Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Playing with Words by Meredith Costain

Do you like poetry? I love it!

Poetry has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in a house with lots of stories and books. We read and recited poems full of rhythm, such as The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc – who also wrote scary ‘cautionary tales for children’.  My favourite was Matilda, Who Told Lies and was Burned to Death.  I loved reading that one out loud, especially to my annoying sister.  And I also loved the poems of AA Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh.

I read lots of poetry at school too. My favourites came from a musty old book written by CJ Dennis, called A Book For Kids. Old CJ really knew how to have fun with words, like Triantiwontigongolope.

I started to write my own poems while riding my bike to school. Funny ones about my pets, or dramatic ones about bushfires and other disasters. I even had one published in a newspaper, which earned me lots of money!

I still write lots of poems. I like putting together words that have the same sounds at their starts or in their middles – not just at the end. Or words that mean the same thing as how they sound – like ‘crash!’ and ‘smash!’ and ‘tinkle’ and ‘fizz’.

Sometimes my poems rhyme, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I use real words, and other times I make them up. You can do that in a poem.

Sometimes I write poems when I’m feeling happy, and other times when I’m sad or worried or lonely or angry. They help me to work out exactly how I feel about something. Or someone. Especially my annoying sister. And my even more annoying brother.

What kinds of poems do you like to read and write?

You can find some great poems to read here (click on the links):

The website of Australian poet, Sherryl Clark, has lots of great information about kids’ poetry – including how to write your own!

US poet Kenn Nesbitt has written heaps of poems with great titles, like ‘I taught my cat to clean my room’, ‘My brother’s not a werewolf’ and ‘The armpit of doom’.

Hundreds of poems to read and word games to play.

Classic Australian poems for kids.

Audio files of poems on lots of different topics.

and you can read some of the poems I loved as a kid here:

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc
Matilda, who told Lies and was Burned to Death by Hilaire Belloc
Disobedience by A A Milne

About the Author 

Meredith Costain.  A versatile writer, Meredith’s work ranges from picture books through to novels and non-fiction. Her books include the series A Year in Girl Hell, novelizations of the TV show Dance Academy, Disaster Chef, and the award-winning poetry book Doodledum Dancing. Her latest book, My First Day at School, is a collection of poems for young readers starting school for the first time. 

Find out more at www.meredithcostain.com


  1. I love poetry too - from nursery rhymes to Dr Seuss, to John Keats, GM Hopkins, Judith Wright, TS Eliot and so many more. I love serious poems and funny poems. One of my favourite poems of all time, by the Canadian poet, Earle Birney, is The Bear on the Delhi Road. You can find it here:


    Thank you Meredith for sharing your love of poetry with us and also for introducing me - and other readers who may not have known about Hilaire Belloc - to the Cautionary Tales for Children. They're very funny and worth reading for their titles alone.

    First published in 1907 and "designed for the admonition of children between the ages of 8 and 14", these verses parody the moralistic cautionary tales which were popular in the 1800s.

    There are 11 poems in Belloc's Cautionary Tales and the titles include:

    "Jim who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion";
    "Henry King who chewed bits of string and was cut off early in Dreadful agonies";
    "Algernon who played with a loaded gun and, on missing his sister, was reprimanded by his Father; and
    "Rebecca who slammed doors for fun and perished Miserably"

    You can read them all here:


  2. What fantastic titles! Timeless! I think young people today would find them as wonderful as when they were written.