Steven Herrick (1958-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1958, in Brisbane, Australia; Education: University of Queensland, B.A., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Playing soccer, coaching youth soccer.
Office—P.O. Box 116, Hazelbrook, 2779, Australia. Agent—Glen Leitch Management, 332 Victoria St., Darlinghurst, 2010, Australia.
Poet, 1988—. Presenter and readers at numerous schools throughout Australia.
Australian Children's Book of the Year for Older Readers shortlist, Australian Children' Book Council (CBC), and New South Wales Premier's Literary Award short-list, both 1997, both for Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair; Victorian Premier's Literary Award commendation, 1998, and CBC book of the Year shortlist, and New South Wales Premier's Literary Award shortlist, both 1999, all for A Place like This; New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, 2000, for The Spangled Drongo; KOALA/YABBA Book of the Year Award shortlist, 2000, for My Life, My Love, My Lasagna; CBC Book of the Year shortlist, and New South Wales Premier's Literary Award shortlist, both 2001, both for The Simple Gift; CBC Book of the Year shortlist, 2003, for Tom Jones Saves the World, and 2004, for Do-wrong Ron; Children's Literature Peace Prize highly commended designation, for The Simple Gift and Tom Jones Saves the World.
POETRY; FOR CHILDREN
My Life, My Love, My Lasagne, illustrated by Annmarie Scott, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1997.
Poetry to the Rescue, illustrated by Catherine Gorman, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1998.
Love Poems and Leg Spinners: A Month in the Life of Class 5B, illustrated by Joe Gorman, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 2001.
The Place Where the Planes Take Off, illustrated by Annmarie Scott, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1995.
POETRY; FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Caboolture, Five Islands, 1990.
Water Bombs: A Book of Poems for Teenagers, Jam Roll Press (Nundah, Queensland, Australia), 1992.
NOVELS IN VERSE; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1996, published as Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
A Place like This, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1998, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
The Spangled Drongo, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1999.
The Simple Gift, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 2001, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Tom Jones Saves the World, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 2002.
Do-wrong Ron,, illustrated by Caroline Magerl, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.
By the River, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2004.
POETRY; FOR ADULTS
The Esoteric Herrick: Poems and Things, illustrated by Roger Norris, Red Hill, 1982.
The Sound of Chopping, Five Islands, 1994.
Steven Herrick is an Australian poet who is dedicated to spreading the word about the magic of language to young people. Through his popular verse novels, which carry such compelling titles as Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair and Tom Jones Saves the World, Herrick has captivated young readers in his native country as well as Great Britain and North America, where his books have also been published. As Herrick once explained to Something about the Author, "I love the power of poetry and the potential of poetry. I've always believed that poetry can talk to an audience or reader in the most concise, direct, and thought-provoking way."
With his 1992 poetry collection Water Bombs: A Book of Poems for Teenagers—his second book of verse for teen readers—Herrick uses his frank style to mark the milestones of two lives through a group of stand-alone poems that collectively reveal the cyclical nature of life. The reader glimpses verbal snapshots of Joe and Debbie's lives, from their own childhood dreams to their hopes for their children. In "almost everyday speech," observed Felicity Norman in a Magpies review, Water Bombs "speaks easily to its audience and will be very popular."
Herrick's verse-novel Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair, which was published in the United States as Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair, exemplifies Herrick's preferred writing format. Comprised of a series of first-person poems, the novel looks at how a family copes with the death of a loved one. Each voice examines the loss from its own perspective, like one of several cameras set to catch the same action from its own unique angle. While the predominant perspective belongs to Jack, a sixteen year old writer who is preoccupied with his girlfriend, Annabel, sports, and the death of his mother to cancer seven years ago, the reader see Jack through the eyes of his sister and now-widowed father. In the companion novel A Place like This Jack and Annabel decide to take a year off before college and, despite their plans of a motor tour around Australia, wind up working long hours as apple pickers for a family with troubles of their own. Magpies critic Anne Hanzl commented that Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair is a "sad, funny, moving, and thoughtful" book, while in Booklist Jennifer Mattson praised Herrick's "rich, layered verse" and noted that the two novels "speak with sincerity and sensitivity" to the trauma of family upheavals, and A Place like This includes "a Kerouacian fantasy that will resonate with many teens."
Other verse novels by Herrick include Tom Jones Saves the World, about a boy frustrated by his stuffy parents who escapes from his gated community and has a series of adventures that connect him to his family's past and make him appreciate his advantages in life. Another boy escapes from his family in The Simple Gift, although this time his family life is a bit more daunting. Sixteen-year-old Billy makes a new home for himself in an abandoned railway freight car, and meets a new community of friends that sustain him in a novel that Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson called "tender [and] uplifting," adding that the book is characteristic Herrick: "crowd-pleasing" and "swift-reading."
In addition to his writing, Herrick visits hundreds of schools each year in his capacity as a self-appointed ambassador of verse, and has even traveled to Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Singapore. "I have a touch of the evangelist in me when it comes to poetry," the poet once admitted—"I want the public to recognize poetry as an enjoyable, entertaining medium. That's why I not only write poetry, but I also read it in front of an audience. I believe writers need to see (and hear) how an audience reacts to their writing. Performing my poetry allows me that luxury." "One of the great joys I feel in visiting so many schools is talking to children and young adults," Herrick added. "I listen to what they say and how they say it. I hope my books reflect some of what I've heard over the years. I hope they get more people of all ages reading poetry and believing that poetry, as a medium, can tell a story as well as prose." An entertaining performer—Herrick has been a frequent guest on live radio shows and has appeared on various Australian television programs—his writing and performance styles are similar, reported Sydney Morning Herald critic Shelli-Anne Couch: they are "extraordinarily simple on the surface but spliced with subtle bites and small twists." The straightforward quality common to Herrick's spoken and written word, was also noted by Norman, who wrote in Magpies that the poet's writings reflect the "directness and immediate impact" required of performance poetry.
Explaining his reason for writing verse-novels in addition to "straight" poetry, Herrick noted that a free-verse text "allows me into the personality of each character—his or her thoughts, emotions, insecurities, and ambitions. The verse-novel form lets me tell the story from a number of perspectives, and, hopefully, with an economy of words. In short, it allows each character to tell the story in his or her own language, from his or her own angle."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Australian Book Review, June, 1994, p. 53; September, 1998, p. 44.
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair and A Place like This, p.1299; August, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Simple Gift, p. 1919.
Kliatt, May, 2004, Nancy Zachary, review of The Simple Gift, p. 18; July, 2004, Heather Lisowski, review of Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair, p. 18.
Magpies, September, 1992, Felicity Norman, review of Water Bombs: A Book of Poems for Teenagers, p. 24; July, 1996, Anne Hanzl, review of Love, Ghosts, & Nose Hair, p. 33.
School Library Journal, March, 2004, Sharon Korbeck, review of Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair, p. 213.
Sydney Morning Herald, April 26, 1994, Shelli-Anne Couch, "When There's Pure Poetry in the Making," p.23.
Steven Herrick Web site, http://www.acay.com.au/~sherrick/ (December 2, 2004).
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