Tag Archives: poems

James Norcliffe’s Packing a Bag for Mars

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe with illustrations by Jenny Cooper. Published by Clerestory Press, Christchurch. clerestory@xtra.co.nz  $27

The School for Young Writers in Christchurch commissioned James Norcliffe to write a book of poems for students. This book isn’t just a collection of poems though. It is like a packed suitcase that you can take on your own poetry adventures to the sea, the moon, the city, foreign countries, the zoo, the park, home or school. I think poets are like explorers and our bags are backed with all the books we have read and all the poetry techniques we have played with. So I think this the perfect title for a poetry book.

James has also included an interview where he answers questions about writing; questions about punctuation, new lines, redrafting, whether poems need to rhyme and much much more.

Each poem comes with a poetry-launch pad. James comes up with an idea for you to get started on your poem. They are so good, instead of writing this review I wanted to be writing a poem about what I might pack if I were to travel the length of the Nile in case strange and wonderful things happened to me.

At the end of the book there are notes on all the poems. James tells you where he got the idea for the poem from, what some of the words mean and reveals some of the poetry techniques he uses. It is like he opens a window for you to peek through and get a wider and more splendid view of his poem. Usually poems are places where we get to go exploring on our own (and this great too!)

e8ddac4442f962d4ffff8961ffffd524 9f60254a87ca85a9ffff800effffd523 Packing a Bag for Mars

What I love about James as a poet is that he is prepared to test out all kinds of things when he writes. His poems can make you think about things differently and feel things differently. He writes about all kinds of subjects from sports to celebrations to superstitions to dressing for peace.

James has written a book of poems that is full of challenges so it is a book that will inspire many of us to write more and to write in new ways. As a poet I always like to try things I haven’t done before. I like to set myself new and exciting challenges.

I see this book as a real gift for students from Year 5 or 6 right though to Year 13.

PS James has also written the award-winning The Loblolly Boy (I loved the imaginative stretch of this story published by Longacre Press!) and The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer (I am looking forward to reading this). The Enchanted Flute was published in 2012. The latter two were published by Random House NZ.

A Poem by Elena de Roo

I was walking along the beach this morning and the wild west-coast waves seemed really mild. The water was warm and not tugging at me to go in a thousand directions. I only ever go knee deep and look carefully for signs of rips before I swim because the ocean is dangerous here. When I got home I read Elena’s poem and it seemed the perfect poem to post today.

Elena de Roo is the author of The Rain Train and Ophelia Wild, Secret Spy (both published by Walker Books Australia). These are story books but you can tell this is an author who loves poetry. She has written lots of poems that I love. She knows how to make words sing and dance and leap and skid and flip and stretch and soar. She knows how to use words to make them roar and to be very quiet. Her poems can tell you a story, take you to surprising places and show bits of the world she loves.

I love this poem because Elena hardly uses any words but every word matters. I like the way the lines are different lengths. I like the way the rhyme helps the poem flow. I like the crunchy delicious sounds in the middle of the poem. It is like the poem has a full tummy.

I love the ending of the poem. You start with the hugeness of sea and sky and you end with the ‘black dot’ that is the poet. Often I am the only person walking on the beach early but this morning I saw a black dot way down the end and it was my friend walking her dog. Sometimes I must be that black dot!

Winter’s Beach


grey sea

grey sky

black-backed gulls cry


sharp sand whips by

white-frothed foams fly


wind-washed waves high



no one

just I

black dot

big sky




The Rain Train            1324339100805

Poetry Box Tip #2 Listen listen listen

Poetry Box Tip #2 will be useful when you are writing your poems for The Fabulous Poetry Competition.

It is really good to LISTEN to your poems. Say them out loud. I always say my poems out loud as I am writing them. Then when I have finished a draft I read the whole thing out loud to the birds and the dogs and the cats. My ears will catch a word that doesn’t sound right, or a line that doesn’t seem to belong.

Listen to the rhythm of each line. Do you stumble on a line when you say it like you have hit a traffic jam?

Listen to the word at the end of the line. Listen out for words that sound really juicy, delicious, surprising.

Listen to someone else read a poem. Which word catches your ear?

I am going to give lots of tips on sound over the next year but for now think of your ears as an important tool when you write poetry.

When I say my poems out loud, I like to listen to the sound of one word when it is next to another word.

Remember there is no one right way to write a poem. Poems are golden opportunities to PLAY.


WELCOME to the very first blog of the New Zealand Poetry Box for children.

The blog will be a meeting place for children, teachers, parents, writers and readers who love reading and writing poetry for children.

For the next two years I will dedicate myself to poetry for children. I will be busy editing an anthology of poems for children, writing poems, visiting schools, organising events, sharing information.

I will post poems by children each week.

I will stage a competition once a month.

I will post poetry tips and poetry challenges each week.

I am happy to post children’s letters about poetry.

I am happy to be interviewed by children.

I will talk about children’s poetry books I love (old and new).

I will post some of my own poems for children.

I will post details of New Zealand poetry events for children.

I will interview authors who write poetry for children.

ps A big THANK YOU to Sarah Laing for designing the gorgeous header and to Random House.