Our second post today in celebration of National Poetry Day takes a look at an anthology aimed at slightly older readers.
Hey Girl! by Brighton-based author Rachel Rooney is aimed at a young teen readership.
Rachel Rooney is one of the most admired poets writing for children and young people today. She worked as a teacher of children with special needs before becoming a full-time writer, and continues to take an interest in mental health, particularly for girls and young women. Her earlier collections have been shortlisted for (My Life as a Goldfish, A Kid in My Class) and have won the CLiPPA Award (The Language of Cat).
At the online launch of the book, in September this year, the author described her starting point for this collection as very personal reflections on her own life and preoccupations as a young teenager, and how the process of writing, then as now, helped her to process her own feelings.
Her working method involves taking the original concept though a rigorous editorial process. She loves editing and polishing, and the balancing of three aspects in the finished poem: the sound of the words, how they look on the page, and the meaning. Nikki Gamble, as facilitator at the launch, commented on the use of white space on the page, and thought of these ‘gaps’ as ‘thinking space’. The design process moved wider to compiling and curating the overall collection, with an arc from poems about uncertainty and resilience to more hopeful pieces towards the end of the book.
Rooney’s son Milo illustrated the anthology, and the collaboration between the two was an interesting process. Take a look at the ears on the headgear of the young girl who features in many of his drawings. Do they indicate a mood, an emotion, a state of mind? Milo was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven. Rooney herself was diagnosed late with autism, at the age of 55. We talked about how this fed in to her work, and their collaboration.
There is a lot of nuance here, some of which would be ripe for unpicking in the classroom, and some which young girls may want to hug to themselves for inspiration and comfort. There is also a wide variety of form, from some structured pattern, with rules similar to a sonnet, and some which break poetic conventions. Rooney reflects youngsters’ urge to see things from different perspectives – like hanging upside down on a swing.