Shaping a poem

the body builder
tones and
snip –
the gardener
prunes and shapes
the very
clumsy clown
colours the sky
with brightly bobbing
balloons of

© Kathryn Apel 2010

Playing with words to inspire creativity

I write poetry. And I write picture books. And this is a good thing, because poetry and picture books go hand-in-hand… beautifully!

If I’m stuck for inspiration or enthusiasm in my picture books, or I’m at that point of doubting that I’ll ever find ‘the’ perfect word (or any words, for that matter)—I write poetry. Poetry prompts me to play with words again.

We all know the cliché that writers paint pictures with words, but when I’m writing poetry, I get three distinct visual images—and they’re all of me! Let me put you in the picture, too…

The first is a bit of a joke, because in reality I can’t lift more than a bar of chocolate… BUT—I see myself as The Body Builder toning up by pumping poetry. Composing poetry flexes creativity. It hones vocabulary and encourages wordplay. It pinpoints weaknesses and forces me to focus on specific ‘muscles’. The more poetry I write, the greater my control of my writing muscles—of words. And that is vital when writing picture books!

As The Gardener, I am a topiary artiste, intent on pruning and shaping; looking at the bigger picture and trimming it into a recognisable form. There is a certain ruthlessness in laying bare a thing of beauty. Poetry is a lot like a topiary tree—each word carefully placed to create a sharp, clear image. Excess words snipped away. There is no room for clutter. Each word must earn its place. A lot like … a picture book!

And then I see myself as The Clumsy Clown clutching fistfuls of colourful helium balloons… but can she keep them all in her grasp? No way! Poetry has a way of releasing thoughts to, float, fly, drift and swirl like a bunch of brightly bobbing balloons. Thoughts that could become a poem… or even a picture book… For me, a tramp over paddocks (with notebook in hand) is the perfect time to release the balloons, where they can dip and sway and soar to greater heights in the vast, open sky.

When writing poetry, I am carried away by my imagination.

Come fly with me!

Kathryn Apel is the author of the rhyming picture book This is the Mud! published by Lothian/Hachette Australia in 2009 and read on ABC Play School in 2010. You can follow @KatApel on Twitter, or visit her website, Kat is also the co-founder of #pblitchat, the weekly chat for those who work in the picture book publishing industry. You don’t have to be on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media to join the chat. Read all about it at