Monday, August 2, 2010

a picnic of poetry

Today we welcome poet and children’s author, Lorraine Marwood. Lorraine’s recent poetry highlights have been the publication of the verse novels Ratwhiskers and Me, and Star Jumps. Star Jumps is certainly leaping high! It’s a Notable in the 2010 CBCA Awards, shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Awards and more recently, shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. But today we celebrate Lorraine’s latest publication from Walker Books; an anthology called A Ute Picnic – and other Australian Poems.

Whose idea was it to create this anthology, yours or the publishers? Both, this collection has taken awhile, a few years actually. My publisher is a great fan of poetry and that's the spark to ignite a book like this.

I love the title – taken from one of the poems. Does it have any special significance for you?

Yes 'A Ute Picnic' was one of my first prose/poetry ventures. It was first published in School Magazine and was the forerunner for the style of my latest verse novels 'Ratwhiskers and Me' and 'Star jumps.' It also explored a real occurrence on a farm- during hay harvest when a ute picnic would have to be taken to my husband several kilometres away- no corner stores way out in the country.

We experience many senses when we read your poems. How many senses are in play when you are first collecting ideas?

Now that's an interesting question! I love to find an atmosphere, a perspective that is uniquely mine and the senses provide a way into this especially sound- I also add a sixth sense- emotion- or personal involvement with the topic of the poem- this ensures there's some emotional content for the reader also.

In a recent interview about verse novels with Sally Murphy, you spoke of ‘propelling the bare bones of the story.’ Your poems are rich bare bones. Tell us how you pare down.

I also wanted to be an artist (as well as an author) when I was younger... so making an art work with words is very important. Keeping to the essentials of poetry like strong details, strong nouns and verbs helps paint that spare richness, then it becomes part of my style, my poetic voice. My family often tells me that I say some strange things- its the way my brain works!

In Star Jumps you wanted children to experience the reality of farm life, as opposed to the romantic version. Were you thinking in those terms with this collection as well? Tell us how the collection evolved.

A lot of these poems come from fragments of my writing journal written over a decade and more- I really wish I'd started my journalling a long time before that- but life was hectic on a dairy farm with six kids and I suppressed my writing for so long. Yes I wanted the real touches of life on a farm to come through, the real grit, the real epiphanies, the real thread of umbilical chord tied from farming family to the seasons of dairy farm. One really observes weather, insect life, plant life, changes in a detailed way when one's livelihood and lifestyle are intertwined with the land.

Some poems were just sitting there in my note books, waiting to be plucked- they needed dusting down, shining up to make them convey their own message- others were written from a few words which immediately re-evoked the situation for me- for example- the poem called 'A Joke' was a real incident that happened- well all the poems in this collection are real life incidents.

What is your favourite place for writing poems from your notes or ideas? Now it’s at the kitchen table- wherever inspiration happens- after writing whenever I could with a big family- I can nearly write anywhere. Well nearly.

I must add that the dedication for this book goes to my great writing friends Janeen and Claire- both poets and both great encouragers along the twists and turns of the writing landscape.

Thanks Janeen for such perceptive questions and the opportunity to come and visit your blog.

Thanks Lorraine. We wish you well with this next wonderful, poetry offering. I am a great fan of your work!


  1. Thanks Janeen- so fortunate to be the first blog tour entry here! These questions stretched me- often its hard to verbalise the writing process, strange as that my seem.

  2. Thanks Lorraine. As writers we do charge ahead, don't we? Questions are like stop signs that make us think about the process.

  3. Great interview - and I also like the idea of the blog tour - xxxx

  4. Thanks Tamara! Love your blog too- and the concept of 'knotty ladies'.

  5. Thanks for a great post, Janeen and Lorraine.

    I love the idea of a picnic of poetry.


  6. Thanks Dee. Wouldn't it be great if there was actually a 'picnic of poetry' where we all unpacked mystery parcels of words and sipped from a thermos!