In her home in West End, author, poet and occupational therapist Michelle Taylor sits in a wicker armchair, holding her newest book, ‘100 Ways to Fly’. Behind her, an art piece hangs on the wall. It is sky blue, and the silhouette of a bird spreading its wings takes centre stage. Below the bird, a young boy has his arms up after releasing the bird. Flight is a recurring theme in Taylor’s life, she says, so in the title of her latest collection of children’s poems, 100 Ways to Fly, she uses the fly or take flight metaphor.
100 Ways to Fly comes 10 years after her last book, If the World Belonged to Dogs, which was written while she and her family lived in Portugal. They moved back to Brisbane following the birth of her youngest daughter, and a few years later, Taylor lost her father. She dedicates this new book to her father and her daughter, her biggest and her littlest. During the past decade, Taylor completed her Master of Arts and researched the role of how monsters can be used as a tool to empower children. “It’s that paradox. A story can be a safe place to be with scary things like monsters, and with young people when they’re reading picture books, they can be with an adult and share the story. This is a form of containment. The parent can help the young one contain their fear and show them that it’s okay.”
Trained as an occupational therapist, Taylor has many years experience supporting people with mental and emotional health issues. She enjoys the challenge of working with different people to find solutions to their problems together. The combination of science and creativity in Taylor’s work as a writer and occupational therapist has, in her view, led her to work better in both fields.
The poems in 100 Ways to Fly give her young readers a poem for every emotion. Speaking about happiness, sadness, courage and even silliness, the poems vary in length and structure with Taylor employing rhyme, riddles, limericks and tongue twisters to engage her audience. Laden with imagery, the poems can also be used to explore the feelings of the young reader and help them better understand and process these.
Taylor was drawn to children’s poetry as it allows her and her readers to cultivate a sense of wonder with the world. Just as 100 Ways to Fly suggests, “poems can lift you up, take you away and offer you another view of the world before bringing you safely home again”. As a mum of three, children remain important to Taylor. She visits schools across Queensland, performing her works and leading poetry workshops. The University of Queensland Press, with whom she is published, have also released a teaching guide for her novel which is available on their website. Taylor hopes to use her platform to show the value in writing for children which, she believes, often has not been taken seriously.
“Poetry is the playground of the writing genres. And play is essential for our development and wellbeing. And even if you’re an adult, you can still swing upside down and kick your shoes off because it lets you stay a kid yourself.”