2007 Poetry Competition Results

Congratulations to all the winners! View the results and read the judges’ comments below.

Open Section I Haiku Section I Open Junior Section I Haiku Junior Section

Open Section

1st: Aubade by Bryan Walpert, Palmerston North

2nd: Greenfinches by Jeffrey Harpeng, Qld, Australia

3rd equal: Bell by Laura Routti, Finland

3rd equal: Apology by Bryan Walpert, Palmerston North

Highly Commended:

The Third Daughter, Sarah Broom, Auckland
Talkin’Blues, Cliff Fell, Motueka
If we grew back, if we grew down, Tim Upperton, Palmerston North
Hen, Jane Weir, UK
The Odd Sock Exchange, David Williams, UK.

Commended:

If you dream of a ladder …, Helen Bascand, Christchurch
DROWNING THE WATERFALL, Claire Beynon, Dunedin
The world also is a place, Michael Harlow, Alexandra
Nachtigall, Alice Hooton, Mairangi Bay
Shaking, Catherine Moxham, Palmerston North
Doggie Bones, Vivienne Plumb, Wellington
A dullness that will not gleam, Tim Upperton, Palmerston North
INSCRIPTION, Rae Varcoe, Auckland
Who was that last sentence again? Pat White, Masterton.

Judge’s Comments: James Norcliffe

A poetry competition is a somewhat bizarre concept, a strange marriage of art and sport. From more than seven hundred entries I was charged to identify something called a winner, other poems to be called place getters, and fifteen further poems to be commended or highly commended.

After days and nights of reading and re-reading I would select these gallant few – roughly 2% of the total entries – which would then shakily mount the podium while somewhere in the distance anthems played.

Of course, the first thing to say is that far, far more than this percentage of entries was commendable, even highly commendable. During my initial reading I set aside just over two hundred poems of genuine quality demanding further consideration. One by one, poems were discarded and this process in turn left 120 poems or about 16% of the original entries.

There was then the necessity for more brutal winnowing, if winnowing can be brutal. Certain poems which seemed particularly striking were set aside and others were shuffled through until finally I was left with about thirty from which to make the final cut. It goes without saying that another judge, or even this judge on another day, might have made slightly different decisions, but I am ultimately satisfied that I have been left in the end with just under twenty superb poems. The point remains, however, that many other superb poems languish unselected. I do trust that the editor of the anthology will choose many of these.

What characterises the poem that makes it through this arduous, agonising process?

Clearly, the poem must sustain itself through many readings. Those pieces which exhaust themselves after one or two readings will be left behind. This means the finalists must have richness; they must intrigue with layers of possibility: a density that suggests there is a store of meaning still to be exploited.

The poem must stand out. Among the dozens of poems well-formed to the point of blandness, the exceptional poem draws attention to itself. This may be through a striking conceit, a marvellous image, an original take, a quality of voice. The poem that survives must have an originality that transcends mere novelty.

The final culling demands even more of a poem. At this point I’m looking for artistry. The best poems do not falter. Within the poetic framework or structure the poet has chosen, in the voice / tone / mood selected, there must be no false step, no unintentional dissonance, not one solecism. The American poet Robert Kelly says the craft of poetry is “perfected attention”. My final selection was made of those poems where I felt the attention of the poet to his or her craft was utterly focused.

These were the poems then which like the bravest of the myriad spermatozoa first made it through to the egg of success.

The winning poem, Aubade, as winning poems often do, crept up on me somewhat surprisingly. Its sheer quality meant that invariably I put it into the box marked “terrific”, but there were many other poems in that box, brighter, showier poems. This poem seemed less likely, quieter, more subdued. While written in unrhymed verse it was much more traditional in form and language. Even the title was old-fashioned. However, every time I sorted through the diminishing numbers, it went back in the box. I imagine it was a matter of the sheer control, the precision of the descriptive language, the beautiful cadences. We are participants in the poem, first standing at the shoulder of the poet in the deeper darkness before dawn as description gives way to meditation and thence to the more personal conversation we overhear. It is a beautifully measured poem which deepens even as the day lightens.

The second placed poem Greenfinches is quite magical, conflating leaves, greenfinches and angels and bringing together close observation, the immediacy of the moment, art and creativity. It is a poem I returned to often because of its teasing mysteries and ambiguities.

I was unable to separate the next two poems which exhibited strengths similar to each other, here the power of economy. Bell is wonderfully conceived with not a word misplaced with its slightly swinging rhythm, subtle repetitions and metaphorical layering. Apology similarly is a riff on a single metaphor leading subtly to and justifying the final striking image. Both poems are tightly controlled and memorable.

There were, as intimated, many wonderful poems to consider for high commendation. I’m pleased that some of the sheer variety of work offered came through in these selections which appealed for quite individual reasons. Some were witty, some were moving, and all were imaginative in conception and original in execution. If we grew back, if we grew down is a delightful rumination on a return to innocence.Talkin’ Blues is a delightfully clever piece with its deliberate disconnects of register, place and tone. By contrast, The Third Daughter replicates the voice of the new mother visited with the misfortune of a third daughter, presumably in a North African landscape. It is a dramatic piece, filled with the white noise of unspoken menace. Hen contrasts yet again. Here a battery hen is introduced to the world of free range grass, but what could have been sentimental or twee is made solid by close observation, second person address and nicely realised imagery:…Then after a month, you plumped up / like a tea cosy…” The Odd Sock Exchange is also a 2nd person address poem. This takes the form of the proprietor of the oddly named exchange describing the establishment to potential visitors. It is a great idea and beautifully and amusingly sustained.

It seems churlish to distinguish the following poems for simple commendation. Each in its way is superb. Doggie Bones is a witty, wry piece distinguishing dogs and humanity and has an Ambrose Bierce-like cynicism about it I find very appealing. The world is also a place is a prose poem reflecting on knowledge and language in a dream-like fashion. Inscription was irresistible. It is a list poem with a compelling rhythm and chiming rhyme, and great fun to read aloud. Drowning the waterfall is cleverly done with concrete elements in its layout, dense in its description and nicely surreal. A dullness that will not gleam is laid out in couplets and like its stand-up comic “trades in sadness”. It calls very much to mind Theodore Roethke’s Dolor even to the extent of cataloguing one or two similar images. Shaking is tight and economical, hinting at and then with a flourish pulling out the clinching metaphor. Nachtigall [A0 278] is all economy, poetry pared to its essence and suggestion. Who was that last sentence again? is a goofy but hard-working little surrealist bio – it may come to us all. If you dream of a ladder…is a splendid reworking of an old theme, recontextualising it nicely.

These, then, are those that made it into the box and remained there. They are all admirable poems. It was a privilege to make their company and I will now withdraw as the anthems and fanfares fade.

Winning Poems

Aubade

Bryan Walpert, Palmerston North

The field from my window is darker
than the sky for a few minutes more,
and I wish to explain in what time is left
what I see: strip of street, still lives

of roofs, and the field, green for only
a few more weeks, greener than the tops
of the trees, than the lights that lead
cars from one darkness to another.

The field. It is all straw,
Aquinas reportedly said before dying.
He meant work, ambition, speech,
but chose metaphor to explain

that he could not. The sky is darker
now than the bottom of the boot
of the worker who dug there for hours
hours ago, darker than the cascade

of his wife’s hair, their chests rising,
falling in sleep, as in conversation,
darker than the undersides of petals,
the fallen rain of them, the concavity

they make of space, like the cave
of the chest minus the heart’s
precious history, its intricate threads,
a tale to whisper in intervals,

a kind of code or forgotten music
we made once in a cave,
before speech, only fire,
a piece of daylight

we could hold to, draw
into ourselves as so many
shades of pain and later piece
out word by word, like tatters

of the flag of another country.
Remind me what colour you wore
those few minutes we thought were
the present. Tell it soft and prescient –

hurry. The world is dark
for only a few hours more. Distinctions
will be made: A field will detach itself
from sky, harden to hay, what we make

of our lives. Dawn. Draw out
its taut wire, morning’s fine tension.
Strum the axioms of the hours into
whose arc even now emerge the warm

breath of a sewer grate, the tremulous
notes of a paper cup playing the curb,
a new definition of the word want
trembling like an infant bird at flight

amid the receding fingers of elms,
and the numeral shapes of our bodies,
yours and mine, uncorrected proofs
awaiting again day’s relentless revision.

Greenfinches

Jeffrey Harpeng, Queensland, Australia

If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom? Job 4:18-21
Perched in the apple tree canopy
is a Dürer angel. In fact, in this light
the whole tree seems etched
by Albrecht, and buds are aphorisms.
Saturday morning, my daughter
is in the lounge, watching cartoons
while I write in the back room.
Greenfinches are a strange spring;
feathered leaves come in to land
billow in the branches
around the angel’s sinewy feet.

The false memory I tell myself into
has my daughter padding up the hall.
When she arrives, where is the angel?
As she watches through rippled glass,
the billow rustles. ‘Green finches!’
she says, and goes. Feet patter
down the hall’s chill wood floor.

A moment earlier the angel
with sinewy feet rose,
winched by pulleys
high in the stage-works.
Its dangling feet trailed
as in the wake of a boat adrift.
When my daughter departed
the greenfinches rose
in half a circuit
and were gone.

Bell

Laura Routti, Finland

Afternoon pours
into the room, into her
her body heavy with the hour

outside
loose birdsong
notes adrift, shifting patterns

her body heavy with the hour
setting hard, fixing the mood
the posture to a standstill

the garden a green bell
her ears blocked
with dry time

Apology

Bryan Walpert, Palmerston North

If you could you would
bathe me in it, this (hell,
I will say it) love
that chases all shadows
from the room but yours.
Brilliant. Oh,
there are hard places
to reach: an angle behind
the far corner if the desk,
the inner tip of my shoe,
that swath of rug beneath
the thickness of the door,
places one might not think
to look. I know them,
could map them like the spaces
between constellations. O,
when we met, you asked
what I was like. I should
have told you I kept
night in my pockets.

Haiku Section

1st: backing out by Quendryth Young, NSW, Australia

2nd: waiting room by Jim Kacian, VA, USA

3rd: spring thaw by Joanna Preston, Christchurch

4th: two hands by Andre Surridge, Hamilton

5th: abed with fever by Jeffrey harpeng, Qld, Australia

Judge’s Comments: Ernest J Berry

Despite haiku’s rocketing popularity over the last decade – with countless promotions, competitions, on & off-line workshops; regional, national & international get-togethers; competitions and how-to-haiku books et al, the quality of entries doesn’t appear to have improved much since I last judged this competition 7 years ago:

Too many of the offerings disqualified themselves by breaches of haiku’s basic tenets and a large proportion of the remainder were of marginal quality. In my opinion, it is dishonest and counter-productive to deny aspiring writers honest feed-back on the faulty premise that the truth may offend, so I have tried to be as considerate as possible in this is report – hopefully without discouraging anyone or overstepping the line between constructive and destructive criticism.

The setting-out and printing of entries was interestingly varied. From pencilled scribble to 48 pt fancy fonts on vellum. Such attempts to IMPRESS only waste your time, effort & money. Remember, judges are only swayed by what they read – not by “the jewelled finger pointing to the moon” [Basho] – a barely legible masterpiece will always beat brilliantly presented mediocrity.

Those who wonder why their baby didn’t ‘make it’ may ask themselves the following basics:

was it

  1. brief
  2. believable,
  3. evocative,
  4. fresh,

3 poetic,

  1. syntactic?

did it

  1. scan,
  2. sing,
  3. expose,
  4. juxtapose,
  5. ahaa! ?

did it avoid:

  1. predictability
  2. tautology
  3. read-ons

4, similies

  1. emotions
  2. hackneys
  3. adjectives
  4. adverbs
  5. metaphor
  6. anthropomorphisms
  7. sentiment.
  8. cuteness
  9. contrivance?

The commonest fault was trying too hard – usually showcased by adjectival diarrhoea and a surfeit of in’s, and’s, a’s, are’s & the’s. (some) remind(ed) me of Twain’s classic reference to adjectives:” if you see one, kill it”. To that I’d add my own axioms: “the keener the axe the cleaner the cut”, and: “all literature is too loong”

We should bear in mind that ‘spoon-feeding’ the reader with every tedious detail, however ingenious, is not in the spirit of haiku and only tends to blunt the axe of imagination. Refer Eric Amann’s book Wordless Poem and, another of my axioms:- “haiku means delete”.

Haijin tight-rope between brevity, impact, poesy, lyracy and comprehensibility; so If we want our work to be understood, we should avoid enigma, esoterics and any constructions which confuse or look like shopping lists, sentences, headlines, epitaphs, epigrams, anagrams or telegrams. Capitals and full-stops should be rare. Nor do we want riddles, political, religious, romantic or emotional rants or rehashes of tired haiku about sunsets, reflections, cherry blossoms, ‘fall’ leaves etc. Or random snippets of prose which any untutored scissor could produce.

Consider the famous: “old pond/a frog jumps in/water sound” (Matsuo Basho), or the lesser known but equally evocative “dusk/up to my ears/in birdsong” (John O’Connor), or gunshot/the length/of the lake (Jim Kacian). These three classics, which contain only one adjective, 2 definite articles, no 5/7/5, and an average of only 8 syllables between them; so you see, complexity is no match for simplicity. I’ve noticed many of our mainstream poets and literary brains still can’t get their heads around haiku so you don’t need to be an egg-head to write it.

On the other hand, we do want poetry – something which grabs us by the shorts – where every word & syllable works its passage toward an end product that SINGS! … Discipline, constraint and the courage to delete could prove the difference between winning and losing.

So to this year’s worthy winners:-

NB: all criticism is subjective and depends on infinite variables concerning a judge’s gender, identity, & background. These factors could mean the difference between winning and losing.

1st Prize:

backing out
of the spider’s web
… sorry

Quendryth Young, NSW, Australia

Shades of Issa? This pearl survived all readings till it topped the ‘probables’ pile and, hopefully, has universal appeal. To me it has nearly* all the requirements of a classic – the poet entices us down this alley, path, corridor, avenue, whatever – between fences, walls, portals trees (we’re left the choice of scenario – which is important because it allows the widest variety of readers to relate in their own ways) … It’s sparse , disciplined, multi-layered, open-ended, non-specific, and atmospheric – without mentioning dusk or morning mist the poet has us on a wordless leash of time and climate.

Reminds me of beach-combing some years ago when my life crossed paths with a tiny netted crab. As i carried it back to the ocean I thought – “hope nobody heard me apologise” – If they HAD, I may not have identified with this poem and there could have been be a different winner.

* deleting ‘spider’ might be worth considering.

Another option: backing out/ of spider silk/ … sorry

As with all haiku there are endless alternatives – that’s what makes it so fascinating.

Second Prize:

waiting room

a calendar shows

the wrong month

Jim Kacian, VA, USA

Bearing in mind the anonymous: “Sorry this letter is so long – I didn’t have time to write a short one”, I can appreciate the discipline it took to abbreviate this tale … ‘waiting room’ is so evocative and something we can all identify with so it’s a good start, and in true haiku spirit the writer spares us details such as ‘teen pregnancy’, ‘gyno’, spring rain, trimester, morning sickness etc.

Well done – we have a short story in 8 words – like WOW!

Third Prize:

spring thaw
my ex returns
the lawn mower

Joanna Preston, Christchurch

Dunno whether to laugh or weep at this! Is their romance perennial like the grass? Are they at the breaking point? or reconciling? This could be the shortest Mills ‘n Boon ever!

Fourth Prize:

two hands

on her teacup

still it shakes

André Surridge, Hamilton

Unfortunately something we all relate to these days as we become more aware of Parkinson’s – the staccato repetition of t’s accentuates the rattle. Can’t you just HEAR it? – ouch!

Fifth Prize:

abed with fever
swirl and eddy of finches
in the apple tree

Jeffrey Harpeng, Qld, Australia

Normally, I don’t dig 5/7/5’s but for some reason this one got to me big time. Then again, if it had been rendered:

fever

the swirl of finches

in the tree

it might even have reached my tree-top!

 

No dissertation on haiku is complete without stressing brevity. Even apart from haiku it could mean the difference between life and death: the fewer words we use to get a message across, the quicker it’s comprehended and acted on. Eg: “take care – achtung- you are entering a mine-field” (a standard sign in Korea during the 1950 war) … by the time I read it I was dead. Or the ubiquitous: “PASSING LANE 500 M AHEAD” … ahead? – Where else?

the quality of haiku is not strained

it droppeth like a gentle

plop from a

strain

er

Open Junior Section

1st: ∞ by Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch

2nd: Conjugating by Emily Adlam, Auckland

3rd: (untitled) by Jessie Evernden, Christchurch

Highly Commended:

A Poem About a Poem, Emily Adlam
Conspiracy Theories, Emily Adlam
En Garde, Emily Adlam
For the Empty, Emily Adlam
Looking up from Tartarus, Emily Adlam
Poetry in the Garden, Emily Adlam
Translating Laughter, Mary Dennis, Wellington
The politics in Belarus, Sophia Frentz, Tauranga
all star, Amy Pepper, Hastings
Seventh night in a row, Mengyun Rao, Auckland
What Snow Feels Like, Mengyun Rao
Then, as now, Kate Slaven, Christchurch
Family history, Charlotte Trevella
Recipe, Charlotte Trevella
stage secrets, Alisha Vara, Christchurch.

Judge’s Comments: Bernard Gadd

This contest achieved what I’d hoped it would: much fine new poetry will be available to readers in the print anthology and on-line. I thank every entrant for taking the time and trouble to send in poems, and I thank all teachers who helped to get these entries to the Poetry Society. I was impressed with the trouble many entrants went to making their poems attractive on the page, some even providing illustrations of the events, scenes or people that had inspired them. None of you have wasted time entering the contest even if you haven’t gained one of the 18 places (and that’s all I was permitted to reward, 3.5% of the 505 entries!). All entries were worth reading. I had a long ‘short list’ to choose the place getters from. And in the final anthology of contest entries the editor may choose additional poems that are not on the lists below.
What I was looking for were poems that

  • hung together and in which everything worked together one way or another in the poem.
  • were made of lines which flowed smoothly, were easy to speak, which had cadence – some sort of rhythm based on natural phrases so that the poem is not merely jolting-along prose
  • were interesting, maybe held a surprise, and suggested that feeling had gone into the poem
  • gave the readers work to do, didn’t spell everything out or go into unnecessary detail
  • might use metaphor but didn’t try to make a poem of nothing but metaphors … unless for special effect.

Each of the top three entries is skillfully written and a pleasure to read for the way the words sound, are used and strike meaning off each other, and the way that the lines and stanzas help and challenge the reader.

First place went to . This is a substantial poem, more than two A4 pages but also substantial in the way it was written and in its handling of ideas. The lines are short, even one word. This and the lay-out of the lines together with a mastery of cadence slows the reading down so that the ideas, feelings, images can be taken in. The poem strikingly puts side by side thoughts about

“… the cold
infinity
we swim
in, …

… the
spherical wall of
this universe…”

with here-and-now and everyday experiences which contrast so strongly with ideas about something as immense as the cosmos and as distant as stars and galaxies:

“… our
blisters, (mine were
always better
than yours)”

It ends evocatively:

“above us
only
other-worldly
suns
that burrow
into my
retina.”

The appearance on the page is literally eye catching. Even these extracts show a poem that can be appreciated and enjoyed also by readers not interested in astronomy because of its qualities and strength as a poem.

[Webmaster’s note: the poem layout, as used within the report, is inconsistent with the content management system used by this site. Please go to the Winners’ Poems page at http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/about2007openjuniorpoems to see the poem in its entirety, and in its correct layout.]

Second place went to Conjugating. This is another substantial poem, a whole A4 page, often of quite long lines. Here’s a poet thinking about words and the strange ways languages have of organizing how we use words in grammar and usage. The spark to this thinking is the way that Latin, language of the ancient Romans, changes the sounds of the same verb to make different meanings (which is what the ‘conjugation’ of the title means).

this morning I wrote out 126 forms
of the verb to love
in Latin

and there seems a beautiful pointlessness
of being able to say
amaveram or amavissem,
both meaning I had loved

but perhaps the best is amaris
what a name it would be for a child!

‘Amaris, you’re late’
they would really be saying
you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

The poem will perhaps inspire its readers to look with new eyes at our own language and its quaint ways of expressing our thoughts and shaping our thoughts. Even though the poem uses the jargon of grammar (tenses, active, passive, subjunctive, moods) the lines always flow well, never stumbling into awkwardness.

Third place went to a poem with no title. This is a much shorter poem but equally well written. It is for its readers something of a surreal poem, a poem where you can’t say easily ‘ah, this is what it’s about’. The poem seems to begin in the middle of some memory of experience which causes very strong feelings as the speaker thinks about another unnamed person. Many of the lines and images are truly unreal, impossible “…Night pains my walls”, but at another level they communicate violent emotion, suffering, and at times a longing for something different. There are vivid lines:

“I remember once upon a midnight.
Sleep knocking in my mind.
Knives tapping at my chest.”

The poem begins with what seems to be an instruction and a comment, perhaps to the person being remembered: “Repeat me my painting/I’d colour you different in the night i see now” and ends with lines hinting at a possible future:

“I Havent forgotten.
Just resting my humming mind.
Could I deny the fire flame?

My saving grace.”

The writer uses full stops and capitals in unexpected places, constantly reminding us not to take anything in the poem for granted. It’s another very mature poem.

[Webmaster’s note: the poem layout, as included in the report, is incompatible with the content management system used by this site. Please go to the Winners’ Poems page at http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/about2007openjuniorpoems to see the poem in its entirety, and in its correct layout.]

Any of these three could have entered successfully the senior Open Contest. And so could the poems which have been highly commended. All of them are good poetry, often thoughtful, some substantial in length.

The Highly Commended entries:

“Looking up from Tartarus” is a historical poem told in the voice of Dido, Queen of Carthage, convincingly and thought-provokingly.

“Recipe” is another poem which mingles the every day and fantasy while portraying a few minutes in an ordinary day.

“stage secrets” very effectively and concisely uses layout to place before the reader what amount to two poems side by side, mingling the stage performance and the thoughts of actresses getting ready.

“Poetry in the garden”: the title explains exactly what the poem is about, the poetry of picking beans.

“A Poem About a Poem” also effectively puts two different kinds of poems together as the narrator destroys the poetry pages of a younger self.

“Conspiracy Theories” is a piece of humorous satire about Santa and the elves being a commercial business.

“En Garde ” is about a fencing bout (the sport, that is), turning it into scintillating poetry.

“The politics in Belarus” is an enjoyable piece of fantasy about the death of the writer’s imagination while it was off on holiday in Malaga.

“Family history” neatly sums up issues in remembering the past and in keeping in touch with both past and present.

“Then, as now”, a shorter poem, is also about the past, in this case a return to a remembered place in another country.

“What Snow Feels Like” in four short stanzas sums up the changes in yourself in a new country.

“For the Empty” is about the person who comes to you/in your most secret dreams.

“Seventh night in a row” is another shorter poem that focuses on a dream in which you are falling … I cannot catch you.

“Translating Laughter” is exactly about what the title promises and ends I was not raised/To walk the streets naked in language, that is, or culture.

“all star” – the first two lines give the mood: “30%off – what a score/ she’s glad she’s a tightarse”.

Other poems which particularly impressed me were “City of 1.2. Million Vanishes from Face of the Earth”; “Water”; “A Central Otago Backdrop”; “Fires catching”; “Lynley’s Boots”.

All sorts of poems were entered, even a little one in Spanish beginning “No soy mi amiga./Soy enfado./No soy ayuda./Soy rabia.”

Some writers realized that you don’t have to use standard English: “I was always envy of my friend,/she always wore fancy brand”. Some played cleverly with the sound of words: “The ce repeats the sound of/beginning the word./The beginning of silence”.

Some poems said it all in a few lines: “Big shiny knight/On a horse, ready/For war, a big/Sword in his huge/Hand”.

To all contestants, thank you for letting me read your poetry. This contest gives me great hope for the future of New Zealand poetry. I hope all of you enter next year’s competition.

Winning Poems

Charlotte Trevella, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Christchurch

but you
insist
that night
is numerable.
see,
the evening grows
milky with
pulsating stars,
yet you
finger the sky
searching for
some essence
of the cold
infinity
we swim
in,
every time
find
only the
spherical wall of
this universe,
you say
one day it
will have a
numerical value.
but logic and
symmetry
make it all
so simple,
on magpie
hill
today I watched
those damned
birds
drive a hawk
away, wheeling
and
screeching, the wire
fence pressed
against my
face
material,
solid.
And remember
those summers,
at night
the
tarmac was
too warm
under our
feet,
it burned
imprints
with its realness.
we would
laugh
about it afterwards
in cool
grass,
display our
blisters, (mine were
always better
than yours)
but now
you tell me
the universe
will never
be the same
for two
nights,
it is still
expanding,
exploding into
sharded
light years of
creation
and
‘look up.’
you say.
above us
only
other-worldly
suns
that burrow
into my
retina.

 

Conjugating

Emily Adlam, Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland

amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant
this morning, I wrote out 126 forms
of the verb to love
in Latin

how wonderfully strange
to spend half an hour
writing amabam amabas amabat
I was loving, you were loving, he was loving

I can talk about love in six tenses
and for many different people
and of course we all know
that love can be
passive
or active

I can say amabit, he will love
or amatus sunt, they were loved
and even amaverimus, we will have loved

and furthermore, I can say it all
in two different moods
funny to think if a word having moods
I should like to think of words
being in joyful moods or exalting moods
in fact the only choices
are subjunctive or indicative
rather dense and depressing ways to describe them

but oddly, these moods translate
the same
and there seems a beautiful pointlessness
in being able to say
amaveram or amavissem
both meaning I had loved

but perhaps the best is amaris
what a name it would be for a child!
what a gift to give!
whenever anyone called her name,
‘Amaris, come here!’
‘Amaris, you’re late,’
they would really be saying
you are loved, you are loved, you are loved

(untitled)

Jessie Evernden, Lincoln High School, Christchurch

 

Repeat me my painting.
I’d colour you different in the night i see now.
I heard they whispered you madness.
I’ve seen it in the way you close your eyes.
And i know you stand at my window.
But my lips clamp.

I remember once upon a midnight.
Sleep knocking in my mind.
Knives tapping at my chest.

Memory Favour my forgetful mind.
Spin me comfortable among light rains.

Break my window.
Night pains my walls And I.
And I remember.

I Havent forgotten.
Just resting my humming mind.
Could i deny the fire flame?

My saving grace.

Haiku Junior Section

1st: sparrows feeding by Harry Frentz, Tauranga

2nd: sailing against the wind by Harry Frentz, Tauranga

3rd: antique carpet by Sophia Frentz, Tauranga

4th: floodlit by Charlotte Trevella, Christchurch

5th: noon by Ana Blakelock, Christchurch

Highly Commended:

paua shell, William Davidson, Christchurch
windy day, William Davidson
gorse flowers, Harry Frentz
changing leaves, Sophia Frentz
leaves underfoot, Sophia Frentz
autumn, Bede Gorman, Christchurch
new grave, Jared Harrison, USA
The saddest moment, Tui Matenga, Christchurch
evening, Bailey McIntosh, Christchurch
tentative paw, Kate Slaven, Christchurch

Commended:

Look down, Jack Andrews, Tauranga
The deserted red scarf, Ellie Braddock, Arrowtown
bitter day, Charlotte Fairhurst, Tauranga
winter’s first fire, Sophia Frentz
midnight, Bede Gorman, Christchurch
Gutter board at school, Brodie Hutton, Christchurch
early morning, Sophie Mannis, Christchurch
Words playing, Mengyun Rao, Auckland
aged stool, Kate Slaven, Christchurch
moonlight, Jared Van Vianen, Christchurch.

Judge’s Comments: Patricia Prime

Congratulations to the winners, to all those who submitted poems, and to the NZPS for sponsoring this competition, which encourages the discussion and practice of haiku among young people. It was certainly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity this year to judge the competition.

For this year’s contest, 807 haiku were submitted. Of these, twenty-five made the final cut.
I looked for poems that were concise, well written and distinctive. The best haiku not only resonate, but they invite the reader to complete the poem. As well as originality, good imagery and concision, the haiku should have juxtaposition (a combination of two images). If the juxtaposed parts are too closely related, resonance is lost. Sometimes a haiku can be strengthened by introducing a second image, or by revising the structure to create better juxtaposition with the images that are already present.

Many of the haiku submitted contained similar themes: autumn leaves, soldiers, pets, the moon and the beach. So in judging the haiku, it was necessary to find a new approach made to these familiar topics.

First Prize:

sparrows feeding
in toi-toi flowers –
the roughness of my father’s hand

Harry Frentz, Tauranga Intermediate School, Tauranga

“Sparrows feeding” is a commonplace image that we’ve all seen, small birds gathering to feed in trees, flowers and plants; “in toi-toi flowers” brings in a characteristic plant that we see growing in gardens and by the roadside. In juxtaposition, the last line of this haiku is also about nurture: the father’s discipline of a child. My own reading is that the father is correcting the child, although it could have another meaning: the “roughness” of the hand contrasting with the feathery lightness of the fronds. The emotional weight, the tension, of the poem is carried by the word “roughness”. I am taken with the poet’s skill in showing a personal event in such a way that I may enter it and share. The situation is wide open to a reader to identify the circumstances or intensity as it relates to personal experience. Something I find on another level is that the personae of the poem have a strong bond – the perspective zooms out to show this.

Second Prize:

sailing against
the wind
the taste of my tears

Harry Frentz, Tauranga Intermediate School, Tauranga

This seems a simple, direct poem. It is part of the haiku poet’s art to set and show a scene that can lead, if a reader wishes, to more complexity. Certainly the kigo (season word) “wind” is easy to grasp and can be generalized to any place. “Sailing against / the wind” is a metaphor meaning to be in opposition to something or someone, but here the writer personalizes the haiku with the 3rd line “the taste of my tears”. In this haiku the poet can mean the poem to be taken literally or on a metaphorical level. The persona is sailing and can taste the tears caused by the wind on his/her face, or the persona could be talking about conflict, either with the wind or with another person.

Third Prize:

antique carpet
picking out the patterns
autumn sunshine

Sophia Frentz, Tauranga Girls’ College, Tauranga

This spare, exquisitely crafted haiku resonates beyond its eight simple words. On the surface the poet seems to be commenting on a particular rug, maybe a Persian one in the home, where the rays of sunshine pick out its pattern. But the poem can also be construed as a comment on a phenomenon of nature, with a subtle metaphor crafted by the use of the word “antique”. In this reading, we may see the carpet as being one of autumn leaves on the forest floor. There is no overt sentimentality in this haiku, simply an acute observation and an acceptance of what is, both in nature and in our surroundings. The poet has crafted the poem with precision: each line breaks on a critical word, and the lines are linked musically through assonance (repetition of the a sound) and alliteration (repetition of the c and p sounds). This is an example of a very good haiku.

Fourth Prize:

floodlit
she counts
syllables of rain

Charlotte Trevella, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Chriatchurch

I chose this haiku as it evokes a quiet, even melancholy scene without using the word “sad”. We don’t know what it is that is floodlit, maybe the persona, maybe a place. But the persona finds music in the steady patter of raindrops. The wonderfully precise opening line and the action of counting, no doubt as a way of passing the time, make as atmospheric a poem as one can wish to read.

Fifth Prize:

noon
a lone boat
drifts in blue

Ana Blakelock, St Andrew’s College, Christchurch

I selected this poem because it has that sense of the unexpected: the calm of midday when a boat is seen drifting by itself in the ocean. The reader is invited to partake in the mystery of not knowing why the boat is drifting and if there is anyone onboard that might need help. It is simple, subtle and convincing.
Of the poems selected for the Highly Commended section, they each give us a poignant moment in time and are examples of well-wrought haiku. The final section, Commended poems, provide us with insights into nature and human nature. A few poets in these sections were very accomplished, while others seem to be at an early stage in their development as haiku poets.

Of the remaining haiku there were several experiments with layout of the poems, several poems containing artwork and four or five that were either haiku or something close to it. But the majority of the poems submitted were over-written or were too complicated to be called haiku. Some of the haiku held together and invited further contemplation, whilst others were less coherent and invited dismissal, or would do if you didn’t know they were written by beginners in the art of writing haiku. My advice to any young person wishing to persevere in the study of haiku is to read some of the haiku they will find on the Internet. Here young people will find excellent haiku from a wide range of international poets. Such sites include:

The Heron’s Nest: http://www.theheronsnest.com
Simply Haiku: http://www.simplyhaiku.com
Stylus: http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com

Winning Poems

First Prize:

sparrows feeding
in toi-toi flowers –
the roughness of my father’s hand

Harry Frentz, Tauranga Intermediate School, Tauranga

Second Prize:

sailing against
the wind
the taste of my tears

Harry Frentz, Tauranga Intermediate School, Tauranga

Third Prize:

antique carpet
picking out the patterns
autumn sunshine

Sophia Frentz, Tauranga Girls’ College, Tauranga

Fourth Prize:

floodlit
she counts
syllables of rain

Charlotte Trevella, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Christchurch

Fifth Prize:

noon
a lone boat
drifts in blue

Ana Blakelock, St Andrew’s College, Christchurch

 

 

 

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