A bad week for children’s poetry…

September 29th, 2013 | News, Poems for children

It hasn’t been a good week for children’s poetry.

On Monday morning I discovered that Learning Media Ltd., which publishes New Zealand School Journal, is winding down, and that NZ School Journal is no longer accepting submissions.

Upon further enquiry, I discovered that Learning Media Ltd. is being privatised by the New Zealand government.

It is possible that NZ School Journal will continue to be published, but it will no longer be available free of charge to all schools. Presumably, if this is so, it will be most easily accessed by the schools that need it least.

NZ School Journal has been an important part of my own journey as a children’s poet. They have published two of my poems, including one – “The Dinosaur Climbers’ Kit” – that has not been published elsewhere. They also published my most successful poem – “Dad Meets the Martians” – and then turned it into a song, with my permission, and recorded it on CD.

Fortunately, a campaign has been mounted to try to save NZ School Journal. A petition can now be signed online. Not only did I sign it myself, but I also asked a number of my friends to do so. I am pleased to say that over twenty of them responded positively, which gives the petition some more momentum to move towards the 5,000 signatures that are being sought. I am sure the campaigners will be heartened also to learn they have plenty of support on the other side of the Tasman Sea.

The bad news did not stop there, however. The following day I discovered that the Australian Bush Laureate Awards have dropped the category of “Children’s Poem of the Year” for next year’s awards, due to low numbers of entries in recent years.

I find this very frustrating, because I do not think the Bush Laureate Awards have made much effort to publicise or promote this category. The unfortunate reality is that very few members of the bush poetry community write for children.

However, many children’s writers write rhyming verse, much of which is published in the form of picture books. I am sure many of these are set in the bush, or at least in a sufficiently Australian setting to earn the approval of the Bush Laureate judges. I feel confident that, if the Bush Laureate Awards were publicised through the children’ writing community (SCBWI, PIO, Buzz Words, etc.), many high quality entries would have been received.

I have passed on my concerns to the relevant authorities. Hopefully they will re-introduce the category of “Children’s Poem of the Year” next year.

In the meantime, I can only concur with the sentiments of Jackie Hosking, who wrote “Thank goodness for Walker Books!”.

To which I would add “…and NSW School Magazine!”

2 responses to “A bad week for children’s poetry…”

  1. Hi Stephen!

    Amazing when early white Australia had such a tradition of poetry that modern Australia is so lacking in it. I am still waiting for Walker Books to contract my children’s poetry anthology, accepted in 2009; it seems as though it will never happen. And now, as you say, we only have the NSW School Magazine publishing children’s poetry in Australia. Perhaps you might think of setting up a Australian Children’s Poetry website? I would be happy to contribute to it financially, and I’m sure others would, too. I have just been reading poetry by Wendy Blaxland — it is terrific, I didn’t know she was a poet. How is your book going with Walker? When is it due for release and what’s it called? Di

    • Stephen says:

      Yes. Of course, poetry didn’t have much to compete with back then. Nowadays we have music, radio, TV, movies and the internet, all vying for our attention. Many people still love the simplicity and purity of poetry, though. I am sure it will never disappear completely!

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