Monday, November 11, 2013

Poetry Sucks! by Mark Carthew

Poetry Sucks!  Certainly this one does.

 Mark Carthew: from Machino Supremo! Poems about Machines by Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew (Celapene Press)

This particular poem uses some of the many writing tools that poets work with when they play with words ― ALLITERATION (where letters and other word sounds bounce off each other), RHYME, RHYTHM, REPETITION and ONOMATOPOEIA (where the look and sound of the made up word conjures up its image).

ALLITERATION is one of the great tools I love to use when playing with words. For example the ‘B’ sounds, repetition and rhyme in -

Mark Carthew from Witches’ Britches, Itches & Twitches! (IP Kidz), illustration by Mike Spoor

Poetry of course has many, many forms AND there are no real RULES ―for as we all know, some rules are meant to be broken!

Great poets make and create their own rules, especially as our understanding and usage of language is constantly changing and expanding. And here’s a hot tip ... READ as many great poets from Australia and around the world as you can, that’s how you get BETTER @ WRITING anything.

Some of my favourite poets are Jack Prelutsky, Michael Rosen, Tony Mitton, Max Fatchen, Sheree Fitch, Dennis Lee, Dr Seuss, Lorraine Marwood, Janeen Brian and Margaret Mahy.

There are so many different poetic forms and ways of setting words out. There are concrete poems that make the shapes of objects and ideas, Japanese haiku and cinquain, diamante, rhyming poems, and non-rhyming poems that use metaphor and allegory to cleverly conjure imagery and thoughts ... the list goes on.

The main thing that a good poem does is make the reader or listeners respond and think.

Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s runny. (I could have also used sunny)
Sometimes it’s rainy, sometimes it’s grainy.

Of course, it is always fun to do something a little unexpected in the story line.  For example:

Mark Carthew from Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens

 Poems don’t always have to rhyme ... but that’s another story (Poem).

About the Author

Mark Carthew is a multi-award winning Australian children’s author, editor, poet and musician.  His many books include The Gobbling Tree illustrated by Susy Boyer, Speech Pathology Australia’s 2009 Book of the Year. He is also the series editor for the VoiceWorks illustrated play script series which has sold over a million copies worldwide. 

Mark’s recent poetry titles include Machino Supremo! poems about machines (Celapene Press) and Footprints on the Moon: poems about space, Flabbergaster, Vroom, Vroom! Poems About Things with Wheels and Speak-up! published by Teacher Created Materials CA / Denise Ryan and Associates.

Mark’s latest picture book THE MOOSE IS LOOSE! illustrated by Matt Stanton is published by Harper Collins / ABC Books.

For more information about Mark’s books, wordplay, poetry and songs visit:


  1. Thank you Mark. I like what you say about a good poem being one that makes the reader or listeners respond and think.

    I think it’s important to approach a poem differently to a novel or a story.

    It’s often not just a matter of understanding the words on the page in a single reading – though of course it can be, as with the deceptively simple, extraordinarily sophisticated verse stories of Dr Seuss.

    Sometimes it can take me several readings – or even better – a poetry reading or performance to really appreciate a particular poem – to respond and think about its imagery, its structure and the ideas being raised. Reading a poem aloud can really help with appreciating poetic language.

    I think that poems are not just evocative words on a page but evocative words in a particular context – whether the context is provided by the form the poem takes (such as the “S” shape of Mark’s vacuum poem, above) or a spoken word performance that brings those words to life.

    And once you “get it”, that poem is yours for life. What a gift!

    1. Thanks for these thoughts. As an anthologist and editor I have had the privilege of working with so many wonderful poets and the key thing for me is the way words speak to us. Good poems speak to us - sometimes lyrically, sometimes rhythmically, sometimes spiritually ... sometimes in moment of delayed reaction - but they do make us think, respond, cry & smile.

  2. You've spoken about so many wonderful aspects of poetry, Mark! I also love the sensory elements; the taste of words on your tongue as you roll them round or let them fly from your mouth; the sound as they resonate in the air; the music, the noise, the mood of the words, and I love the sight of words; letters juxtaposing, word shapes, or just the right word that makes the poem soar!
    Thanks, too, for liking my poems, Mark.

    1. Thanks Janeen.

      Shapes, patterns, rhymes & rhythms, froth and bubble, chasms and schisms - are all in the purple poet's palette!