Forget stuffy and boring. Poetry is fun! That is the message Australian poet Steven Herrick is spreading with his books and his performances for school groups.
He did a two-day tour of Christchurch City Libraries, read some of his work to students, teachers and library staff and had everybody laughing out loud.
“People think poetry is about really static, old, boring things like a tree or a river,” says Steven.
“My poetry is about a boy who jumps in the river. I don’t write descriptive poems. I write stories in verse. I try and write the way I speak and I write about things that have really happened. That’s what I think poetry is all about.”
During his library tour, he read several of his popular poems, including 10 Things Your Parents Will Never Say to You (“Children, don’t be so quiet. Start yelling, turn the TV up. Start arguing now!” and “Yes, I know today is Monday, but why don’t we stay home from school anyway”), To My Son Joe, Lost in the Mist, Toenails and Mum and Dad are in Love.
“I have a great job. I stand up for 45 minutes and hopefully get the children interested in poetry or at least go away with a different view of poetry.
“My poetry is all about family and how they interact. It is about community, the community of family, the community of school, of sports and the local community. They can recognise something in my poetry.”
Steven was born in Brisbane on New Years Eve, 1958. He says his love for poetry developed at an early age.
“I was in Year 10 and we had a really pretty teacher who used to read us poems.”
At the age of 18, he wrote his first poem, Love is like a Gobstopper, and was paid $5 when it was published.
“I started writing poetry for adults, but then I had children and what better audience than your own kids. Children give you lots of things, but mine gave me a new career.
“I wanted to write poems for them and I also had their experiences from which I could draw.”
Writing poetry comes easy to Steven. He says it takes him between 10 to 30 minutes to write a poem, but about a week to edit it and make sure it is just right.
“After I have written it, I stand up at home and read it out loud. If I stumble over any of the words, I change them.”
Steven has published 15 books and is preparing another three to be released in the next two years. His books have been short-listed for several awards and he has twice won the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award.
These days, he lives in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, north of Sydney. He loves playing soccer and writes his books at home when he isn’t travelling around performing at schools or libraries.