6 Oct 2008

Australian poetry anthologies

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
the little poem will bring to you
a dozen dreams to dance to you
at night when you're in bed.

So -
Keep a picture in your pocket
and a poem in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you're in bed.

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers 1958

Here in the lightest of light verses, Beatrice Schenk de Regniers gives us one reason for using poetry with children. Like music, it carries its own therapy. To cold or timid hearts it can bring warmth, reassurance, even laughter. It can stir and arouse or quiet and comfort. Above all it gives significance to everyday experience. To miss poetry would be as much of a deprivation as to miss music. For this reason it is essential that we know poetry and that we know how to introduce it to children. The
experience of poetry should come with so much pure pleaure that the taste of it will grow and become a permanent part of a child's emotional and intellectual resources.

May Hill Arbuthnot, Zena Sutherland Children and Books 1972, P278-279

Poetry anthologies are invaluable. They introduce the reader to many poets and different types of verse. Modern anthologies often include far too many twaddly poems for my liking, and I prefer older books. Never-the-less good modern anthologies are available.

Children and Books give the following pointers for choosing a good modern anthology:
  1. Look at the range and quality of writers represented. Does it have a balance of poets of the past, or are many good modern poets included?
  2. How many poems does the book contain?
  3. Look for indexes and classifications. These ideally shoul include author, title, first lines and subject matter.
  4. Format is important. A heavy volume is not good for children to handle.

A couple of excellent old poetry anthologies are available in full online:

An Anthology of Australian Verse Bertram Stevens 1906

The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse Sir Walter Murdoch 1918

The following anthologies are written for Australian school aged children and contain a number of Australian poems. They are out of print but are widely available in second hand books shops:

The Poets' Commonwealth Sir Walter Murdoch 1926 - A junior anthology for Australasian schools has a number of Australian poems.

There is a sprinkling of Australian poems here, because the book is intended for use in Australian schools. To understand what poetry means, we must see it applied to the life we know. The poets of Australia do not include a Milton or a Shelley, but to us Australians they do give us something - and something valuable - which the very greatest poets of other lands cannot give us.

Living Verse A K Thompson 1954

The Poets' Way E W Parker 1936

A Book of Australasian Verse Walter Murdoch 1928 ( A second and revised edition of The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse mentioned above - more widely available than the first edition.)

A good website for Australian poetry is the Australian Bush Poetry, Verse & Music site, based in a neighbouring town in Central Victoria! I haven't had a good look at all of this site, but it is worth a look.

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