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  • Writer's pictureAttie Lime

Writing a Children’s Poem: Getting Started (Poetry Seeds Part 1)

Hi, I thought I’d write some blog posts about poetry seeds: where to find them, how to grow them, and how to magic them out of thin air, if all else fails!

If you’re reading this, you probably already enjoy writing poetry for children or enjoy the idea of writing poetry for children. BUT we all know that it’s often not as simple as sitting down with a notebook, or an open laptop and writing actual words! So, today I’m going to talk about finding initial inspiration, and in blog posts to follow, I’ll look at Writing Using Prompts, Playing with Form, and Taking the Pressure Off.

Finding a Seed

Poet: I write poems.

Well-meaning human: Go on then. Write me a poem!

Poet: ...

Familiar? Talk to even the most prolifically published children’s poets, and they’ll tell you that poems don’t suddenly appear fully formed on the tips of their tongues, or in the end of their pens. So, when we feel that creative twitch, or a lit mag has newly opened for submissions, how can we get started?

· Everyday life. One of the most wonderful things about poetry, is that it helps you to look at ordinary things and notice the details. Look around your house – what can you see that might be a poetry seed? Is there a curious crack in the wall – how might it have got there? A souvenir from a far-off land? Has the bruised apple in the fruit bowl got a story to tell? (One of my favourite poems to write was ‘written’ by a banana!), What is your pet thinking/what does she do when you’re not around? Look at your cup of tea or coffee: what colour is it? what does it remind you of? Could you write a simile poem about the perfect shade of tea? (Mum’s ideal cuppa is as golden as a wheat field/as pale as a Rich Tea biscuit/as dark as treacle…). Truly, ANYTHING is a poem. EVERYTHING is a poem.

· Make stuff up! You could start with a poetry seed about a household object, but then it is perfectly acceptable to water it with IMAGINATION! There’s no right and wrong here – if you want your lost smelly sock to have walked on its own from the dusty deserts of the planet Zarf, then that is what you must write. Don’t worry about if it happened or it didn’t: some poetry is based entirely on real experience, some is utterly fictional, a lot is a bit of both (Yes, I was inspired by a single smelly sock in my house, NO it did not walk from the planet Zarf…you get the drift).

· Reading. I cannot say this enough. Reading anything at all for ideas is great, but especially reading poetry written by good, published poets. This is my go-to tactic if I’m lacking in inspiration to start a new poem. There will always be an idea or a form, shape, trick, delicious word combination, rhyming pattern or unexpected rhythm, which will spark something. I particularly enjoy Kate Wakeling’s poetry for this. Hers is often the poetry which makes me think, Oh, that is just so clever! or I’ve never seen a poem written quite like that!

Reading for information: I recently bought a children’s insect sticker book for myself (sorry, kids) because it is full of information at exactly the right level for some minibeast poems which I’d like to write. To help further, it is stuffed full of gorgeous illustrations. Yes, I’ll be heading out into the garden for some rock-lifting and peering into the insect hotel, too. I was also inspired to write after sharing a library book about dinosaurs, with my little one. Unusual facts make great poems!

Reading Fairy tales: Can you write as if you are a character from a fairy tale? What do things look like from the grandma's point of view, in Little Red Riding Hood? Or the cooking pot? What if the Hansel and Gretel sweet-covered cottage was upset about giving children cavities?! Laura Mucha and Carole Bromley have some super fairy tale poems.

Reading for ideas that you never would have thought of: The Mr Men books can be good for this – think of a character with a particular trait, and all of the things they may get up to. Think Mr Messy, Mr Clumsy, Mr Bounce. Make up your own, write that poem!

· Go for a walk. Sometimes, an idea will come which is directly related to your surroundings, other times you will find that words form to the rhythm of your feet, or your breathing, or simply that the act of getting up off your chair and away from the tasks waiting at home, frees your mind enough to allow creative thoughts to come.

Of course, this is just a handful of ideas; there are many, many other ways to find that poetry seed, but I must go and write a poem, now…

Next time: using prompts to write children’s poems.

Thanks for reading,

Happy reading, writing and poeming,

Attie x

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