David Hill is a great story writer but he also writes tasty poems (he has written some of my favourite NZ novels for children including See Ya Simon). He is latest novel for Young Adults, My Brother’s War, just won the Children’s Choice Award at The New Zealand Post Book Awards and the Librarians’ Choice at the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. I highly recommend this book as David is very good at writing about tough subjects in such a way you don’t want to put the book down. You get into the grip of his story and you don’t want to leave! That’s skill.
David’s poems often tell stories (and there is nothing wrong with that, the poet James Brown once said all good poems tell stories). David’s poems also have a sense of humour and use zany similes. So the combination of humour and story can be a perfect mix for poetry. Have a go and send me what you come up with (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don’t forget your details. David’s poems are dotted throughout the School Journals. If you have read one that you loved, add a comment to this post and tell me which one it was. I love David’s poem about the window-cleaner trying to wipe the sun. I think he also mixes up bits of his imagination with bits of what he sees and experiences into a great poetry brew. I have posted the window-cleaner poem at the bottom. I love the image it makes in my mind knowing I would be too scared to climb such a tottering ladder.
I sent David some questions and this is what he wrote back:
I feel a bit awkward, writing about poetry. That’s because I’m not a good poet [editor disagrees!]. Quite often, I’m a rotten poet. I mainly write novels, plays, stories. Which is funny, really, because at school, I learned heaps of poems off by heart (and I’m glad I did; it’s cool being able to recite them to yourself). Plus I still read poetry. But I write only 1….2….sometimes three poems a year, and most are so bad, I never show them to anyone.
I’d like to be able to write like Glenn Colquhoun, Elizabeth Smither, Sam Hunt, Margaret Mahy, other excellent NZ poets. I’d like to be able to make marvellous comparisons, see things from interesting angles, have really original rhythms and rhymes or part-rhymes like them. But I always seem to end up telling a story, which I usually write as…..well, a story.
But I do like trying to write funny poems. I enjoy taking something weird (a window-cleaner on a high building, who seemed to be wiping the Sun that was reflected in the glass), and imagining other strange things such a person might seem to be cleaning. I always enjoy writing about my mistakes (trying to impress a girl when I was at school by writing stories, or tripping over on the footpath while I was watching a leaf fall). I believe people always enjoy reading about other’s blunders!
Reading other people’s books and poems always helps give me ideas, as well as giving me pleasure. There are some excellent NZ poetry books around; try Poetry Pudding, edited by Jenny Argante; 100 NZ Poems, edited by Bill Manhire, and Flamingo Bendalingo by Paula Green – yes, the same Paula who runs this website, and who will be very embarrassed I’ve mentioned her.
And of course, I try to write poems and stories about the activities that I’m keen on. I belong to an Astronomy Club, an Archery Club, a Walking Group, and I’ve written about all those. I’m never able to write a whole poem or story from scratch, the way some people can. I always scribble ideas, lines, people’s names in a notebook – maybe just five minutes one day; ten minutes the next day; another ten minutes three days after that. Slowly, the framework of the story / poem builds up. I’m always reading my stuff aloud to myself; that helps a lot with sentences and words. And I never, never NEVER throw any of my writing ideas away; you never know when you’re going to get an idea on how to improve it.
So – good luck with your own writing. Read heaps. Scribble heaps. Steal heaps of ideas from what your friends do and say. And don’t you dare throw any of it away……
There they were this morning,
High up on an office block.
One was polishing the sun,
Another rinsing fleecy clouds,
A third rubbing the blue sky.
If I come back tonight,
Will they still be there –
One scrubbing the shooting stars,
Another washing the moon,
A third wiping down the Milky Way?
© David Hill