2020 International Poetry Competition Results

The New Zealand Poetry Society is pleased to announce the results of the 2020 International Poetry Competition! With over 2200 entries, the four judges were delighted at the exceptional writing that was entered from around the world.

We would like to thank:

  • our judges Johanna Emeney, essa may ranapiri, Owen Bullock, and Barbara Strang, for writing insightful reports about their selections
  • the generous support of the Jeanette Stace Poetry Trust, for providing the Jeanette Stace Memorial Award
  • all our entrants, for supporting our competition and for continuing to support the NZPS

All winning and commended poems will be published in our annual anthology. We are still making selections for the rest of the anthology, and these results should be finalised by 31 August 2020.

Jump to the results for each section:

OPEN SECTION (727 entries)

Judge: Johanna Emeney

1st Place
oroo’– Fiona Chivers Shirreffs

oroo’                   for my mother

a word remembered, like my own name.
a word spoken often, an incantation.
a world away, Borneo, Borneo.

you kept it a secret
       the swimming web-footed monkeys,
       softly sleeping bats in giant pitcher plants,
       snakes that sometimes fly between trees
       like falling ribbons.
       the fingernail-sized frogs
       singing for their lives, in the night,
       from hidden tree hollows.
all those lives living inside the word jungle

meanwhile, the bent twigs, knotted grasses,
folded leaves and coloured feathers
of your oroo’

were lost on me.

2nd Place
Hydropsychidae – Alexandra Fraser

        (caddis fly – water spirit)

Later you return to the streams of your youth

stony creeks      languid rills and runs
seeking waterboatmen skulling an ocean

dragonfly dartshimmer        mayflies
in ephemeral cloud    their one day in the light

you turn over each waterworn boulder and see
the emptiness                    the missing

time falls by      and later you are someone else

a caddis larva      encased in mica glints
feldspar fragments     quartz    obsidian flakes

a soft grub making a home
of forgotten memories    discarded faces    dream shards

oriented upstream     spinning a net           caught
in the current           facing        whatever comes

3rd Place
Beneath them – Jane Simpson

Beneath them

Lost in the world of European lace, in the city’s most
discreet department store, I have come to ask about bras
to wear after surgery. The lingerie assistant looks sideways,
googles and refers me on. The next store has bras
for every occasion – the largest are bright coloured balloons
at a birthday party. Down the racks, post-surgical bras are
unseen, unloved, intimidating as my mother’s foundation
garments flapping on the line; two alternating sets to tuck her in,
make her slim again. After surgery, she secretly warmed
her prosthesis in the sun, kept the other one in a drawer.
Braless is a forty-year-old word no shop assistant or physio
will say, like feminist, lesbian or butch. A shoulder sling
is a cross-over corset kept in surgeons’ rooms, out of view;
stretched clothes will hide its straps, a trauma-scene the wind cuts through.

Highly Commended
Husked – Alexandra Fraser
Tangerine – Jack McConnell
Excerpts from the ‘Missed Photo Ops Speech’ (as it’s become known) – Brett Reid
I finally found a way to clean – Jenny Dobson
Beatrice Muriel – Amanda Hunt

A Ritual Only We Know – Sarah Grout
The Glass Teacher – Susan Wardell
Dance of the River Gums – Gregory Piko
Love story – Jan FitzGerald
dementia’s birdfeeder – Katherine Raine
i dissolve – Lynn Austin
I had never seen you so open – Wes Lee
Action – Anita Arlov
Do as I Say Not as I Do – Gillian Roach
No, You Can’t Have Any, They’re for Later – Gillian Roach
On the Tube – Gail Ingram


Judging this year’s competition has been a valuable and interesting experience, not only because it gave me another insight into how our poems make impressions when they land in the inboxes of editors and selection committees or adjudicators, but also because it gave me a feeling for what has been going on in the minds of fellow poets. One guess: Covid-19. Yes, the virus and the associated lockdowns and restrictions predominated in terms of theme this year, closely followed by polemical pieces to do with politics.

A good number of these Coronavirus-themed entries (not all, but many of them) helped to secure a belief that I’ve held for a long time about my own writing: When I try hard to write about a topic that arouses my strongest feelings, or about which I am desperate to write, often the poem comes out very predictably. It will have a rather unsurprising point of view, the voice will be an unexciting one (often an angry or irked) and the poem’s language will hold few original delights. In short, I would have been better to have written a Facebook post on the topic and then written a poem about something else when my head was clearer.

Now, that is not to say that I advocate avoiding engagement with the polemical and the political. Please see highly-commended poem “Excerpts from the ‘Missed Photo Ops Speech’ (as it’s become known)”. Whilst this poem has a very familiar voice and some rather familiar things to say, I think we can all agree that the poet is using an exceptionally clever form of ventriloquy to achieve this mimesis. As a result, the poem is original, delightful and successful in making its point. Far more successful, in fact, than if the poet had written 40-lines denouncing Trump in rhyming couplets.

Another thing that I learnt from this experience is that a good title is very eye-catching to a judge opening 700-odd entries. After 50 poems named “Sadness” or “Night Thoughts” or “The Long Hours” (not real titles, but you get my drift) to see a poem named “oroo’orThe Glass Teacher” is exciting. In competitions, you really do want to grab the judge from Word One, and Word One is the title. On this theme of being grabbed: the poem that demands two readings will do much better than the poem you can understand immediately (or, worse, the poem whose content you can predict by its title). “oroo’”, “Hydropsychidae” and “Beneath them” have layers of story. They are not long, long poems, yet there is so much going on. The reader is gripped. It is impossible to skim or look away. They are also interesting to look at on the page, and the poets have thought about how form reflects content.

Whilst I believe that it is very true that the judge will have her favourite themes and styles, I think that it is equally true that there are things which are indisputably good in “good poetry”. Deft control of language and sound is a must in a competition-winning poem. Something that touches the reader emotionally is a prerequisite for me—something which makes the personal lift beyond the individual and into the realms of universal experience. And, finally, if you read through all of the place-getters, I think you will have to agree that they all show the ability to break the rules because they know them in the first place—and this is so important.

It was an honour to be asked to judge the Open Section of 2020 International Poetry Competition. I felt very jealous of the work produced by those who gained places, be they First, Second, Third, Highly Commended or Commended—every poem had something special and individual that no other person could possibly have produced. To those who did not get a place, please persist; enter again, and I hope that some of my comments here will have been helpful to you.

Johanna Emeney


Judge: essa may ranapiri

1st Place
away with us – Lucy Barge, Mountainview High School

away with us

she is calm as she drives
away with us,
talking cheerfully, as
if the last 6 months dissolved
into the lake, we
watch through the windows
wishing. if only
our thoughts could drown there too

“How are you two feeling?”
like water in a dam just burst
flowing waters 
free from my mind
free from her mind

we might shatter off the hills before we get there
i don’t mind
alluvial particles of flesh 
washing up there before 
shoots us away with sluices forever —
we don’t mind if we don’t make it

“Come on you two, what are you thinking?”
you don’t want to know
St Bathans is calling us
to join the baby 

“Isn’t this nice, spending time with my beautiful daughters?”
beautiful like the gorge? or beautiful like the sunset?
the sun sinks deeper than 
you think
but the gorge flows on 
and on

she wants me to flow on
                            and on

i am thinking
why can we not be
this calm?

Primary/Intermediate Runner-Up
The foal that learnt to fly – Alice Murphy, Selwyn House School

The foal that learnt to fly

I watched the spiritless Kaimanawa foal,
slowly walk off the stock truck
into the field at our house,
I wondered what had happened to its Mother.
Every day I watched it cower 
in the dark shady corner of its pen,
One day I held out an apple, 
a spark came into it small brown eyes,
It was the first time I had seen its shining soul return, 
since I had seen it running wild in the mountains
where the grass danced in the wind,
And the stream glistened in the fresh winter sun,
After that, the foal wouldn’t cower at anything,
He had found his wings.

Secondary Runner-Up
Clean Smoke – Nadezhda Macey, Welllington High School

Clean Smoke

You are made of clean smoke
And stars the size of mints or dollar coins

They are tucked behind your ears with your grown out post-breakup-fringe
Cradled in the soft skin

Of your inner elbow resting
Above the hollow of your innie belly button.

There are stars stitched to all the blonde hairs on your wrist
I know because I feel their electric sting
When your arm brushes mine as we walk

Along the white fence on Fortunatus Street
White paint like chipped teeth

Along the rocks at Princess Bay
Along the corner of you fragile feelings

I want to throw them against a wall like a really expensive and antique French teacup
Watch them smash and
Cut open your fingers when you bend to pick up the pieces

Parce que je m’en fous
Because I don’t give a fuck about you

In French or English, I don’t care
About the shadows that dance beneath the pale water of your eyes

I bet you didn’t know that but
It makes me angry like
So angry I feel sick cause why can they dance?

All I want to do around you is dance
To a throwback 2000s playlist
Screaming ‘Dancing Queen’ cause I’m nearly seventeen

I’d like to relive things through an old SONY television
Unplugged and in the centre of a school field

That’s different aye?
It’d be like Alice-through-the-TV-screen..........................except not
In more ways than one

In more ways than one I would like to punch you in the face
Don’t worry though I couldn’t, cause I’m already downstream

With a bloody nose and bloody teeth
Eating red liquorice and talking about this girl I’m in love with

While you stand outside a dairy in Masterton on the steps
Alight in the sunshine

Glowing like you’re a vampire from the Twilight series
Like you’re Edward-fucking-Cullen
Calling the boy you met at the pool last summer

I see you with my third eye and I’m thinking about
Changing over into a witch just to spite you........................yeah.................................
I’m that witchy-type with a black cat to match

Highly Commended
Swing – Sarah-Kate Simons, Homeschooled
Booksmart – Penelope Duran, Carl-Schurz-Schule

I live in Karori – Tatiana Koroteeva, Karori West Normal School
Pictures of Pollution – Radha Gamble, St Andrew’s College
Sunrise in Lockdown – Isabella Crossan, Cromwell Primary School
Alas poor Yorick – Sarah-Kate Simons, Homeschooled
Stitching Anxiety – Sarah-Kate Simons, Homeschooled
I Have Shaken Hands with Xihe – Jolin Chan, Sage Hill School
Remunition – Hunter Meek, Kāpiti College
they down blood after bourbon in broken homes – Charlotte Lloyd, Christchurch Girl’s High School


Ta te tamariki tana mahi wawahi tahā
It is the job of the children to smash the calabash

In te Ao Māori it was always important to hold children/young people in high esteem to appreciate their work and the ways in which this work pushes us forward, to imagine a better world than the one we have. It is the job of tamariki and rangatahi to upset the status quo and have some fun. This was clear in the poems I have read and I am so thankful. There is fun here and there is anger and there is a desire so clear in these submissions.

One thing I would have never done as a teenager was enter a poetry competition, like the things I was writing were so personal and just being brave enough to share any of that was totally off the table so just know I am astounded with the submissions that made it in front of my eyes. You have all been so brave, and to write poetry during a quarantine and send it off to a stranger to judge is more testament to your guts!

So the thing with judging is it’s ultimately so subjective so if your work hasn’t made it then, like you wrote the thing who I am to judge?! Keep going, keep writing even when it feels hard, just keep writing, keep that fire going! Also find friends who have similar goals, it’s a million times easier to keep going when you have others around. No one writes in a vacuum and that includes you, make a community out of it.

My selections reflect my interest in work that shows a human voice that is unhampered by rhyme scheme, or flowery language. I like it when a poem is direct and full of rich imagery that is unexpected.

The winning poem ‘away with us’ was the only poem to make me cry. I look for that feeling that intensity of emotion in all things, I look for a specific voice that delivers a world rich with detail which is what the winner has done. The poem held me captive as it spun its tale of an estranged relationship while using the landscape to speak to the internal workings of one of the characters. There is such a longing and strain in the poem that breaks my heart. The line that really struck me upon first reading was: ‘ “Isn’t this nice, spending time with my beautiful daughters?” / beautiful like the gorge? or beautiful like the sunset?’. The way the line twists and does the work of interrogating beauty while also presenting a strained relationship between a mother and her two daughters. It does work that I think poetry is best suited for. I got stuck on that line and in that poem and immensely grateful that I got read it.

The Secondary Runner up was a lot harder for me to choose, ‘Clean Smoke’ ultimately got the spot, due to it’s tongue-and-cheek voice and creative use of imagery, ‘I would like to relive things through an old SONY television / Unplugged and in the centre of the school field’ there are a million stories that bend their way out of that solitary sight.

The Primary/Intermediate Runner-up was the poem ‘The Foal that Learnt to Fly’ there is a beautiful sense of the fairy-tale while also taking place very locally which I loved that mix of magical mixed with the grounded. There is astonishing clarity and focus on display in this poem.

The two Highly Commended poems ‘Swing’ and ‘Booksmart’ both really shone through with their control. Both very short poems but very different to each other. ‘Swing’ focuses on one moment and brings that to us like a photograph. I love that it takes the object of the swing and gives it a spirit, there is some old koroua inside the swingset haunting the playground, letting it be known he is still here. ‘Booksmart’ is a fun little piece that works like a multiple-choice question and answer, I don’t know if it’s revolutionary bent was intentional but that’s what I got from it. I love the last line, ‘If only I lived in France.’ There is a dark sting inside this poem, while also speaking to every day life as a student, ‘Cinnamon and cumin aren’t meant to be added to ramen noodles.’. The poem made me laugh and it’s very rare that happens. But it also speaks to that fear, that lack of lived experience that can make all the knowledge in the world feel so small and trivial, something I think we all grapple with continually.

So again, I am in awe at everyone who submitted poetry to this, and feel privileged to be given that glimpse into your creative worlds. Congratulations not only to the winners but all of you as you sent a poem off into the dark, when it comes to creative writing that is the real victory. You took a chance and expressed yourself and I hope that you keep doing that regardless of whether I picked your poem or not! You will find your readers as long as you keep writing. Bash that calabash make a noise with all your fury and passion and have fun with it, poetry is supposed to be fun even when it hurts.

essa may ranapiri

HAIKU SECTION (643 entries)

Judge: Owen Bullock

1st Place / Jeanette Stace Memorial Award
border camp — – Kim Martins

border camp –
the way her hands try to stop
       shells falling

2nd Place
heartsease – Tracy Davidson

the daughter I never held
asks to meet me

 3rd Place
winter wind— – Scott Mason

winter wind—
all that’s left

4th Place
always late . . . – Elaine Riddell

always late . . .
for his funeral
he arrives early

5th Place
her death certificate – Sandra Simpson 

her death certificate
revealing another child –
the hive’s to and fro

Highly Commended
three years dead. – Elaine Riddell
tide change — –Margaret Beverland
lockdown – Nola Borrell
cracks in the riverbed – Seren Fargo
greengage – Tony Williams
night sky – Scott Mason
nearly – Patsy Turner
the end of summer – Julie Adamson
strip lighting – Vanessa Proctor
depth of field – Jay Friedenberg

a swing – Elaine Riddell
wait~inga – Elaine Riddell
maintaining distance – Margaret Beverland
a flinch of finches – Nola Borrell
Mexico beach – Seren Fargo
peonies unfolding – Sandra Simpson
visitors – Patsy Turner
after the shootings – Katherine Raine
winter-weathered hands – Jac Jenkins
standing erect – Charline Pocock
insomnia – Charline Pocock
women’s room – Anne Curran
Cuban Sunset – Anne Curran
intercity bus – Laurel Astle
the phone is vibrating – Valerie Millington


I began the process of judging by reading all 643 haiku and senryu aloud, twice. It’s traditional to read haiku twice when performing in public as it gives the reader time to digest the words. Here, too, that practice helped me in a couple of specific ways. I quickly noted whether I enjoyed or looked forward to hearing the haiku again in that brief pause in reading. Often, I could recite the haiku the second time around – this indicated that the poem was well-phrased and musical. Whereas, those that were hard to say aloud tended to be disappointing, and as if the writer had never uttered these words aloud themselves. I honestly felt that every haiku had something to offer, even where it was clear the writer had little experience of haiku.

I then re-read all the haiku on a different day and selected about 100, which, if I was editing a journal, I wouldn’t hesitate to publish – this was my longlist. I was delighted that there were so many worthwhile pieces. These poems were technically astute; could be read in multiple ways; possessed different levels of meaning; were suggestive rather than overt; and, importantly, after getting the technical facets right, stirred an emotion, without themselves emoting in any way. About thirty stood out as offering many of these special gifts – this became my shortlist. At times, little things make a big difference, such as an original word choice, or a surprising conjunction of words; word sounds can excite. Some haiku manage to gather to them a sense of intrigue: they allude to a bigger ‘story’ that our imaginations can explore. At the same time, they value simplicity, when simplicity is called for and is sufficient.

Next, I started looking for the winner, and I realised that any haiku I was seriously considering for 1st Place had to place Highly Commended or better. Those awarded 1st to 5th were difficult to separate, except that I was in little doubt about the winning haiku, since it made me cry each time I looked at it.

Over the following days, I read and re-read my shortlist. I went back to the longlist and read it twice more, letting these poems ‘compete’ for places – there was a bit of shuffling around at this point between the Commendeds and the longlist. I wanted to give many more Commendeds than I was able to, but there has to be a limit, and the NZPS allows a particularly generous one, which I used to the maximum.

So, what about the haiku that didn’t work so well? Some were too abstract, internal or enigmatic, with not enough detail to ground them. Related to this, some haiku relied heavily on metaphor. I think haiku work best when something which can be taken as a metaphor is also literally true, so that the metaphor forms an additional meaning, and gives depth to the poem. Where a metaphor is presented on its own, I wonder what I am visualising, or hearing, or otherwise sensing. With a purely internal or metaphorical world, it’s harder for the reader to find access.

Sometimes there was not enough contrast of images, or an overly obvious comparison. At the other extreme, some haiku attempted too much content – when you think about the fact that haiku are often composed of two contrasting images, you realise that three images is almost always too much. Some haiku were overly compressed, with no articles, for example, to let them breathe.

Some writers expected words like ‘heart’ to do too much work, when such words are already overused. Naturally, there were many haiku in response to COVID-19. The best ones allude to this strange and awful state that has confronted the world, whereas attacking it directly with a phrase like ‘social distancing’ proved difficult – interestingly, using this phrase tends to have the same affect as overuse of the word ‘heart’. It’s a clunky phrase – which may not prove an insoluble problem – but it is also somewhat vague, and the more able pieces suggest social distancing indirectly, so that a more complex and specific image comes to mind.

Clever wordplay on its own, without the breathing space of an emotional reaction, isn’t enough. We expect sophisticated haiku to possess several levels of attention or meaning, with the result that we can re-read them with delight and find more nuances that we didn’t see earlier. I enjoy puns, for example, but they are very performative and often don’t work so well on the page. Some haiku needed more active and less familiar verbs – I recommend searching for synonyms. Use of the past tense, titles, and overuse of the verb ‘to be’ were other weaknesses that cropped up.

Overall, there was very little formal experiment. Of the 643 haiku, there were a good number of one-liners, a few two-line haiku, but only one four-line haiku, and just two concrete haiku.


1st Place

border camp –
the way her hands try to stop
…………..shells falling

This haiku provides context very quickly, and then switches attention to the detail of the hands, which would try to stop war. Of course, they cannot, and that is the tragedy. Indenting the third line causes a small but important fracture in the form. It also creates enjambment at the end of the second line, to emphasise the word ‘stop’ and give the hint that she can’t stop herself from doing this, even though it’s futile. The poem’s despair echoes the insanity of our world, where we drop bombs on people, instead of using our intelligence to create real solutions.

2nd Place

the daughter I never held
asks to meet me

In the first line, the voice of the poem is holding a flower, as it were. The name ‘heartsease’ is an apt parallel for what’s to come. This senryu suggests a huge story. We wonder how the meeting between estranged parent and daughter will turn out. What emotions accompany the words?

3rd Place

winter wind–
all that’s left

This is a clever senryu, with a profound twist. It exploits the word ‘left’, turning the adjective into a verb, and switching direction in the process. The technique is akin to comic misdirection but goes well beyond the little irony that still lingers. The writer has lost a great deal; winter has come in the most profound sense, yet it’s still a literal winter wind that plays and not just the metaphor.

4th Place

always late . . .
for his funeral
he arrives early

Despite the punctuation at the end of the first line, I can’t read this haiku without reading the first two lines together, so that I get the bizarre extra meaning that he was always late for his own funeral. The writer may or may not have intended this – it doesn’t matter, what the writer intends is irrelevant: the effect is what’s important. The poem speaks to readiness, or otherwise, for death. Perhaps this individual really was ready, had ‘practiced’ for the moment, by being always late, by living, in other words.

5th Place

her death certificate
revealing another child –
the hive’s to and fro

There’s a lovely contrast here between what the voice of the poem is seeing and what they’re musing about. To discover that a woman had had another child that we didn’t know about is a huge revelation and poses all sorts of questions about what happened. This is made doubly complex by the contrast with the image of the hive and confirmation of multiple relationships.


Many of the haiku and senryu submitted to this competition celebrate women; at a time when women in positions of responsibility have shown distinct leadership, during the pandemic, this seems particularly apt. Reading this poetry, I feel myself in the company of a group of fellow human beings who care deeply about each other and the planet we share. This has been a heartening experience, and the number of times I was moved to tears by reading amazed me. I felt grateful for the chance to read these perceptions and versions of the world, and the imagery and emotions that go with them. I congratulate you all.

Owen Bullock



Judge: Barbara Strang

Primary/Intermediate Prizewinners:

1st Place
sunrise – Nikita Ballard, Waiheke Primary

a golden and pink
spear of light

2nd Place
I feel creative – Ed Werry, Kilbirnie School

I feel creative –
As ten artists - all painting
With windows shaking.

3rd Place
Foggy afternoon – Thomas Nalder, Christchurch South Intermediate

Foggy afternoon
the bus’s lights

Secondary Prizewinners:

1st Place / Jeanette Stace Memorial Prize
harvest moon – Evie Johnson, St Margaret’s College

harvest moon    the wolf's eye

2nd Place
stale tortilla wraps – Dan O’Brien, John McGlashan College

stale tortilla wraps
dead skin
in my mouth

3rd Place
fur covered features – Zoe Congalton, Havelock North High School

fur covered features
from the bedroom window

Highly Commended
grandad – Dan O’Brien, John McGlashan College
Drip – Bella Eginton-Abbot, Oxford Area School
Stargazers – Abby Hurt, Mahurangi College
The tall mountain – Amelia Lyttle, St Andrew’s College

midnight – Thomas Nalder, Christchurch South Intermediate
Scathing whispers – Jamie Rea, Awatapu College
Duck Haiku – Taylor McLean, Otago Girls’ High School
What you can see and hear on the computer – Summer Adams, Otago Girls’ High School
two suns play tag – Sarah-Kate Simons, Homeschooled
Fish from the Fair – Jero Galway, Oxford Area School
In the mountain a hawk slows the wind – Isabelle Harrison
First day of school – Austen Fraser, St Andrew’s College
Waves – Noah Dodgshun, Halswell School
Whale – Christopher Nguon, Johnsonville School


I was the privileged person selected to read and judge the 629 entries in the Junior Haiku Competition this year. It was online only, due to Covid 19 restrictions. There was an assortment of the topics that interest junior writers: seaside, sport, gaming, holidays, school and pets; and the traditional: nature, the seasons, and the seaside.

This year there were some new topics stemming from the Covid emergency such as coping with online schooling, lockdown, and quite a few about baking. New to me were ones on gaming and lego. In these small poems there were emotions expressed as well: paranoia, fear, stress, tenderness, and humour.

This leads on to my task of choosing the so called best among the 629, which were to be named as prizewinners and placegetters. A few words about what are in my opinion placegetting qualities. Haiku is a very short poem. You are not going to say much, so it’s best to stick to the one or two things that are most important, and not stuff in as many words as you can. These days English language haiku usually, though not always, have two parts, sometimes called the phrase and the fragment; a haiku can find an interesting or surprising link between the two. I looked for that, and for sensory images, not more than two per poem, which showed rather than told me about the experience. At best they created instant recognition, hopefully the so-called “the aha moment”. I was hoping for genuine emotion and sincerity, I was looking for simplicity, for flow between the lines, good use of language, word music such as assonance and alliteration. And I was hoping to find some humour. I was searching for the almost indefinable, a small poem that took me off the screen. And of course I found such qualities in abundance, spread through various poems, among the placegetters.

Haiku writing is not easy, but it’s easy to state what it isn’t. A haiku is not (in modern English language practice) a poem in 5/7/5 syllables expressing a list of observations about nature. This is usually too long in the English language and is based on a misunderstanding to the Japanese form. Also there is no rule that says haiku must be in three lines. It is a little depressing to get class sets with precise observations, using well-chosen language and correct grammar, in 5/7/5 syllable format, divided into three lines. Here was almost always too much material, which detracted from what the writer was attempting to convey, and each line usually had no flow to the others. In addition, having 5/7/5 as the main aim leads children to add words to fill up the line. There is plenty of reference material available. Teachers could look at the results of previous NZPS Competitions, and at other helpful material on the Haiku NewZ pages, for instance an ebook for teachers by Katherine Raine is available for download at: https://poetrysociety.org.nz/affiliates/haiku-nz/haiku-websites-resources/

I noticed some tragically small errors of logic or repetition or a “misrelated participle” which sank otherwise faultless haiku. It is a good idea to check and recheck your entries to make sure they say what you want, and that the lines are in the best order.

I found a good representation of traditional haiku, which we expect will be beautiful, and humorous haiku, so-called senryu, which we hope will be fun. These relate foibles of human or animal nature; here the “aha moment” is a happening which we have all experienced, as part of being human. They too are represented among the placegetters.

I found plenty of haiku worthy of places and which an adult would be proud to produce. The quality that summarised the prizewinning ones was having in right words in the right order, and no more than needed. But all the young writers are winners, by choosing to enter their works into the competition, which opens them up to possible appreciation and enjoyment, or not being chosen at all. If you missed out this year please keep writing and we hope to see your work in the future.

Sunrise – 1st Primary/Intermediate

a golden and pink
spear of light 

The haiku shows the very last moment before the sun appears over the horizon at the beginning of a new day. It portrays this glorious moment in a few simple words. Top marks for observation skills. Notice that it shows us the scene rather than tells us about it.

I feel creative – 2nd Primary/Intermediate

I feel creative –
As ten artists – all painting
With windows shaking.

We really feel the enthusiasm of the young writer. Note the faultless flow of the haiku, with its break in the middle line.

Foggy afternoon – 3rd Primary/Intermediate

Foggy afternoon
the bus’s lights

Another deceptively simple haiku but we can see exactly what the young writer is conveying, in five words and nine syllables.

harvest moon – 1st Secondary, also Jeannette Stace Award

harvest moon       the wolf’s eye

It was hard to pick a winner between the two top places. This one-liner took the prize because of its imagery and depth of meaning. We can see the big golden moon reflected in the darkness of the wolf’s eye. Maybe the full moon makes it a good night to go hunting. There are plenty of creatures around at this season, so it is harvest time for the wolf. We can see it looking around, a wary presence in the moonlight. What is in its sights? These meanings are suggested/alluded/implied, rather than spelt out, in only five words and six syllables.

stale tortilla wraps – 2nd Secondary

stale tortilla wraps
dead skin
in my mouth

Haiku uses sensory imagery. As we are visual creatures, sight images are the most common, followed by sound ones, and less often those of smell, taste and so on. Here is an unusual one, a haiku using the tactile sense. Everyone who has bitten into a stale tortilla will instantly identify with the clever and repellent image.

fur covered features – 3rd Secondary

fur covered features
from the bedroom window

Here is another image which anyone who has owned a pet can instantly recognise. Putting “unimpressed” alone on the middle line gives it a lot of power. A good senryu.

Highly Commended:

A cheeky haiku which makes a point. Grandad still has one good eye so he is not too old to learn.

This is a lovely small poem using sound imagery. Here is a 5/7/5 haiku which demonstrates that you can use repetition when appropriate. I like the rhythm of this piece which suggests the rain falling.

This haiku is one which counterpoints the intimacy of a touch to the vastness of the night sky, in simple language. It is an interesting exercise to see, in this smallest of forms, how much space can be suggested.

The tall mountain
We are not quite sure whom the shoulder belongs to, but it doesn’t matter. I like this idea of linking a shoulder and a mountain. We could have done without the last line.

These haiku are a real mixture: long ones and short ones, a weird one, a funny one, a sad one and a tender one. Some are 5/7/5 but I feel this is incidental to their success. They are all good haiku and congratulations to these writers.

Barbara Strang