The Treasury Interviews: Rm 24 at Royal Oak Primary interviews Jenny Bornholdt

Room 24 Sept 2014 003

Room 24 at Royal Oak Primary School

In our class there are thirty Year 5 and 6 children who represent many different cultures from around the world. We are responsible and empowered leaders in the school and believe in encouraging and co-operating with others. As we have become more involved in environmental science projects, we have developed a keen interest in the environment and conservation. We are hard workers who believe in persisting to achieve our goals. This year our whole class goal is to improve the imagery in our writing.

Jenny Bornholdt

Biography of Jenny Bornholdt

Jenny was born in Lower Hutt New Zealand. She studied at Victoria University in Wellington and received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Diploma in Journalism. Jenny began writing seriously in 1984 and has since published many books of poetry. She has won several awards including the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1997 and was named New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2005. (Paula: She has written one of my all time favourite children’s books, A Book is a Book, published by Gecko Press)


The Interview

We read the article about you in the school journal and wonder why it took so long for you to share your writing with others?

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, so I was quite surprised when I found myself writing poems.

When I started writing I felt quite shy about it and didn’t think my poems good enough to show to people. When I did the writing course at Victoria University we had to read and show our work to each other and because everyone felt nervous, it somehow made it easier. Also, once you’ve done this a few times, you feel more relaxed about it.

What inspired you to write your first poem?

One of the first poems I remember writing is the first poem in my first book, This Big Face. The poem also has that title, and it’s about a haircut my friend gave me on the front lawn of her house. I had long hair and asked her to cut it very short. So she did.

What is your favourite poem that you have written for children?

I didn’t write this poem for children, but it’s one that teachers often read to students (Paula: it is in the Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and it is fabulous and slightly spooky):

‘How to get ahead of yourself while the light still shines.’

It’s about riding my bike down a hill at night and being scared by my own shadow.

We noticed you used rhyming in some parts of the poem ‘Storm Birds.’ Do you ever write poems that rhyme all the way through?

Not usually. I do like rhyme, but I usually write poems that have half rhymes in them, or have some kind of rhyme going on, but it’s not regular. When you’re writing poems you need to pay a lot of attention to how the words sound and how they sound alongside other words, but this doesn’t mean that they have to rhyme.

What kind of books did you read when you were our age? – 10-12 years

Mostly novels. I did read the Voices poetry anthologies – I don’t know if they’re still around.

I still read a lot of novels, as well as poetry. I think reading is really important if you want to write. You can learn a lot from reading.

When we are writing we are encouraged to paint a picture with words. Do you visualise images when you are writing?

No I don’t, but I do often write poems about something I’ve seen, or, more often, something I’ve heard.

Painting a picture with words – that would make you think hard about the words you use and what you’re saying, and those are good things to think about when you’re writing.

Do you ever visit schools to inspire kids to write poetry?

Yes I do and I always really enjoy it. I like it when kids ask lots of questions – often I get asked about things I haven’t thought about before and that’s really interesting. I also like hearing what kids think about poems.

I love knowing that kids are writing poetry. I think it’s a great thing to do.

Thanks very much for your questions – I’ve really enjoyed answering them.

Best wishes,



What a marvelous interview, thanks Jenny and Room 24.

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