I’ve created a new playlist on my You Tube channel, which presents video readings I’ve done of several of my published poems for kids. I created it to help support my presentation in the fabulous CBCA NSW online conference focussed around Poetry(which you can still book in for, as it’s pre-recorded and available till the end of May for delegates). I also thought it could be an ongoing resource for parents and schools, and in fact anyone who might be interested. Hope you enjoy!
It was the inaugural Spring Fairy Dance festival in the charming small new England town of Uralla on Saturday–a festival themed around all things fairy and magical, aimed at children and the young at heart. It was a big success, with the townspeople supporting it strongly and visitors enjoying it. And for its special storytime event, I created a video poem called Fairy Feet–thought readers of this blog might enjoy it too!
It’s been very cold here at the end of winter but there are still many signs of approaching spring: and of course one of them is the blooming of wattle everywhere. It’s a positive festival of wattle flowers on our block at the moment, so to celebrate it I thought I’d republish a children’s poem I wrote a few years ago, about that lift of the heart that seeing the blooming wattle brings, and illustrate it with pics of some of the glorious trees gilding our place with living gold and bringing that fragrant sunshine into the house!
By Sophie Masson
Sudden bursts of gold,
Sweeping colour bold,
By rivers, by roads, in country and town,
In farms and gardens, the wattle’s the crown.
Of the end of the winter, beginning of spring,
The blooming of wattle will sing and sing
Of birds in their nests and the warm days to hand,
For the wattle is blooming across the land.
I was delighted to get the latest issue of ‘Countdown’ edition of The School Magazine, where my poem Owl, Hunting, has been published, illustrated by the fabulous Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. And Marjorie’s illustration is also on the cover of the magazine, which is great!
I wrote this poem on a visit to my father’s place in the green, wooded countryside of south-west France. One night I woke to hear an owl hooting close by. Listening to the lonely, evocative sound, and imagining the night scene outside, the poem just jumped into my head at that moment.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome June Perkins to my blog. June’s new book, Illuminations, which is a collaboration between her as a writer and illustrators Ruha and Minaira Fifita, comes out early next month, and in this guest post, June writes about the process of creating Hope, one of the poems from the collection, which is reproduced below.
Writing ‘Hope’ for Illuminations – June Perkins
My poem ‘Hope’ is a speculative imagining of how Emily Dickinson would respond to Cyclone Yasi if she had been a poet based in Far North Queensland and draws particular inspiration from her work 314, often titled ‘Hope’ although she didn’t give it a title.
I first heard of Dickinson from a vinyl record, Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel, the song was’ The Dangling Conversation’ And yet it was years before I took the time to learn more about her poetry and life.
After Cyclone Yasi in 2011, I began to compose poetry in response to both its damage, and the way people and nature fared in its aftermath. Living in Far North Queensland in a rural community, I became acutely aware of birds – king fishers, cassowaries, curlews and more. We had a pet bird, Peep, who amused us and helped us keep calm during the cyclone. He disappeared briefly to spend time with other birds before returning with all of them in tow as if we could put them all up in the house. He died a few days after of shock. I took solace in Dickinson’s poems. I was particularly drawn to 314 because it speaks of hope as if it has feathers like a bird.
The poem used to live on my blog, but in recent times, joined part of the working collection for Illuminations and it made the final cut for the book. The poem fits well with the overall themes of the collection and picks up on the symbolism of birds. Over the last few years, since our move to Brisbane, the poem has come to mean much more to me than a response to a cyclone’s aftermath, and an expression of respect to Emily Dickinson; it represents that wider theme of how poets can through their creativity bring hope to any situation including a pandemic.
Author: June Perkins
Illustrators: Ruha and Minaira Fifita
ISBN: 9780980731194 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780648720508 (hard cover, dustcover)
Publication Date: 20/6/2020
This collection captures the wonder of the act of creation, the burst of excitement associated with the birth of the new, and the challenges and sacrifice involved in bringing inspiration to fruition. Reflecting on the impact of the challenge of the new, in both the material and spiritual worlds, several of the poems refer to the advent of the Báb, the 19th century Prophetic figure, whose contemporary message inspired and challenged a sacrificial response on the part of those who embraced His Cause.
You can pre-order Illuminations here. The book is available for pre-order in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK and Canada.
About the author:
Dr June Perkins is a multi-arts creative born to a Papua New Guinean Indigenous mother and Australian father. She was raised in Tasmania as a Bahá’i and combines poetry, blogging, photography, story and more to explore themes interesting her – peace, ecology, spirituality, cultural diversity, resilience and empowerment. Earlier poetry book is, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016). June has had poems published in Nineteen Months, Tokens, Voices in the North, Under One Sky, Etchings, Cracks in the Canopy, World Order, Spooktacular Stories, Creative Kids Tales, Story Collection 2, Writing the Pacific, ABC Open, The Queensland Art Galley, Ridvan is Everywhere, and Talking Ink from Ochre.
About Illustrators Fifita Sisters / IVI Designs
Ruha Fifita was born in Vava’u, Tonga and spent most of her life immersed in the culture and vibrancy of life in the Pacific. Her love for visual and performative forms of expression have been nurtured through the support and encouragement of her extended family and study of the writings of the Bahá’i Faith.
Minaira Fifita is a visual and performing artist whose work aspires to reflect her love of creation and faith in the unity of humanity. Her style of creativity blends together her Polynesian and Celtic roots and experiences of vibrancy, balance and harmony within the Pacific and her spiritual beliefs as a Bahá’i.
A lovely start to the publication year for me, with my poem for children, Long Neck, published in the first issue of ‘Orbit’ , part of the wonderful School Magazine, with a beautiful, atmospheric illustration by Jenny Tan.
Here, below, is the poem–hope you enjoy! And by the way, if you are interested in fabulous writing and illustration for children, and would like to support one of Australia’s great and longlasting literary treasures, consider subscribing to The School Magazine–you don’t have to have anything to do with schools to do so.
Recently I ran two poetry workshops for children 6-12 years old in my hometown public library. They were sequential workshops: in the first one, I talked about writing poetry, based on the gorgeous book A Boat of Stars, in which I have 7 poems–and talked about how ideas from poetry can come from anywhere, then we orally created a (rather silly!) poem together, and then everyone chose their own subject and wrote their own poem. In the second workshop, I talked about how you can illustrate and decorate a poem to create an artwork out of it in all kinds of ways(again, that was inspired by A Boat of Stars!) And then the kids set to and created their own poem artwork, based on the poem they had written the previous week. The library had provided lots of coloured pencils and pens, stickers, magazine pictures to cut out, coloured shapes and paper and more. Everyone had a lot of fun and there were some amazing creations–have a look at the photo gallery!
I wrote this little poem after watching a ‘Jacky lizard’ the other day at our place.
by Sophie Masson
Little Jacky lizard,
Perched up on a stone,
Like a guard on castle walls,
Protecting his lord’s home.
Beady eyes survey the scene,
Head swings from side to side,
Soaking in the sun he likes—
But knows where to hide!
He hears a sound and freezes,
His tail goes stiff with fright.
Then little Jacky lizard
Is gone, as fast as light!
Natalie had written two ‘picture book texts’, Owl and Mouse, which we realised were poems, and the book evolved out of a conversation about what we could do with them. We both love poetry, and fretted that there was no obvious way of getting them published. We knew that there were very few new books of children’s poetry being published, and suddenly realised that there was a gap in the market. By the next morning we were working on a proposal for what eventually became A Boat of Stars.
We were looking for poems that modern Australian children would enjoy, and that reflected their experience of the world. We wanted poems that they would find engaging and amusing, and enjoy returning to, again and again. The book needed to be Australian in its outlook, so poems about Australian animals, and with indigenous content, were essential. When we’d selected about two thirds of the poems we looked critically at what we had, and where there were gaps, and also asked a couple of experienced teachers to identify topics they thought would be useful in the classroom.
The format of the book allowed for sixty poems, each with an accompanying illustration, and we assigned illustrators to poems, trying to match style and sensibility. We were thrilled when Stephen Michael King agreed to illustrate the cover. We wanted the book to have a cohesive look, and using a core team of five illustrators helped achieve this, with variety from illustrators who worked on one or two poems.
It was a massive job, but one we both enjoyed. We were very involved in the layout and design, including spending a very intensive day in an ABC office mapping out the poem order, and illustrator/poem choices. Chren Byng, our publisher, was wonderful, as was the whole ABC Books team. Chren trusted us to do what we felt was best for the book, but was there to guide and assist whenever needed. She shared our passion and vision, and understood the book right from the start. It was the happiest editorial and publishing experience.
We hope that the anthology will give children a happy early experience of poetry, and enrich their understanding of words, and rhyme, and rhythm. Poetry, like music, is primal. It’s language operating simultaneously at both its most fundamental, and sophisticated level. Reading poetry teaches children to look sideways, to see the world and themselves from different angles. Modern children are growing up in a troubled world, and this is a skill they are going to need. It’s a weapon in their arsenal for life.
Delighted to announce that I’m one of the authors included in a gorgeous new poetry anthology for children, A Boat of Stars, edited by Margaret Connolly and Natalie Jane Prior, which is coming out with Harper Collins in February 2018. At left is the gorgeous cover, with illustration by Stephen Michael King. I am thrilled that no less than seven of my poems were accepted for the anthology! And I am doubly thrilled that my poems will be illustrated by some of Australia’s most fantastic illustrators. Very exciting indeed! You can read more about the book on the Harper Collins website.