Poetry Pointers

  1. Try to write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.


  1. Play to your strengths. If you prefer to write in rhyme, do so. If not, don’t. It doesn’t matter whether a poem rhymes or not.


  1. Having said that, it is also important to push yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time.


  1. Don’t write to a formula. If your writing interests you, it will probably interest other people. If it bores you, it will probably bore others.


  1. Don’t take rejection personally. Remember, it is only your poem that is being rejected, not you.


  1. Talent is overrated. Persistence is much more important.


  1. Know the markets. Write with the markets in mind.


  1. Having said that, don’t write with the markets in mind all the time. It is important to have fun with your poetry, and take risks. Try not to get too serious about it all.


  1. If you’re stuck for an idea, choose something small and insignificant to start with, and build from there.


  1. Celebrate your mistakes. They are evidence of your productivity. Remember, the most mistakes are made by the most successful people.


Thanks to Stephen Whiteside for these excellent tips on writing poetry. Stephen’s collection of rhyming verse for children, ‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse, was published by Walker Books in 2014. In 2015, the book won a “Golden Gumleaf” award for “Book of the Year” at the Australian Bush Laureate Awards during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Visit his website for more details.


Poem of the Day


Heading To the Game


I prodded my mate as we rode on the train.

“You know that we’re just gonna thrash you again.

Your players are either too short or too slow.

It’s a foregone conclusion. Just thought you should know.


“Besides, your team’s mascot. Mate, give me a break.

A platypus? That is a major mistake!

A lion or tiger might stir up some fear.

A platypus? Your blokes have got no idea!


“And why is it purple? I tell you, it’s sad.

A team needs a mascot that’s scary and bad.

Yours just looks weird. It’s not a good look.

No wonder the team you support is so crook.”

My mate simply smiled. He wasn’t upset.

“You’re really so certain? Well, let’s have a bet.

You look and you sound like a back-country bumpkin.

You can share my soup later.” “Tomato?” “No, pumpkin.”


Stephen Whiteside
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #9

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Golden Sands

Oh, the sky was blue and the bottle was green and the old wooden fence was brown.

I didn’t go into the sea that day for fear I would falter, and drown.

But would I have taken a chance on a dip, here is question for you,

If the fence had been green, and the sky had been brown, and the bottle had been a bright blue?

© Stephen Whiteside
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #7


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An Orange Egg


I’m sure that I can eat an orange egg.

You do not have to plead. You needn’t beg.

I do not think that I have ever tried

An orange that’s been boiled, poached or fried.

Nor have I yet consumed an egg that’s raw,

Been neatly peeled, and sliced up into four.


An orange placed on toasted sourdough

Is not a taste sensation that I know.

I haven’t eaten egg as marmalade.

I’m not convinced that it would make the grade.

I know! I’ll mix the two into a goop,

And eat them as an eggy, orange soup!


© Stephen Whiteside
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #45


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FOOD inside an orange egg.

So, you want to pull my leg?

Not an egg and not a fruit.

Is it food? The point is moot.


Letters help to form a face.

Judging by their size and place,

Eyes comprising two big “O”‘s.

Nothing there to serve as nose,

But all’s not lost, no, have no fear,

For “F” and “D” each serve as ear!

Stephen Whiteside
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #45


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Only One Moon

I really think Earth needs another Moon.

It isn’t fair that we should have just one.

Only one to grace our heaven –

Jupiter has sixty seven.

Wouldn’t sixty seven moons be fun?


It isn’t fair Earth only has one Moon.

Even little Mars has got a couple.

If we followed them in flight,

Tracked their paths throughout the night,

Our necks would stay extremely loose and supple.


And why is Earth’s moon simply called “The Moon”?

I ask you, could it ever be more flat?

Saturn’s blessed with mighty Titan,

Neptune’s orbited by Triton.

Then there’s Ganymede. How cool is that?


I’m sure that NASA’d like a second moon –

Another astro-challenge to be won.

When the news screamed “Man on Moon!”,

Before we fell into a swoon,

We’d pop the question quickly: “Right. Which one?”


Stephen Whiteside

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The Platypus at Abbotsford

A young platypus was recently sighted in Melbourne’s Yarra River, where it winds through the inner city suburb of Abbotsford.


The platypus at Abbotsford is new upon this earth.

It isn’t very long ago its mother gave it birth.

It views the world with wonder, and it moves with merry mirth,

And doesn’t see the dangers in the shadows.


The platypus at Abbotsford is learning how to dive,

And all the other little tricks it needs to stay alive.

Let’s hope it does much more than live, and learns to really thrive,

But perils lie in wait in all directions.


The platypus at Abbotsford is thrilled to find such space.

It can’t believe that others have not occupied this place.

It doesn’t know they did, but failed to prosecute their case.

Their bones lie buried in the river’s bottom…


The platypus at Abbotsford gives hope, gives joy, gives heart

That each and every one of us will play our vital part

In making sure that platypus gets off to a great start

To face an even more successful future!

Stephen Whiteside

Poem of the Day


We’re the Flu!


We’re the flu, we’re the flu, we’re the flu!

We come every winter to you.

You sneeze and you sniffle. Ah choo!

We’re the flu, we’re the flu, we’re the flu!


We give you a fever and chill.

We make you feel terribly ill.

Your throat will turn red

As you groan in your bed.

We sap you of all of your will.


But wait, there is more to come yet.

You’ll shiver in puddles of sweat.

Your muscles will throb

As your health we will rob.

You’ll wail. You’ll whimper. You’ll fret.


Your body will kill us, we know,

But long before that, we will go.

You’ll cough and you’ll sneeze,

And you’ll spread your disease,

As from victim to victim we flow.


Yes, being the flu is such fun.

From person to person we run.

We never stand still.

We can make thousands ill

Before all our labours are done.


But wait, this is terribly mean.

Our faces are turning bright green.

Have mercy, oh please,

On this humble disease.

We can’t fight the dreaded vaccine!


Stephen Whiteside




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It’s a Long Way to the Top When You are Born a Snail!

by Stephen Whiteside


It’s hard to rock and roll a lot

When you are born a snail.

My goo connects me to this spot.

I know it looks a bit like snot,

But lose it, and I fail.

I’d like to twist and jump and leap.

Alas, it’s not my thing.

All I ever do is creep.

I’ll handle inclines very steep,

But don’t ask me to sing!

I cannot hold a microphone,

Or handle a guitar.

Speakers, amps, I do not own.

I’m happy munching on my own.

I’ll never be a star.

But if it ever gets too loud,

You yearn for breaking free

From all that rock and rolling crowd,

Remember me, for I’m not proud.

Yes, come and talk to me.

© Stephen Whiteside 05.12.2015

  • Submitted in response to Words+Pictures #5



Poetry pointers #2

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Poet and writer Stephen Whiteside answers some key questions about writing poetry. To find out more about Stephen and his work, visit his website here


1. Where do you get ideas?

First you need the right state of mind. The best way to achieve this is to try to find an hour or two when you having nothing to do other than to write a poem. As you unwind, ideas will begin to come. The more relaxed you get, the more ideas will arrive, and the more interesting they will be. I often approach a writing session with an idea for a poem in my mind but find that, after half an hour or so of thinking and pottering, I have a much better idea, and one that is nothing like the idea that I first sat down with.
2. How do you write a poem?
I am a rhyming poet. For me, it is very much a matter of writing a first line that I am happy with. The rest will then start to flow. In addition to writing what I want to say, I also have to be mindful of the rhyming pattern. Will it be a simple ABAB, or am I being more ambitious? How many stresses will there be in each line? Will each line be the same length? How many verses will there be? How long will they be? Will they all be the same length? Will there be a repeating line, or a refrain? Will that also change a little each time, or not? And so on…
3. Who publishes poetry?
This is a very good question. I am not sure I know any more. Yes, I know the publishers who (very occasionally) publish collections, but who publishes individual poems? My own collection, ‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On and Other Australian Verse, published by Walker Books last year, was built heavily around poems that were published in The School Magazine (NSW), the Pearson magazines in Victoria, and The School Journal (New Zealand). Alas, these latter two no longer exist. So, aside from The School Magazine, who does publish poetry for children?
4. How do I become a children’s poet?
Given the dwindling number of publishers, I suspect that it is becoming harder and harder to become a children’s poet. Then again, of course, this is very much a matter of definition. At what point are you a children’s poet? Have you succeeded if you write a poem for your child, or niece or nephew? Or do you need to have had a poem published to be a children’s poet? Or do you need to have had a collection published? Or do you need to have had multiple collections published before you can say you are truly established as a children’s poet?
The obvious answer is to simply write, but writing without publication becomes demoralising after a while, especially if you’ve been trying hard to have poems published without any success. Peer support is important, but there aren’t really enough children’s poets for them to have their own organisation – at least, not yet. Of course the Australian Children’s Poetry web-site is a great asset, but if you want to meet other children’s poets in the flesh, you are probably going to have to join a group for children’s writers generally – such as SCBWI – or a group for poets who write for adults as well as children, or both.
5. What is your top tip for writers who want to write poetry for children?
There are two key points, I think.
1. Make sure you are always enjoying yourself when you write.
2. Never give up (but this only works if you make sure you are continuing to enjoy yourself).