In the News - Rachel Rooney

27th May 2011 at 01:00

Rachel is a children's poet and special needs teacher in Brighton. Her first poetry collection has just been published in a scheme that aims to highlight new talents by pairing them with established names. Her book, The Language of Cat, has been described as "a box of delights" by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. It is released alongside a new collection from Scouse legend Roger McGough.

What is your poetry about?

Experiences in my life that I filter for children - a lot about people and relationships. There is a fair amount of wordplay in there, but my poetry aims to be thoughtful. When I go into schools children think poems always have a funny little joke at the end. That's great, but I think I'm trying to fill a gap with sort of disguised adult poems. I think they could be read by a woman in her 40s and her 12-year-old daughter and they would both get something out of them.

Do you use poetry when you are teaching?

I have used poetry with kids with emotional and behavioural difficulties and it went down really well. They were tough little boys, but by getting them to write their own stuff they got an immediate sense of control over something. There are a lot of therapeutic uses for poetry.

Is there enough poetry in schools?

I don't think so. Teachers could quite easily start the day with a poem; it is about exposing kids to poetry and it could be slipped in much more often. I think there is a genuine fear of poetry among some teachers.

What goes on in your poetry workshops?

I work with gifted and talented pupils, but I try to give them structure, I don't give them free rein. We look at poetry and discuss what the writer is trying to say. When I get them to write I ban rhyme because you can get a lot of cliched stuff. Rhyme is great, but it is very hard to do well.

Who is your favourite poet and why?

I know it's a cliche, but Carol Ann Duffy - I'm going to hear her read tonight. She writes really intelligent stuff for children and that was the benchmark I wanted to reach.

What's next?

I've got a rhyming picture book for three to five-year-olds coming out in 2012. It's called A Patch of Black and it's about using your imagination to overcome your fears.

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