Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Arts and Humanities
Dr Vahri McKenzie
Dr Donna Mazza
This hybrid thesis is comprised of three creative works – two collections of poetry for children and a verse novel – as well as three journal articles examining aspects of children’s poetry, and exegetical discussion of the creative works and of key concepts influencing both the creative and discursive elements of the thesis.
The first creative work, All About Me, is a collection of poetry for early childhood readers and their carers. It consists of 20 poems, and as a finished manuscript mirrors the length of a picture book format collection. The poems explore and highlight aspects of the concept of belonging as it applies to very young children, including self-awareness and awareness of the world and people around them.
The second creative work, You and Me, is a collection of poetry for middle primary school aged readers (approximately 8 to 10 years of age). It consists of 68 poems, and as a finished manuscript is the length of a 72-page trade paperback publication. The poems explore and highlight aspects of the concept of belonging as it applies to primary school aged children, including their self-identity, and their part in the groups to which they belong, as well as their place in the wider world.
The third creative work, Worse Things, is a multi-voice verse novel suitable for readers in the upper primary and early secondary years, aged approximately 10 to 14 years old. In this novel, three protagonists struggle to determine where they belong at school, on the sporting field, and within their very different family situations. Blake, a young footballer, is injured and unable to play his beloved sport. Jolene, a star hockey player, has lost interest in her sport as she struggles to meet the demands of her ambitious mother and misses her absentee father. Amed, a newly arrived immigrant, is unable to play soccer, the sport he loves, because of a language barrier.
The three creative works are interspersed with three journal articles. With poetry being widely seen as an important part of the children’s literature landscape, yet not well represented through publishing output, these articles, which are aimed at educators and children’s literature researchers, consider where poetry belongs.
The first article, The Purple Cow, focusses on why poetry is important for children, and the role that pleasure plays in engaging children with the benefits poetry has to offer. The second article, Belonging: Australian Identity in Children’s Poetry explores why the theme of belonging is prevalent in children’s poetry and examines differing representations of belonging in recent Australian poetry, focussing on the portrayal of family in Lorraine Marwood and Steven Herrick’s collections and verse novels, as well as a verse novel by Sally Morgan. The third and final article, Prose Versus Verse, offers an insight into the creative choice to write in the verse novel form, and examines the value of verse novels both as a classroom tool and for private reading, with a comparison of verse and prose novels from Steven Herrick and Sheryl Clark.
The exegetical discussion of my creative works, contained in the final chapter, brings the theme of belonging to the fore, exploring the creative decision-making employed in composing this thesis. By examining the poems through a lens provided by Allison Halliday, I discuss my own construction of the concept of childhood, as seen in the poems, exploring how both the subjects explored, and the poetic forms and devices used, demonstrate my belief that childhood is a time of increasing awareness of self, and of awareness of being both part of things and apart from things. While children may enjoy simple, playful topics, they also have the sophistication to explore and understand global issues and to deal with demanding topics. The exegesis goes on to explore my growing awareness that it is not possible, nor even desirable, to attempt to explore every aspect or version of belonging, given that, like every other writer, I am constrained by my own experiences and knowledge. Finally, the exegesis looks at where children’s poetry belongs in contemporary Australia.
As a whole, the thesis demonstrates that poetry belongs in the hands of Australian children, providing a way to entertain and educate, as well as offering them an opportunity to explore the important theme of belonging. For, if children are able to find their own versions of belonging reflected in pleasurable ways, and given insight into many other versions of belonging, then they will engage not just with poetry, but with the world around them.
Access to this thesis is restricted to the exegesis.
Murphy, S. (2017). Belonging: a place for, and in, children’s poetry A hybrid thesis including creative works, articles and exegetical discussion. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1999