2015 Winners

‘Biking to the Manawatu River’

First (Open section): Janet Newman, Levin

Nothing that meets the eye on a New Zealand coastal plain that has been the subject of a swamp drainage scheme is yet a century old… Yet the recognisable combination of trees, pasture and human structures makes it seem perhaps as if they are all that was ever here.

–Geoff Park, Theatre Country. Essays on landscape & whenua.

A stand of kahikatea about halfway along –
twelve or fifteen impoverished trees
rising out of the paddock, taller than power poles,

leaves like curled hair arranged in conical shapes,
organized and plain but beautiful
against the plain of grass.

Their roots are twisted clumps,
tangles of rope, knots, freckled with lichen.
Toeholds on the earth,

they seem to have wrenched up like memory
but the water-sapped peat has sunk
baring them to the weather.

At the end of the track, the stopbank rears,
a wall of grass. East it goes towards the Tararuas,
west towards the coast.

The top is flat and wide enough to ride two abreast.
The wind belts our sides and spokes.
Below, another fifty metres or so of grass

unnaturally flat – the digger must have taken soil from here
for the bank. A two-wire and post electric fence
runs roughly parallel to the edge.

Further along, a cut. The earth is heaped
in a ragged pile, Californian thistle
and buttercup holding it down.

Around the perimeter, a flat track scraped with the bucket –
you can see its teeth marks.
A hole’s been dug.

Water pools in the bottom
below metal floodgates rusting into the bank.
The drain marks a straight line south.

The river hurries past,
a fast-flowing conveyor,
its surface opaque,

rough-sawn like the pine posts
but more brown –
like scattered feathers of a car-killed kahu, swamp harrier.

First (Haiku) & Jeanette Stace Memorial Prize: Katherine Raine, Milton

shifting again
three boxes labelled
driftwood etc

Anzac Dawn

First (Gallipoli, Senior): Josie Ashworth, Te Aroha

No sound
but a tramping of boots, coming;
a clanking, gentle: medal on medal.
A morepork calls.

Not a breath –
we can distinguish now
military crispness and civilian feet.
Rusty command, voices of age and youth –
a paper held and crinkled in the hand.

The sun not up
yet half the town is here.
Our ragged singing, and the silence
after pipes and bugle play…

We strain to follow notes
both wavering and true
as if to hear some distant, deeper tune,
some richer bugle played.

Up on the hill, the morepork calls.

Do You Hear The Drums?

First (Gallipoli, Junior): Joanna Li, 15, Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland

Do you hear the drums, my child?
That is the sound of your heartbeat.
And feel the thrum of memories in your veins?
You are one of us.
You are home.
And you always will be.

Do you hear the shouts, my child?
It sounds like your race day.
And remember colours flying, the streamers laughing?
Wooden swords and fabric sheaths.
Simple heat and simple matters.
Scraped knees fixed with kisses and ice blocks.
And when time spun on its own.

Do you hear the guns, my child?
You’ve never heard them before.
And the clench in your stomach is not from chocolate this time.
But don’t fear it.
The red will bloom like your watercolours at school.
And you will still be beautiful.

Do you hear my song, my child?
It’s all the nights we spent together.
And all the nights that will never be.
You are one of us.
You are home.
And you always will be.

First (Haiku Junior, Primary/Intermediate) & Jeanette Stace Memorial Prize: Nicholas Sharr, 8, Paparoa Street School, Christchurch

the calf
comes alive

First (Haiku Junior, Secondary): Stephanie Lester, 14, Christchurch Girls’ High School

the heart machine


the lifeless sky


First (Open Junior): Grace Lee, 16, Auckland International College

I miss you; that’s it, and everything.
The days here are long. I’m counting the seconds
against my heartbeat. I remember you intimately
some place deep in my chest,
my pet revolutionary, explosive honey.

Ugly and vital,
the sun splashes itself across the ribs
of the land, light and shadow, and you’re hiding in
every hollow between rocky collarbones.
Sun rises and the countryside throws itself out wide
before me, a dappled picnic blanket.

I love my ungraceful strength, or begin to, anyway;
my inelegant muscle and bone, I’m a packhorse,
a sturdy goddess born out of earthquakes
femurs tempered by volcanoes, slender hands incongruous.
Here I am primordial.

I miss you slick city bastard with your
quick words, your quicker hands
you’re mine and I carry your goodbye in the back of my mouth
in the hollow of my chest, at the base of my spine
you’re mine