All entries for Thursday 09 July 2009

July 09, 2009

Writing Poetry for Children?

After discovering some fascinating children’s books recently such as Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing and Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, I have begun thinking about writing for children and in particular poetry for the child reader. What are the differences then between writing for children and writing for adults?

In thinking about this question, I just wanted to note a few comments in the essay ‘Poetry Mosaic: Some Reflections on Writing Verse for Children’ by Ian Serraillier. Serraillier follows the recommendation of the Russian poet Kornei Chukovsky who suggests that ‘As young children think in images, the poem […] must be graphic, with each verse – or even couplet – suggesting to the artist a suitable illustration’ (p. 97). Rhyme is also important, since it ‘helps the young child to remember more easily, and also to get the sense’ (p. 97). Serraillier goes on from these tenets to suggest that the world of folk poetry is particularly enjoyable for child readers, suggesting ‘English and Scottish ballads’ for their ‘lyric quality and the rapid story-telling’ (p. 98). This kind of poetry is ‘closer to its origins – in song and dance and the spoken word’ (p. 102). For Seraillier, the children’s poet is ‘a curious mixture of creator, interpretor and craftsman’ (p. 102).

I’m still working through my own ideas about writing for children, but I do find Seraillier’s suggestions useful if incomplete.

Works Cited
Serraillier, Ian (1977) ‘Poetry Mosaic: Some Reflections on Writing Verse for Children’, 97-102 in Edward Blishen (ed.) The Thorny Paradise: Writers on Writing for Children, Harmondsworth: Kestrel Books.


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