone?

Only with my writers’ group buddies.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Oh, good question and I’m not sure how to answer it. I think I just know when I’ve said enough!

How do you know if a poem is good?

I don’t really ever know but, just sometimes, I’ll finish a poem and say to myself, ‘that’s good!’ I try not to overthink them.

What is your top tip for aspiring children’s poets?

Write about what you love, what you know, what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Read lots of children’s poetry to get a feel for what style suits you.

 

Trim

I’m a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

I was born on the Reliance in 1799.

Of all my mother’s kittens

I was the one most fine.

I’m a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

I have four snow-white paws

And a white star on my chest.

Of all the cats on board this ship

The sailors like me best.

I’m a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

When it’s time for dinner

I don’t eat with other cats.

I sit at table with the men.

I don’t care for rats.

I’m a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

I have a trusty friend

And Matthew Flinders is his name.

He has called me Trim.

I think together we’ll find fame.

I’m a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

Matthew is a clever man

He’s sailed all round this land.

He’s given it a name

And that’s Australia – how grand.

Perhaps you have a cat at home

Is it as fine as me?

Would it like to come aboard

And sail upon the sea?

With a black cat

A special cat

A ship’s cat.

Pat Simmons

 

Meet the poet: Kristin Martin

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Kristin lives in Adelaide in a house sort-of-near the sea with her husband, two sons, three turtles, four goldfish, five spiny leaf insects and a canary named Stephen Fly. Her poems have appeared in Tadpoles in the Torrens (Wakefield Press, 2013), and in the magazines Blast Off and Orbit. Kristin’s adult poetry collection, Paint the Sky, will be published by Ginninderra Press later this year.

Today Kristin tells us about her love of poetry and shares a little about her writing process…

I love writing poems; that’s what makes me a poet. I wouldn’t write poems if I didn’t love doing it. If you love writing poems then you are a poet too.

Many of my poems come from things I see or hear that make me laugh, or make me stop and say, “Wow! Isn’t that amazing! I want to tell people about that!” But, just because I think something is funny or amazing, it doesn’t mean other people will too. So I have to show how amazing or funny it is. One way to do this is to make up a story, with interesting characters and a setting and a beginning, middle and an end. I insert the amazing thing I saw into the story, and I write the story as a poem.

A few years ago, when I was travelling around northern Australia with my family, I was amazed by all the places where we saw frogs. We saw a tiny frog on the mirror in the girls’ toilets at a caravan park. We saw an even tinier frog siting behind the cold-water tap on the sink. And we saw a huge frog hiding under the toilet seat. I wanted to tell people about all these amazing places you could find frogs, so I decided to write a frog poem. To make my poem more interesting I developed a story about a child who has lots of frogs in her (or his) house. I pretended I was the child, and I was up at night, creeping around my house with a torch looking for the frogs. Here is the poem I wrote.

 

A Night of Frogs

A frog lives in our garden
in a pond beneath the tree.
I hear it croak at bedtime
as it says ‘goodnight’ to me.

A frog lives by our back door
on a post below the light.
I sneak outside to say ‘hello’
because it’s only there at night.

A frog lives in our laundry
in the corner of the wall.
I check when I come back inside
to make sure it didn’t fall.

A frog lives in our kitchen
in the space behind the sink.
It freezes in the torchlight
when I get myself a drink.

A frog lives in our bathroom
and I don’t know what to do
because it isn’t where it should be.
Yuk! It’s swimming in the loo!

My mum comes in the bathroom,
plants a kiss upon my head.
‘The frogs are fine just where they are
but you should be in bed!’

I also like to play with rhymes. On the same trip to northern Australia I was sitting on the edge of a beautiful, warm spring, dangling my feet in the water and watching my children swim, when a woman walked up with a black, stocky dog. I wanted to jump up and ran away because the dog looked so scary. But I made myself stay, because the water was lovely and warm, and told myself to be wary of the dog, but not scared. Immediately I realised I had a rhyme: “Some dogs are scary, you have to be wary.” I loved that rhyme! Over the next few weeks I thought of other rhymes for dogs; tiny dogs and jumpy dogs and busy dogs. I wrote them all in my notebook, then chose my favourite rhymes and arranged them in the order that sounded best. But the poem wasn’t finished until I came up with the ending. A good ending is one of the most important things in a poem.

Dogs

 Some dogs are scary.
You have to be wary.

Some dogs are fat.
They could squash you flat.

Some dogs are tiny
and yappy and whiny.

Some dogs are old
and can’t do what they’re told.

Some dogs are jumpy.
They make me feel grumpy.

Some dogs are fast.
I just watch them run past.

Some dogs are busy
and rush round till they’re dizzy.

But my dog is great.
She’s my very best mate.

 

 

An interview with Nadine Cranenburgh

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Reading and writing should be enjoyable. If you enjoy a book or poem, share it with as many people as you can. If you want to write poetry, you should. You don’t have to show your poems to anyone, or send them to be published, but putting your thoughts and feelings into a few well chosen words can help to record important moments, or whittle huge emotions down to a manageable size. – Nadine Cranenburgh

 

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

I was lucky to grow up in a house full of books with parents who were great readers. As a kid I loved Robert Louis Stephenson and AA Milne, as well as the legendary Dr Seuss. All rhyming poets, which is probably why I am such a rhymer myself! Reading poetry is so important, it teaches you to make images out of feelings, which is a good way of dealing with big emotions.

What was your experience with poetry as a child at school? 

The only poem I remember studying at school was one about football in year nine or ten, which I didn’t like very much. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t a very attentive student, and spent most of my time daydreaming. I did memorise poetry that I read in my own time – Disobedience by AA Milne and The Highwayman are two which come to mind, which gives you an idea of what my poor teachers were up against.

Did you write poetry as a child?

Yes, I still have a booklet full of texta illustrated haiku about apples, cats and other fun things that I think my mum used to get me to work on to keep me busy when I was quite little. Also some lovelorn sonnets and very emotional and unpolished scribbles from my teenage years which I will never, ever show anybody! I didn’t think of poetry as something to be shared or published until quite recently, it was always very personal.

When was your first poem published?

My first poem to be published in print was one I wrote for adults in free verse, which appeared in page seventeen magazine last year and was also shortlisted in their annual competition. This was a bit of a surprise as most of the poems I write are rhyming and for kids! I’m also waiting for one of my poems to appear in an upcoming issue of Ladybug magazine in the US. Before these successes I had some interesting experiences. My first acceptance for publication was from an online children’s site, but the publisher had to stop maintaining the site for personal reasons before my poem went up. I also had a rhyming picture book accepted by a small publisher, but that also fell through. What these experiences taught me was that while it is wonderful to have someone like your work enough to want to publish it, you shouldn’t make this your only goal – it isn’t something you can control. Sites like Australian Children’s Poetry are also a great way of getting poems out to readers (thank you) as are Sally Odger’s Prints Charming anthologies. If you make your poems as good as they can be, and are patient and proactive, you will find a way to get them out into the world if that is what you want.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

Some I have mentioned above. I also love Lorraine Marwood, particularly her verse novel Star Jumps, Claire Saxby for her clever word play and Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson for individuality and brilliance.

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

I’ve been very grateful to wonderful rhymer Jackie Hosking for her encouragement and advice on the poetry publishing landscape. She was a guest speaker in my Children’s Writing course quite a few years ago, and came armed with a list of publishers who accepted children’s poetry. That list made me realise that I could send my poetry out to be published, which was something I’d never considered before. Jackie also has a rhyming editing service, and a newsletter about children’s publishing, Pass it On, which I highly recommend.

What inspires you to write poetry?

I’m mostly a rhyming poet, so I’m attracted to rhythms and music in words. Usually there will be a phrase, an image or feeling that is bouncing along in my head, and it needs to find a rhythm or rhyme that fits it before it goes any further. Often the first three or four lines come to me and I fiddle around with them in my imagination and speak them aloud before writing them down. My kids are usually supportive of this poetic babbling, but sometimes ask if I will go somewhere else so they can have some peace.

Do you workshop your poems with anyone?

I’m a big fan of workshopping, it really helps me gain the confidence to send poems out to readers. I have some trusted workshopping buddies that I’ve met during writing courses and mentorships. I know they understand my work and will give me constructive advice to make it better. It is really important to workshop with the right people. Usually I don’t workshop anything until I’ve done many drafts and just need a test audience to make sure it works for others as well as me! Recently I have also participated in some online events including Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry and Rhyming Picture Book Month, and I’ve now got specific poetry workshopping groups too.

How do you know a poem you write is finished?

A difficult question! For rhyming poems, they need to be able to be read by a wide range of readers without tripping over the rhythms, so I get my long suffering partner to road test them for me. But I also think that the poem’s theme needs to be clear, whether it is rhyming or not. This can sometimes be very tricky, and is a unique process for each poem. Workshopping can help!

How do you know a poem is ‘good’?

Another hard question… I think value judgements about poetry, and all creative writing, are very subjective. There are many writing skills and techniques that you can analyse and learn, but ultimately a ‘good’ poem for me is one that makes me feel something or gives me a new perspective on a subject. In terms of judging my own poems, I think they get better over many drafts and through workshopping. Even then, I accept that not everyone will enjoy them, and that’s fine.

Join the dots

 

Dot to dot, spot to spot

1, 2, 3 – what have we got?

 

Pricked up ears with pointy tips

then the eyes and nose and lips

 

Dot to dot, spot to spot

4, 5, 6 – I’m running hot

 

Outstretched paw, thick sausage tail,

springy feet to leap and sail

 

Dot to dot spot to spot

7, 8 – the final jot…

 

Puffed out chest, another paw,

roomy pouch to hold one more

 

Dot to dot, spot to spot

9 and 10 – can you guess what?

Nadine Cranenburgh

 

Behind glass

My mother hitched a sac of hopes high in her final tree
then as her gentle light dimmed out, a cloud of parachutes skimmed out
they whirled and wafted, wheeled about
and one of them was me

I watch my sisters weave their webs and send a voiceless plea
Inside my prison staring out, my silent treaties blaring out
I clamber, crawl and climb about
Why won’t you set me free?

Nadine Cranenburgh

 

Interview with Neridah McMullin

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NM Bio Pic 1

 “I truly love the freedom of free verse and the way some writers put their words together. It’s beautiful, they’re vibrant and visceral. Close your eyes and you’re there.”

– Neridah McMullin

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

I’ve always enjoyed poetry. As I child I would recite Australian Bush Poetry at family gatherings, in particular Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson. My grandmother loved A Bush Christening which I still know by heart.

What was your experience with poetry as a child at school? 

Not much really. A bit of bush poetry, I remember doing The Lady of Shallot by Tennyson (it was rather long…I still don’t know what it was about?)

Did you write poetry as a child?

I did dabble in it. I wrote more in secondary school. I had two inspiring English teachers at Hamilton & Alexandra College. You never forget a good teacher (thank you, John Mazur and Neil McLean). And I wrote more poetry again in my twenties. Everyone laughed at me and I lost my confidence. I squirreled them away in a deep, dark place in my desk. My mother tells me now that she was laughing at what I’d written about; not at my writing. Mum’s my greatest supporter. She proof reads all my work.

When was your first poem published?

My first poem was published by the NSW School Magazine in 2009. It was called In the Woolshed.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

I enjoy all poetry but I truly love the freedom of free verse and the way some writers put their words together. It’s beautiful, they’re vibrant and visceral. Close your eyes and you’re there.

I still love Australian Bush Poetry. I really enjoy Stephen Whiteside. Les Murray. Eva Johnson. I love Elizabeth Honey, Lorraine Marwood, Kathryn Apel and Steven Herrick’s work. I also love the work of Sheryl Clark, Corinne Fenton, Claire Saxby, Janeen Brian and Meredith Costain. The list could go on and on, we have wonderful Australian poets.

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

Well, I have poetry buddies. January this year I participated in a ‘Month of Poetry’ with Kat Apel and we wrote a poem every day of January. We had poetry challenges on Saturdays and critiqued each other. It was a wonderful experience. I’ve made lots of friends through MoP and we are regularly in touch.

What inspires you to write poetry?

Everything around me. Moments. Moments that people think are just every day, boring stuff. I only have to stop and look around me to see something that inspires me. But I do have favourite subjects: sport, the farm, the outback, animals, the sea, my garden, funny little kids.

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

A visual image (of a ‘moment’). Then I collect a bank of words (thanks, Lorraine Marwood, for teaching me this) and when I’m happy with my collection of lovely, delicious words, I’ll write a poem, with that image in my mind the entire time.

Do you workshop your poems with anyone?

Yes, my MoP group.

How do you know a poem you write is finished?

When I can make no more changes to it. If I’m unhappy with it, I’ll stop and ask myself ‘What am I really trying to say?’

How do you know a poem is ‘good’?

Good poetry is effortless, it will speak to you and make you laugh or cry.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I love your website, keep up the great work promoting Australian Children’s Poetry.

 

My Nest

by Neridah McMullin

I live in my nest,

Made from twigs,

Mud,

And wool.

I stole the wool,

From a loose thread,

Of a red jumper,

Dancing on the breeze,

Of a creaky hills hoist.

It unravelled,

At the first pluck.

And the now the human,

That lives here,

Wears it still…

As a midriff top.

Interview with Jenny Erlanger

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 Jenny

“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.

 change of view5

Interview with Rebecca Newman

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rebecca photo

Alphabet Soup has provided a forum for children’s writing ever since it started in 2008 and it’s something I especially love.

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

My mum used to recite poems to us from when we were very small. To this day, I cannot push a child on a swing without reciting The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson.

What was your experience with poetry as a child at school? 

The year I was in Year 6 our class learned ‘JIM who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion’ by Hilaire Belloc and we recited it as part of a festival. I learned the word ‘inauspicious’ thanks to that poem, and I loved it. Every child at the school also had to take ESB (English Speaking Board) exams and part of the exam was reciting a poem. The best part was that there was a fair bit of practising your poem in front of the class in the lead up to the exam, so I ended up learning 25 poems by heart because I’d heard everyone’s poems over and over.

And then one term in Year 6, our teacher had the class learn a new poem every week – some classics and some more contemporary poems, too. It was part of our homework to learn the bones of the poem over the week and we also spent time in class learning it by heart and reciting it together. I am so grateful to that teacher. I still have lines from those poems pop out at me occasionally, triggered by something around me. (Sometimes I didn’t even realise they were still there in my memory.)

Did you write poetry as a child?

I can still recite the first poem I remember writing for a school project … but I won’t. It was awful and involved a lot of exclamation marks but I was quite proud of it at the time. I was nine. In upper primary I wrote lots more and improved a bit because I had figured out how to self-edit.

When was your first poem published?

I was 11 and I took a workshop for students who loved creative writing. At the end I had a poem published in an anthology of all the students’ poems. (These days it would probably be called a zine — photocopied pages stapled together.)

My first published poem as an adult appeared in Alphabet Soup magazine in 2009 (under a pen name because I was a bit shy). I don’t really count it though, because I was Alphabet Soup’s editor at the time. The first poem I had published elsewhere was in 2014. It was called Odd Socks, published in The School Magazine.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

Michael Rosen, AA Milne, Judith Wright, Elizabeth Honey, Lorraine Marwood, John Malone, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alfred Noyes, Carol Ann Duffy, Sally Murphy … there are heaps more than that but I’ll stop there!

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

Not formal mentors. I am lucky to know a few poets who encourage me and keep me writing and submitting. I’ve taken part in Kathryn Apel’s Month of Poetry in January for quite a few years now, and the feedback from other writers there has also been very helpful.

What inspires you to write poetry?

The rhythm of things. Pushing a swing has a rhythm to it that just calls you to capture it — so does walking, brushing your teeth and grating carrots. And recording an important moment or event in my life will often inspire me to write a poem.

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

For me it’s usually a line that I carry around in my head for a while until the rest of the poem forms. The exception is when I’m writing a poem as part of Poetry Tag — then I use the word prompts provided by Sally Murphy as my starting point. I find that much harder but it’s surprising what comes out of your head when you are forced to use particular words.

Do you workshop your poems with anyone?

No, not really. A few times I’ve sent a small set of poems to another writer and asked for an opinion or feedback and I have found this extremely helpful.

How do you know a poem you write is finished?

It just feels complete. And the last line is right.

How do you know a poem is ‘good’?

Ah, so subjective! If we’re talking about my own poems, I think it’s good if the poem sounds natural when I read it aloud. There are no places where I stumble while I read it. The audience laughs or sighs in the right spot. All of those things. Plus, it has an invisible glow.

You started the magazine Alphabet Soup, which is now online. How does your own experience of writing poetry influence your approach to selecting the poems to publish?

Now Alphabet Soup is a website and blog I have new freedoms and limitations. Unfortunately — and it’s a big ‘unfortunately’ — there’s no income (I made the decision not to include advertising on the website because the target audience is primary school-aged children). This means I don’t have the money to commission contemporary poems the way I could when Alphabet Soup was a print magazine and had paid subscriptions. I tend to post classic poems (ones that are out of copyright) or feature poems by agreement with a poet as part of an interview with them, or I link to contemporary poems/poets who have poetry online elsewhere. We also post poetry by children (with their parents’ permission). Alphabet Soup has provided a forum for children’s writing ever since it started in 2008 and it’s something I especially love.

So — how does my own poetry-writing influence my approach to selecting the poems on the site? I suppose the reasons in my answer to the previous question will do here too!

 

Interview with Sally Murphy

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Sally Small

“It is really hard to get poetry published in Australia – there are few markets for individual poems as well as collections. The best way to fix this is by sharing poetry with children in positive ways as often as possible. Books and magazines are published when there is demand for them. When was the last time you bought a poetry book? Was it published in Australia?” -Sally Murphy

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

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love poetry. As a child, my mum read me poetry including the rhymes of Dr Seuss books, and I remember AA Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson especially. I loved the sounds, the silliness, the strangeness of poetry. We had a set of Childcraft Books and I remember adoring the poetry one especially – with rhymes such as the very famous one about a Purple Cow.

What was your experience with poetry as a child at school? 

All positive, especially in primary school where I remember poetry being something I loved to learn and recite, as well as to experiment with writing my own. In high school I discovered the wonders of free verse poetry, which fascinated me. My only struggle with poetry in high school was when I studied Literature in year 11 and 12 and started to panic that I didn’t know the right answers.

Did you write poetry as a child?

Yes. I wrote everything as a child! Writing was my favourite thing to do in class – and out of it.

When was your first poem published?

As a child, in school magazines, which used to be printed on the old purple-inked gestetners. Also in the local paper, the Collie Mail, where there were sometimes writing competitions. As an adult, my first published poem was for adults in the Australian Multicultural Review, but since then all of my published poetry has been for children, because that is who I write for.

Who are some poets whose writing you love?

How long have you got? Contemporary poets I love include Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood, Anne Bell (all Australian) as well as Joyce Sidman, Jane Yolen, Valerie Worth. I adore the work of William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, TS Elliot, William Blake. Shall I go on?

Have you had any poetry writing mentors?

Not really. I do read a lot of poetry and try to figure out what makes it great – but those poets don’t know they are mentoring me by example, lol

What inspires you to write poetry?

All sorts of things! I guess chiefly I remember though how I felt about poetry as a child, and how it still makes me feel, and I want to spread that joy.

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

That varies. Often it’s thinking about something I’ve seen or heard or felt, and wanting to capture my response in words. Other times though it’s a word or phrase that comes to me that I want to play with.

Do you workshop your poems with anyone?

Not nearly enough. It’s something I’d like to do more, but I find it hard to find the opportunity to sit down with other poets and share work.

How do you know a poem you write is finished?

I don’t! sometimes when a poem is published I look at it and think – oh – I wonder why I didn’t say this or that? But mostly, after lots of drafts and tweaking, I let a poem rest for as long as I can and then, if I get it back out and it reads well and I can find no more tweaks needed, then I submit it.   Often, though, as I said, later I’ll realise a way I could have changed it.

How do you know a poem is ‘good’?

That’s a hard one. I’m very critical of my own work and so not necessarily the best judge of if it’s any good. But if a poem makes me feel when I pick it back up – feel sad, or happy, or tingly –then that’s a sign that I might be on the right track.