Thursday, 1 August 2019

Given Words for National Poetry Day 2019

This year we have a special edition in collaboration with Landing Press, Wellington, and poets from the collection More of Us, who have chosen this year's five words in the video below. All you have to do is write a poem which includes the five words and send it to us before midnight on 23 August, National Poetry Day.

We will award prizes for the Best Poem and the Best Poem by Under-16s. The winners will receive copies of All of Us and More of Us courtesy of Landing Press (see below) along with a $50 PaperPlus voucher each. In addition the winning poems will be translated into Spanish and published on the Spanish version of the project Palabras Prestadas.

And the five words are…

(If for some reason you cannot see or hear the words in
the video you will find them at the bottom of this post.)

The rules:

– The poem must include the five words.
– The words can be in any order.
– You may change the tense of verbs.
– Maximum length 200 words.
– Entry is free and open to all NZ citizens and residents.
– Only one poem per person.
– Poems by under-16s must also include the age of the poet. We would prefer parents or teachers to send the poem on the child's behalf.
– FOR TEACHERS: You are very welcome to get your classes to participate, but please help us out by only sending in a selection of up to 10 of the best poems from your students. We have prepared a lesson plan for teachers.
– Participation means you allow us to reproduce your poem on Given Words.
– The deadline for entry is midnight on 23 August 2019.

Submit your poem by email including your full name and town of residence to:

To receive updates about the competition please subscribe to our newsletter here. We only send emails related with this competition and you can easily opt out at any time.

Winning poems will be selected by Charles Olsen, Mikaela Nyman and Clare Arnot.
Mikaela Nyman is a New Zealand based writer born on the Åland islands in Finland. She writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry and has just finished a PhD in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand. Her work has been published in Sports, Minarets, Turbine, SWAMP and the anthology More of Us. An essay on language as belonging is included in Strong Words: The best of the Landfall Essay Competition 2018. Her first poetry collection, När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets, was published in Finland in 2019. Prompted by grief, it turned into a poetic quest to reclaim her mother tongue, Swedish. She is interested in the fragility of memory, the way language is shaped in the collision of cultures, and what is lost in translation.
Clare Arnot is a graduate of the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme. She is working for a small Wellington-based press while completing a Graduate Diploma in Publishing. She loves any fiction, but has an extra soft spot for poetry.
Charles Olsen (b. Nelson, 1969) has published two collections of poetry, Sr Citizen and Antípodas. In 2017 he was awarded the XIII distinction Poetas de Otros Mundos by the Fondo Poético Internacional, in Spain, in recognition of the high quality of his poetic oeuvre. His poetry films have been featured in Moving Poems, Poetry Film Live, Atticus Review, Blackmail Press and international poetry film festivals. In 2018 he was awarded the III Antonio Machado Poetry Residency in Segovia and Soria and together with the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares he has received a Visual Artists Residency in the Matadero Centre for Contemporary Creation, Madrid, in 2020.

About the prizes:

More of Us
Edited by Adrienne Jansen
Landing Press

Third printing since March 2019.

'Families, language, fear, loss, food and the victories that can come slowly. These are at the heart of this collection of poems by 46 writers who have come to New Zealand as migrants or refugees.' Further info.

All of Us
Adrienne Jansen and carina gallegos
Landing Press

Longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards 2019.

'Adrienne Jansen and carina gallegos use poems and short prose to weave together the vibrant, expansive, and sometimes heart-wrenching stories of immigrants and people from a refugee background in New Zealand today.' Further info.

(The five words are: solitude, pulse, moving, circles and self-acceptance.)

Monday, 1 July 2019

Given Words for National Poetry Day 2019

Watch this space for the next edition of Given Words — this year in collaboration with Landing Press and the poets of More of Us — for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day in New Zealand 2019. On 1 August we will publish here our selected five words which you have to weave into a poem and send to us by the end of National Poetry Day 23 August.

We will be awarding a prize for the Best Poem and a prize for the Best Poem by Under-16s. The winners will receive prizes courtesy of Landing Press. In addition the winning poems will be translated into Spanish and published on the Spanish version of the project Palabras Prestadas.

If you want to be the first to know what we are doing please subscribe to our newsletter here. We only send emails related with this competition and you can easily opt out at any time.

You can also follow us on twitter @givenwords

For further enquiries you can contact us at

In the meantime you can enjoy the poems from last year in the previous posts.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2018

MANY THANKS TO ALL who have sent in their poems with the five words taken from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado’s poem The Hospice. We received a record 122 poems and have made a selection from these to publish here on Given Words.

Our judge Charles Olsen comments: “I identified with the sharp, humorous Week’s end as I evaluated all the poems, although luckily my Monday was a little further away. I hope I haven’t thrown out too many potentially fruitful poems during my pruning. The idea of the hospice (from Machado’s poem of the same name) inspired a number of the poems reflecting on the twilight of life such as The Magnolia Tree, with its tender: ‘my daughter … nests beside her’. I was drawn by the charming simplicity of poems like The first snow, with the snow knitting ‘a fluffy beret/for the empty birds nest’, and The Hedgehog, where the snow is ‘emboldened by a decrepit sun’. In stark contrast is the dense language conjuring up so many images in Single-use downfall, which rewards reading aloud, ‘…sand-skate/Till salty as foam flotsam, a jellyfish cheat/Cheap bait…’ Some poems gave a nod to the Spanish connection, such as Crossing the Rio Grande with its two-line verses slowing the reading like the great river that meanders through ‘el despoblado’, or the word ‘cielo’ in The Stars Aligned, which here means darling or dearest but also means sky and heaven. I also love its images of ‘a nest of stars’ and the tide ‘looking/for something’. Deteriorating was one of the most succinct poems with each of the five words carefully crafted into place rewarding a meditative reading. In the end I was drawn most to the peculiar poem Processional with it’s otherworldly use of the five words beginning with ‘the baying of nests’ and the sensations it leaves hanging in the air like the ‘decrepit forms’ in the wake of this quasi-religious funerary procession.

“It was great to see so many younger writers taking part, both individually and in class, along with their teachers. Even mum, dad and kids all joined in together. Sorry we haven’t published all of your poems, but don’t let that deter you! A number of the poems dwelt on the shadowy areas of human nature such as Flakes of Snow with its ‘…a ghost of a human/Darkness nesting inside’, and its feeling towards a metaphor of flakes of snow for the human condition. Likewise The Thinning Twine is very visual in its depiction of five melancholic people… or perhaps they are only two (girl/woman, boy/man) with the ‘you’ inviting us to identify with one of them? The untitled poem beginning This happened on a day, Rain rain in the month of May… is an empathetic and topical response to the recent flooding in Kerala in the south of India; I always find it interesting how the same five words can spark off such different journeys! Finally I have chosen Seasons Poem which deftly sets the scene with all five words, opening with snow as a cast ‘keeping the broken bones of earth/while they heal’. Although, as in many of the poems, a nest is a nest, a window is a window and snow is snow, each element has its own particular place in the story as it gently unfolds with the change of the season.”

We are delighted to announce the winning poems. The winner of Best Poem who receives a copy of the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook 2018, courtesy of Massey University Press is Craig McGeady for his poem Processional and the winner of the Under-16 category who receives a copy of Slice of Heaven by Des O’Leary courtesy of Mākaro Press is Jemma Prileszky for her poem Seasons Poem. Congratulations from Given Words. The winning poems have also been translated into Spanish for Palabras Prestadas.

Below are the winning poems. We also invite you to read our selection of the rest of the poems from adults here and from under-16s here. All the entries had to contain the words: decrepit, snow, nest, window and cast.

❆ ❆ ❆


Matching coveralls and wide brimmed hats
three marching in funerary procession
heads bowed beneath the baying of nests
as if that for which they mourn
is yearning from the other side of silence.

The first balances a weed-eater on his shoulder
the second pushes a mower, the third
carries a broom of brambles, as they follow
a stoic path between turning trees
ignorant of the leaves that catch upon their brims.

They wade through waves of decrepit forms
whose flesh once echoed sunlight
while brethren maddeningly cling to bitter boughs
shaken by unceasing winds, announcing
winter on the verge of snow.

Their steps slow, time is a window to the past
the heady cast of sweat and stench
of nests before abandonment took hold
heavily, those final steps are taken
to darkened doors and the silence of home.

Craig McGeady

Read the poem in Spanish.

Craig McGeady is from Greymouth and lives with his wife and two daughters in Xuzhou, China. He is a teacher at the China University of Mining and Technology. His writing runs the gamut of length and form thanks to a homeroom teacher with a penchant for Michael Moorcock. Poetry first came to him in study classes in the small prefab classrooms on the fringes of Fraser High School in Hamilton. Website:

‘This poem came about through the convergence of three things. One: Over the past few months I have made a series of simple observational poems no longer than four verses. Two: I started an online course that included exploring the work of Emily Dickinson and marvelled at her precision of language. Three: Looking out of the window one day, at the space between apartment buildings, I saw three workmen coming back from a long day and with each step I saw the seasons change around them. Thus the poem was born. Having five words as scaffold on which to build the poem seemed to lend strength to the poem's construction.’

❆ ❆ ❆

Seasons Poem

winter is here
the snow today is like a big cast
keeping the broken bones of earth
while they heal
a decrepit bird’s nest sits in frost
at the base of a black tree
from the window, a boy sees three eggs
pale blue as a frozen sea
slowly freezing while the unknown bird
is away
he doesn’t want to watch
turns away
asks the air if mother will return
to save her children
spring is here
the cold shell of winter broken
life bursts from newly healed wounds
a black tree is no longer black
instead shimmers pink as its flowers
ruffle in the breeze
the boy wades through ankle-deep grass
boots shuffle
cicada hum
something cracks underfoot
carefully hidden by snow long-forgotten
at the tree’s base
lies the nest
icy ocean eggs have disappeared
along with the cold
something new here
besides the nest
surrounded by delicate spring snowdrops
an ivory skeleton
of the mother bird
she’d been there all along

Jemma Prileszky, aged 13

Read the poem in Spanish.

Jemma Prileszky is a thirteen year old high school student. Her main interest and hobby is writing and she is always scribbling or typing; busy capturing new ideas. She has been attending The School for Young Writers in Christchurch for the past four years. When her fingers are aching from typing or holding her pen she relaxes with her pets, including her gorgeous whippets Kirby and Pip and her rescue cat Miss Maple. Her poem for this competition draws on the idea of indecision, and the consequences of not acting when you know you should have bothered.

Jenna Heller's Saturday Morning class (ages 12-14)
The School for Young Writers is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1993 and based in Christchurch, New Zealand. They offer tuition to young writers anywhere in the world.Their aim is to help people develop confidence and individual styles as writers. Most of their workshops and online lessons are with young writers aged 7 to 19, where they show them that writing improves with effort, enabling them to succeed. The School for Young Writers team also introduce young writers to the joys and challenges of publication through their magazine Write On. Currently, 68 young people attend Saturday morning classes and hundreds of other young people attend workshops in schools, master classes, holiday programmes or learn via distance and online programmes. All of the tutors at the School for Young Writers are successful writers.

❆ ❆ ❆

Continue reading our selection of poems from adults here and from under-16s here.

Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2018 – Adults

Here are the entries for Best Poem for the Given Words competition for National Poetry Day. They all had to contain the five words decrepit, snow, nest, window and cast, taken from a poem The Hospice by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

You can read the winning poem Processional by Craig McGeady along with the judge's comments here and the poems from the Under-16s category here.

❆ ❆ ❆

Week’s end

The teacher casts her eyes across
the thick tide of papers, due Monday;

eyes like the puce bellies of fleas
darting on the still surface vacancy

of her memory. She cannot recall
name, face or speech of much before

this morning, but she cannot spend time
to nap the week off. Marking unsettles

like the back leg of a snow fox hunting;
nose pressed to coffee, she settles in.

Hands arrange mug, stack, soundtrack, biro:
the scrap lining of a nest to mark the layers,

layer the marks. Globes of light and ink
bunt at the midnight window. Look,

here’s young leviathan, pay attention, see
swift wisdom, and look – here’s a new foal –

earnest, fretful, struggling for an opinion.
It is some kind of love that drives the effort

in each of their leagues: the steadily prepared,
the all-night wonders – oh, detailed suitable!

oh, practised nonchalant! oh vague unfathomable!
oh, timid formulaic! oh wordy impenetrable!

Oh, decrepit red pen! Oh, bloody Monday.

Nicola Easthope
Raumati South

❆ ❆ ❆

The Magnolia Tree

I pass her. Dressed, sitting beside the hospital bed, shoulders hunched, eyes cast down. ‘I never want to be decrepit,’ she’d said. Next door I meet doctors, social workers. Explain that today I am my mother’s voice.

They move her to a place where rooms look onto green lawns, fuchsias grow in shaded beds. We visit in the evenings. My daughter climbs onto the bed, nests beside her, speaks softly. Do you remember, Grandmother, your raspberries, how we used to rush outside, looking for the bright redness among leaves and prickles. Sunday lunches, swimming in the pool, singing lessons - do you remember teaching me The Sandman, Grandmother? We kiss her closed eyes. Tell her it's time.

This morning the magnolia outside my window is all flowers. Pink petals falling. Softness of snow. I remember it all again, and how my daughter sang To Music.

Marjory Woodfield

❆ ❆ ❆

The first snow

While looking up the word decrepit
in an ancient dictionary of my youth,
digesting its exact meaning
I feel it in my bones.

The book back on its shelf,
me on my way to the kitchen,
I cast a quick glance through the window
and stop mid step.

The first flakes
of the first snow
are floating in the air
like miniature kites.

Eventually they knit a fluffy beret
For the empty birds nest
on the naked branch of the sycamore tree.

Carin Svensson

❆ ❆ ❆

The Hedgehog

She traced its timid tracks
and there,

curled and bristled,
its heat softly bled
a nest in the snow.

Too early, winter cast its cloak,
emboldened by a decrepit sun.

She watched,
forehead pressed upon the window,
and let her breath bead across the glass.

Ella Robinson

❆ ❆ ❆

Single-use downfall

Brittle nest, a jittery, nervy shape
Unbound and taken up as a soulless billow
With poetic arcs, all loose-skinned, untethered
Single-use plastic, cast off and abhorred
Now drifting, fake snow, a fragile deserter, then
Window-bound, fence-caught or web-stuck
Decrepit, abandoned, pitiful, empty
Scattered, a remnant, a lost escapee
Blown-out, piece of cold-slip, a contaminant
Directionless, dirty, a mislead pioneer
Now tussock-torn, tumbleweed, sand-skate
Till salty as foam flotsam, a jellyfish cheat
Cheap bait, imposter, fraudulent food
All swollen, silent, tangled and twisted
A dark trap, strangling snag, tight net descent
Making tangled-up breath a lingering expiration.

Arwen Flowers
Helensville, Auckland

❆ ❆ ❆

Crossing the Rio Grande

at the canyon mouth deep within the divide
decrepit limestone cliffs cast cool shadows

a black-tailed rattlesnake nests in the shade
shakes its death rattle in el despoblado

maps show a solid blue line, an unwilling border
always changing, always carving, always going

somewhere around a deep bend, cottonwoods
spray swirls of seed flurries, the snow of early spring

these long-time illegal immigrants rooted
along the current – silent sentinels to desperation

across the big river, past juniper snags, beyond
the flowering yucca and out into the harsh desert

a window between two nations – the moon sets
at sunrise and the impending thunderstorms bloom

Jenna Heller

❆ ❆ ❆

The Stars Aligned

There’s no moon out tonight cielo
just me, back pressed into the swell of a hillock
gazing at a nest of stars
held by the branches
of a barren tree
my thoughts wandering.

Will I ever change differently?
Perhaps in your leaving I already have.

I think upon your words
how the tide is looking
for something,
and I wonder, as you are earth
and I am water,
and we both are air…
maybe, it makes sense to go on looking together,
like the tongue of a river,
empties into
the Earth’s deeply oiled breath.

But for now, in your leaving
my heart is cast in a room
where there is snow on the window
and a blackened hearth waits
for the decrepit knock of time
as though God made the Stars running in a circle.

tokorima Taihuringa

❆ ❆ ❆


Clouded by stormy snow

Casting anonymous shadows

Detecting faint specks of light cast through a window

Painstakingly building a nest

Finally laid to rest

Oli Ryks

❆ ❆ ❆


As each rasped breath blurs up the window
He looks out to where winter gardens rest
Soil dark and freckled with sparse snow

He watches nurses darting to and fro
And fights the tightness in his chest
When laughter skitters from the door below

Skeletal branches cast dappled shadow
Reveal last summer’s ragged nest
His lips so dry, his eyes and skin sallow

But still he stands and fights to show
His appetites are not yet acquiesced
He’s mustering the strength he needs to go

Decades of restraint have not yet so
Diminished that fierce longing to invest
And feel the tingle of desire glow

To hear her laugh, her patient slow
Words reassure and head caressed
His now decrepit frame blessed to grow
Into that golden youth of long ago

Lucy D’Aeth

❆ ❆ ❆

You nest. Cast across
My window; ice clings, snow slides;
My decrepit mind.

Gabriel Field
Palmerston North

❆ ❆ ❆

Luncheon Sausage

She caught a glimpse of memory
       in the supermarket aisle
       between the hummus and the shaved deli ham.

As a child        she would stand in the wide-windowed butcher's shop
where it was cool and clean and white, like snow,
where once the neighbour-boy choked on a saveloy,
she would reach up with a child's fingers,
would take a slice of flesh-pink meat, would bring it to her mouth
and,        while her mother was busy buying mince and chicken bits,
she would nibble toothy crenulations around the edges,
until        bite by bite        by bite

it was gone.

The scene nested in her thoughts a time        then flew off
casting shadows of the past on the present moment.

Now no one ate luncheon sausage,
No one she knew.
It was too processed, too pink.
Curiously though, they still sold it
       in the supermarket aisle
       between the beetroot hummus and the ham

To decrepit and slow-       creeping nostalgia.

Emma Cole
Lower Hutt

❆ ❆ ❆

Terry Moyle

❆ ❆ ❆

The Wedding Ring Shawl

on the original
of the old, decrepit hospital,
the new hospice is
modern and bright.
Sitting in a comfortable chair
beside the bed,
she smooths out
creases in the
black and white
peers through
her glasses,
and reads:
Cast on 165 stitches …
Knit 3, slip 1, knit 2 together
pass the slipped stitch
Yarn forward.
the band
off the first ball of wool,
the colour aptly
as snow,
picks up a pair
of needles
and begins.
It’s been
she first knitted
this shawl,
propped up
in her hospital bed
‘Nesting?’ a nurse had inquired
to admire
the intricate pattern
and delicate work,
so fine
it could be pulled through
Her stiff and aching
fingers ease
a little
with the
familiar rhythm.
Her daughter’s
laboured breathing
the only
sound in the room.
She looks
the window

Jane Va’afusuaga
Apia, Samoa

❆ ❆ ❆

Winter's Hope

Dark mustered steps
Through season of least
Wained energy, half strength
Trekked short days by dull summons

An opportune window provokes sight
A new perspective glimpsed
Bypassing the suffocating decrepit crawl of winter bland
One lone beam cast colours of future promise

Awakening once again stirred sleepy dreams
Carried on time
Encased in hope expectant
Like a nest bursting nurturing growth
Spilling over, sliding down, mimicking melting snow

Blinding yet
Seeing afresh
To dance on the familiar
Path of Light

Kaye Clayton
Stokes Valley

❆ ❆ ❆


you can choose to cast a shadow
or a fishing line
let the wind carry you
through fire
through snow
through whatever life throws at you.

i believe we were all born old.
never delivered on the silver-platter-clean-slate we were promised
we were born upon
facing this world head first
history-torn tatters taken from our surroundings stuck to us
before we managed to steal our first breath

young/ decrepit
fresh/ not clean
faces with pre-furrowed brows
wrinkles never earnt
we all began life upon our knees crawling –
not yet strong enough to stand
                                   to think
                                   to feel
nor mend the hairline
slivers along our scalp where light escaped us.

the world is windy
even the breeze cuts.
covers your eyes
take refuge in trees
kept rooted deep in the soil

build nests like old crows
out of hair
      of clothes
      of words
      of actions
all windows into other lives.
into other hairline paper corner tornados.

you can cast a shadow
or a fishing line.
you can carry yourself to safety or you can keep yourself home
it only takes nothing at all to ensure you stay with light
leaking out your lips.

Maya Neupane
Wellington City

❆ ❆ ❆

Nana Nap

The stitch I cast-off slips between my fingers
fine wool tendrils
into a nest of yarn
so now, when snow clouds bruise the sky,
I have no blanket to wrap you in.
I can no longer protect you.
These eyes see through mottled windows.
These fingers are gnarled.
These decrepit bones find the stairs too steep to climb
so you must be the one
now to create sanctum for your own.
Their names slip between my lips.
fine sweet names
into kisses.

Heather McQuillan

❆ ❆ ❆

I knew a man

I knew a man who kicked me
He whispered Sorry don’t know what got into me
A new satan, that’s what, with pale green eyes and handsome
He put a mouse in a slab of bread and ate it
I should have jumped from his window and left him
Drunk, he pulled a white sheet tight around my neck
…and laughed, I laughed, he blew promises into
my ears he could never keep up with
I packed my cat. See ya
A strange nest, unravelling

I knew a man, my father, he said don’t go to university, marry
a farmer, what use a degree in philosophy? There will be babies,
anyone who studies poetry’s a pansy, not the flower

I knew a man who’d cut me off at the knees
In the snow, he said, cast your eyes around this tussock,
no humans. That kind of looking did not bring comfort
He was flirting, I felt a stab
I had an ex-husband who slammed my arm in the door
He hit our daughters in a savage fit. Never forgave himself
He died decrepit, so full of griefs and bad wine

Men with floods of booze
Men with fatal fists

Wanda Barker

❆ ❆ ❆

Old Cane Chair

Sitting at the window reflecting on
How you blinked and your life was gone…
The nest now empty, body now decrepit
Do you regret how you cast everyone away?
Are you sleeping soundly in the bed that you made?
Can you pinpoint where it all went astray?
A shining example when much younger,
You lived a life unencumbered…
Exuberance personified.
Here you sit, personality mummified.
Bent and twisted
Callous, cold.
Life’s snow eventually took hold…
So you sit replaying memories traversed,
Locking away any happiness, it’s a curse!
In the window you reflect, awaiting the hearse.

Richard Dryden
Palmerston North

❆ ❆ ❆

The Exhibition’s Lens

some eyes are globes with no horizon
privileged beside deprived
showing the reality of their lives
defined by opulence or poverty
in images confronting & graphic
neither knows the other
yet here they hang together
inequity framed as art
in their separate worlds
worlds apart
a window on where children sleep
open tomb or sumptuous room
or the beautiful boy cast out on the street
a slum city seat his bed
they take hold of your heart
with photos almost surreal
impassively they look at you looking back
at their silent story told with wordless assaults
the overwhelmingly indulged or
the child in snow who coldly compels
the child curled in the nest of rubbish
above a dump’s putrid leach
the child in a decrepit unlit shed
nothing to conceal
does the camera lie
about the child who lives under attack
quarters destroyed struck by shells
or invent destruction written
in cause & effect deftly hung
for our cursory glance at a portrait of unrest
the young supplicant’s mute cry
gives no one absolution

Suzanne Herschell

❆ ❆ ❆

Memory of Snow

I wake in the bedroom of the town house
where my sister-in-law lives,
on her own now for fifteen years.
From the wall beside the window
my bearded brother stares down,
shadow cast across his face, Snow
we called him. Blonde hair slicked back,
blue eyes, corner-crinkled, laughing into mine
— who’ll be first to blink?

He’s on the tallboy too,
bony brown knees knuckled between
decrepit blue shorts and long white walk socks
hands thrust into swaggering pockets
after his heart transplant at Green Lane.

Beside it there’s another, much younger then,
he’s wearing a white shirt and tie,
heart strong,
his arm, a nest sheltering his new fiancée,
a red rose love-pinned to her sheath dress.

Then there’s one where he’s standing
by her side, his bouffant bride, beautiful
in shy white lace, tulle veil
lifting like angel wings behind them.
He’s everywhere in this room
he’s never been in.

I shut my eyes and he’s there,
framed in our childhood.
Gotcha! he shouts, gleeful. You blinked first!
, I argue back, I closed my eyes
for only a moment, to hold your memory in

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr

❆ ❆ ❆

No-one pays attention

No-one pays attention to the lady away from her nest
talking to herself.
She casts aside the knitting between her fingers, eyes
the distant window, shouts, bangs
her fist on the table, frowns, washes
her hands snow clean, scratches
her leg, claps, clasps, feels
her pulse, one wrist then the other, opens
her bag, repacks her sandwiches, sips
her water bottle, looks at no-one.
The wall behind her is decrepit black.

John Howell

❆ ❆ ❆


Through the window
the decrepit bones of winter
cast shadows across
the floorboards
you laid last summer

The nest, now latticed
lies silhouetted at my feet.
I bend to touch it
in some gesture of longing
for warmth.

You left last autumn, late,
but before the first frost.
The curve and weave of our bodies
deep feathered and layered
left with you.

I run my hands over the walls
planed by you.
A splinter lodges and pain
holds me here
in the last remnant of your hands.

The wind picks up.
Shadows of snow fall.
I stretch my foot into the nest.
Small twigs come loose
and tattoo my skin.

Peta Hudson

❆ ❆ ❆

When I Wake You

I pull down the sheet when you’re asleep
there’s a blush of a bruise where the gun rests
I long to put my finger there
but I don’t dare wake you

Remember the stingray that summer
swam under us
we ran along the pier shouting
trying to cast in front of it
I want to feel you hold the line
but I don’t dare wake you

We watched the city fire at night
from our window on Huntsbury Hill
and the twin engines on our NAC Viscount
as we crossed the Cook Strait home
I long to make that trip again
but I don’t dare wake you

You looked up from the kill
in your bush shirt
with the beast still wet
red on the snow
with fine antlers on
where the Kea nest
I go there too
but I don’t shoot
and I don’t dare wake you

You have one eye missing
and a beanie on
two decrepit jerseys and the heater off
a walker by your chair
hidden blocks of chocolate
crushed ice to wet your lips
and one last rattling breath
and I don’t want to
I really don’t
but this is when I wake you

Stuart McLaren Airey

❆ ❆ ❆

Cold Cross

Decrepit dwelling
Empty nest
Bustling days
put to rest

Babies born gone
and grown and died
Parents who birthed them
and lost them and cried

These things
don’t always
happen in
the perfect order

I lived to return
Last one to stand
To catch a cold breath
Unite palms of my hands

To see holy cross
kitchen light always cast
through the quartered window pane
upon the snow-dusted path

Jesus Christ
though often referenced
worked precious few miracles
at our house

I imagine my mother
still in there
I’m at the counter on a barstool
She’s braiding my hair

And the kettle is screaming
And my plaits are too tight
And though I craved the leaving
I have run back tonight.

Bee Trudgeon

❆ ❆ ❆

Please expand

Where to start, the quark
for its twosome part? Or the neutrinos that move
through our seamless skin, or the blue whorls
of particles in the yellow stain of a bubble chamber
lining up into their nucleate flakes
of obliterate snow, or the ebb and murmuration
of flocks – locusts or birds? – or through the eye
of a camera cast from ceiling down
a ballroom scene, the parallel lines
of dark-headed men and 18th Century women in cup-cake tresses
step apart, then collide in teacup swirls,
or the high-rise tops of New York or Tokyo
forming a woman’s face of pixelated pores
through the satellite window dome
separating as you pull away, making room
for the nest we call Earth come careening through
in a line of pastel-whirls, these planets
orbiting the points of a decrepit sun, it spins on
amidst a galaxy of pinned-on stars,
and outwards more, our faces glow in the screens
we keep on finding these nebulous revolutions –
But where do we fit? Which bit?

Gail Ingram

❆ ❆ ❆

Garden in Winter

I’m walking the garden in winter
Stinging air sharpens my senses – a
chittering of cold birds,
lawn like stale, saturated sponge,
an unrelentingly olive flower bed.
Trees are black, in italics.
Decrepit gutters drip – pip, pip, pip
Our ruby rose has hipped to hoarfrost.
Cast leaves star paths – great sodden wreaths of russet and brown.
In the vegetable patch
a sparse salting of snow spreads over
last season’s corn stalks,
drilled through cabbages, a yellowed nest of frozen broccoli.
You beckon from a window, but
I linger a while
Our winter garden feels like a friendly thing.
The wind throws an arm about my back, knuckles my parka …

Stephanie Mayne

❆ ❆ ❆

Window closing

The shearwater draws her long
Wings in and swoops to feed.
Then turns to Aotearoa,
Home to breed and nest
Starving as she is. A belly
Of caps and net makes
Even the young bird
Decrepit and diseased.

Worn from wandering winds
Of ocean vinegary and warm
Her true prey dead or fled
And glittering shoals of death
Like cruel jokes caught up
In her throat instead.

At the poles the snow and ice yield
The ground cries with poisoned
Breath released, it sighs
Indifferent to all
It will endure as cold rock
If it must.
And we do not know if the die
Has been cast or whether
A window still exists.

Andrea Malcolm
Hobsonville Point

❆ ❆ ❆

Dispatches from the nest:

It moves in slowly
As fog tends to do
Since the definition of fog is ‘slowly moving disgusting clouds’
This is why we use it as a metaphor for depression.

When I was small I knew fog was magic because it was clouds you could touch
Run my fingers through it, so thick I felt I could get lost.

It took approximately ten years for me to become afraid
See the grey-scale vapour for its tint
How it creeps, slowly, as fog tends to do
Til it's been six weeks under the blankets
And you've become the scary thing
Rotten with dirty dishes, decrepit with wasted days.

So we watch behind the window
Me and my cloud-cast brain
Left from a lifetime of believing in magic
Waiting for fog to turn into snow.

Eliana Gray

❆ ❆ ❆

Dwelling Place

under a full moon
I wander through my neighbourhood
noting most houses have lighted windows
watching the rugby, I guess
I am the only one out
no cars, no animals, no barking dogs
an alien world
of winter without snow
I name the inhabitants
I don't know them
what do they do at night?
do they read, watch television
or have some unusual hobby?
my immediate neighbour
carves up animals for meat
I hear his saw whirring at 2am
he has already slept a beer fuelled sleep
the moon casts an eerie glow on iron roof
eaves house the swallows' nest
I disturb them as I walk into my decrepit dwelling
the first sign of life
in these wee small hours

Judith McNeil
Kaipara Hills

❆ ❆ ❆

Ageing Alchemy

I discovered that I don’t have a penchant for
ageing. Small flags fly in my nest
of unsynchronized synapses. No Surrender.
Actually the brain has blurred, due no doubt
to my perceived Peter Pan lifestyle – somewhere –
last seen fumbling in nevernever land.
Surrounded often by young men & women
Who adapt themselves to my slowed responses?
With kindness & care. He’s a little addled y’know,
and his vision’s impaired.
Shot more like it. Mostly it resembles
a snow storm through an opaque window.
Observing myself, cast in decrepitude
Silently becoming yesterday’s draw card.
To offer what? To this frenetic, energetic, million
miles of hyper.
I take a Chinese cookie, and after opening
carefully, finding the mystery message
It’s blank.

Lee Thompson

❆ ❆ ❆

A chance encounter

In 1983 I stood on a platform in Spain,
where trains are late or early.
The dust was full of summer and the plenitude of life.
There were shiny green leaves, and snow–white buildings,
and I was ten, nested in a bubble of family
without feeling lost amongst the difference.
With my pencil I churned out technical drawings
of Spanish trains: blue curvaceous TERs,
and TALGOs, silver-sleek with crimson trim.
That afternoon, a wine-soaked English voice
rang from the window of a departing carriage:
God bless all you mad Kiwi bastards!
Standing next to us at this decrepit junction
was the mad Kiwi bastard in question,
a seedy character with a five day beard,
sunburned and heavy jawed, who talked
with the candour of someone far from home,
cast into the company of his own kind.
I recognized his marginal quality.
There was something about a marriage.
My mother said later, he was running away.

Victor Billot

❆ ❆ ❆

In good time

We were well into the nesting phase.
I’d prettied a decrepit cot with saffron and buttercup paint samples that even at fifty-percent-off we couldn’t afford.
We had one of those fights that you know halfway through you can’t come back from.
I must have fallen asleep.
When I woke he was gone. It took him a few more weeks to move out but he was already gone. Right then.
I half-dreamt-half-sensed him slinking back after dark to wrestle shoes and saucepans into newspaper shrouds and out to the car. Boxing up our brief pas-des-deux days.
And then silence.
Into which she exploded, early, trailing blood.
Like the gunshots we’d heard outside the window just before sunrise that night we talked until dawn.
Like the surprising scent of new snow falling weeks before winter onto next door’s pine trees.
Like an unexpected surge in the Earth’s gravitational pull.
All this at once.
A baby.
Suede-fuzzed curlicue ears.
Lips parted spewing kitten mewlings.
Miniature fingers too easy to snap, snagged on the frayed edge of her impossibly tiny lemon terrycloth sleeve.
So light.
And so heavy.
Cast so suddenly into my arms.
Too early in the season.

Elspeth Tilley

❆ ❆ ❆

Paper wasp

Window-framed moonlight
casts fractured shadows
of the wasp nest
suspended from the eave
umbels and cones shade
across damaged flooring

polistes chinensis antennalis
makes pulp from wood
chewed with spit
male and female together
build nests
all geometric cavities
hexagonal perfection
share foraging    feeding young
and they sting    and sting

Moonlight through windows
your face is snow    close-shaded
cold-pale    unwelcome
in this worn decrepit room
the home of our disordered lives
battered words    shattered skin

light behind cloud
patterned to chaos    my memories
a snowfall of scattered pain
but brightness finally comes
my bones may be broken down
my heart hold ancient bruises
but I will cast you out
I will at last

Alexandra Fraser

❆ ❆ ❆

Twin Flame of Catalonia

Whispered goodbyes in London's snow
perforce, half a world to go
Clara flew from her adopted nest
fate drew her ever west

Once a decrepit relic of our colonial past
now witness to an ethereal cast
Through the Civic's window he saw
a goddess, past dreams and more

Welcoming her to this hallowed place
a touch of hands, a lifted face
Then her voice so true
"I know you"

Grant Douglas Philpott

❆ ❆ ❆

From above

Upon the thermals, I glide and I dance
Freedom if only given the chance

From high above, I glimpse my forest below
Beneath the mountains capped with snow

But I hear the call and I know he’ll wait
For me to return, to what is my fate

The window of my world will narrow
My aim to him true as an arrow

Secret like a nest, hidden from all eyes
Decrepit and sad is its disguise

His cabin sits amongst shadows cast
‘Twill be my home, ‘til I breathe my last

Sheryn Smith

❆ ❆ ❆

Talk of a Season

‘It's not winter,
it's love that's a
decrepit season’, he said
dusting off the off cuts
he was picking out of the
wood pile by the shed.
'I'd be surprised if we don't
see snow tonight! A real
Queenstown summer!', and he
laughed, and his hand went into
his shirt pocket as if putting
his laugh away with his Zig-Zag
cigarette papers, the packet yellow
as a gingko leaf ripe with autumn.
The shed window was
like a dark mirror, a swallow
flashed in it before I saw it swerve
Above my own head.
‘We had a nest of them in there
last year', he went on. ‘They
build those nests with mud and spittle,
solid as a hive; they’re smart
for such a little bird, sharp as tacks!’
‘Damn!, That hurt; it’s a bugger
trying to do anything with this
cast on… my own fault,
she pissed me off so much I
whacked my fist down on the edge
of the table, fractured my wrist’.
‘Anyway, young fella, you’ve been
To university, so, you tell me…’
Far as he saw it, however you
defined love, it never improved
the ‘product’ even one

Peter Le Baige

❆ ❆ ❆

Return from Puysegur

through the wheelhouse window
smeared with water and salt,
crystal blue eyes, cast the horizon,
sighting snow upon Mt Anglem
and Foveaux swells,
about his boat – the Sandra Fay

flannel shirt, 70’s side burns,
and substantial hands,
that farmed the land
and now fish the sea,
are at the helm.
deck smelling of cod and cray,
pots decrepit with rust,
fish in ice

they push through sea.
the hands steer past, Dog Island,
into, Bluff Harbour,
as arthritis niggles his knee,
and seagulls on beacons and rocks, flock,
eager, to nest near,
the returning, Sandra Fay

Sandra Lock

❆ ❆ ❆

Under-16s Poems for National Poetry Day 2018

Here are the entries for Best Poem by Under-16s for the Given Words competition for National Poetry Day. They all had to contain the five words decrepit, snow, nest, window and cast, taken from a poem, The Hospice, by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

You can read the winning poem Seasons Poem by Jemma Prileszky along with the judge's comments here and the poems from the adults' category here.

❆ ❆ ❆

The Thinning Twine

a woman
decrepit and liver spotted
to life in linen sheets
she lays
nearest the
crested window
taking in the grey clouds
and concrete skyline
one more time
a man
fumbling at the thinning
twine of life
silently yearning for the
crisp cold of death
to numb his aching mind
like snow does your fingertips
a girl
cast away
a broken doll
cracks like spider webs
upon her pale porcelain
her smile, stitched open,
unpicking itself
a boy
barbed wire
on weakened skin
on his broken mind
telling beautiful lies
to erase
your crippled fate
burrowed in the straw
and safety of the nest
oblivious to the
splattered shells
beneath you

Lily Collins, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆

Flakes of Snow

Humans age like flakes of snow
Pretty and elegant, with an innocence
So easily corrupted by greed
So vulnerable and breakable
They never stay for long

Or trees tall and sturdy
But decrepit in time
Leaves and flowers fade away
To reveal true human nature
At its worst
What we inevitably become
Perhaps a shadow
Cast over mountains and land
Never-ending and overcoming
But merely a ghost of a human
Darkness nesting inside
A window to the soul

If only beauty wasn’t so easily manipulated
If only we all stayed as joyful and pure
As a baby’s laugh
As flakes of snow

Victoria Atkinson, aged 14
Tauraroa Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

This happened on a day,
Rain rain in the month of May,
Flooding flooding everywhere,
Water water here and there,
But not a good drop to drink!
Unfortunate situation here,
But no time to think,
No facilities, power or network,
Hence no chance for people to sync.
Tell us how they will save the people who are going to sink?
In the ice-cold water like snow, people with cast on their leg,
Trying to wade through, with help from a buddy,
Length halfway through to knees.
In the enormous problem, no-one has the time to stop and see.
Boats, Helicopters, Rescuers, Police, Ambulances are here,
But in the huge big water.
Decrepit state of care for injuries, blood oozing out.
Nests all fallen with a big thud!
Wind thrashing through, breaking windowpanes,
All houses were surrounded by water,
Some are roofless, some waterproof dome.
In heavy rains people don’t dare to leave home.
Nature has its own way of expressing itself,
And sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives,
Put us directly on the path,
To prepare for the best things that will ever happen to us.

Gayathri Krishnan, aged 13
Lower Hutt

❆ ❆ ❆

A Winter of Pondering

She sits in her chamber,
The blazing fire quelling her decrepit bones.
She clutches her tea in quaking hands,
Obliged to the exuberant warmth it offers.

Through the window, she glimpses a white wonderland:
A sprinkling of snow coats the world.
Blanched white trees are dormant for this season,
Oblivious to the magnificent scape the world offers.

This chilled state is both beautiful and terrible,
For whilst early lambs excitedly tease their cast mother,
A bird lies dead on the ground, her chicks hungry and alone.
She was slaughtered by a hand of ice.

The woman watches the young sheep play,
Remembering her sun-kissed childhood,
And her animated lifetime, from which she has many tales to tell.
But with no-one to listen, they will surely perish with her.

This tired soul wriggles further into her blanket nest,
The haughty freeze beating angrily on her glass shelter.
Restless pondering sends her to a land of sleep,
Cosy on a cold winter’s day.

Hannah Earl, aged 13

❆ ❆ ❆

He is old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, he will take down his book,
And he would slowly read, and dream of the soft look
his eyes had once, and of their shadows deep

For the past is not only
A window to a better place
It’s also a way
For troubles to nest and waste

And slowly as his eyes lifted
Eyelids feeling heavy as lead
He wondered what it is
That makes him lift, his sleepy head

So would cast
His eyes to look, out the window
Everything reminding him of his past
But he’d still not grasp the fact
That everything does not last

For everything pointed back to it
And so he reckoned
each piece of snow
counted for a second

And still the snow
Is for time
But he will not get it
For as the time
slips away
He gets more decrepit

Philip John Dale, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆

I cast my line

gazing through
frosted panes
icicles drip
on bird’s skeleton
in a decrepit nest
twigs like soot
above snow blankets
I cast my line.

peering through another
rays of light hit my eyes
song thrushes warble
happy in their pristine nest
swings sway
smiling from children’s cheers
sun rises
I cast my line.

peeking through
the last pitch
owls hoot
on thin branches
city lights
all out but one
I cast my line.

fascinated by the ripple
of the lake
a window
showing another day

Matt Bool, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆

cast into the shadows
swept aside into the snow
you close the window
cutting off the light
leaving the decrepit potential
to nest
in the rotting prospect of life

Shelby Allan, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆

This is a poem
Which has to include the words
Decrepit, nest, snow
Cast as well as window too.
That is my poem. It’s done.

Jake Wallwork, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆


Long forgotten and decrepit
The buildings lie
Staring out to the sea
Dusty windows like eyes

From the sea to the snow
These structures stay
Waiting for time
To whisk them away

The years pass by
Like birds taking flight
From nests which they built
In the rafters at night

As the sun sets
A long shadow is cast
From the ruins of buildings
Defeated at last

Isabella Cross, aged 14

❆ ❆ ❆

The Old

A decrepit bed
A window to dreams and disasters
Reflections of past memories held dearly
That cast light along her frail exterior
Snow wraps around this bed
A nightgown of white loosely at her sides
The cold lingering in her nest of hair
Rest inside this broken bed
Until the light is drained from her face
For the last time

Jasmine Mattsman, aged 12

❆ ❆ ❆


I stare out the window,
watching tiny sparrows nest.
My decrepit heart crumbles from loneliness.
I cast a long lonely shadow. I watch
as white powder snow falls down to the earth.

Matta, aged 10

❆ ❆ ❆

This is my house

Snow started falling on the nest… as I watched out of my broken window.

As I watched my nest rest on the tree
I heard a pitter patter next to me… hee hee it was
the crew cast filming me with their decrepit camera
and their little team why would they be so silly, who
Would do that to me I’m the queen bee of this, mouldy, old, bold house.
So I yelled out get out of

my house the exit is on the right and if you don’t get out
I will bite… but they didn’t get out
so I said to them… good night

Isobel Peart, aged 9
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

The greatest poem of all time

               The decrepit old window alive for the night
               Sitting with a sparrow without a light
               Abandoning its nest not on a flight
               The snow covered tree oh what a fright !
               With the cast gaining some height
               But in the morning no life is left
               Why is this decrepit old window dead while we're here flying a kite?
               Turn left turn right to the center for the fight
               If I made it out alive I would surely have a black unloved eye
               Would I die? would I cry? would I eat a butterfly?
               If I jumped into the shower would I be roasted for half an hour?
               Would I try? Would I fly? would I draw a vivid line?
               I grabbed the line pulled the reins ran all the way to my trial of time
                                                                           threw a million years I had a plan to make my life filled with fame I had never been so glad to not
Be sad. Why does this life not like me? why is it impossible to drink the sea? will I ever cut down a tree ? if I drank a bottle of time would I know how to rhyme? time begun with a thing who knows ? was it a meteorite that crashed into the perfect rose?
Was my life always a trick or was that rusty window a crow? Who will find out no one knows I think I will just go and doze

Malachy Geoghegan, aged 10
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

Lonely Land

Quietly the snow fell down to the ground
going through the cracks of the decrepit house
I went out to fish I
cast my rod, I caught nothing.
I climbed up a tree,
I found a nest with one egg in it
I went home,
The door was locked I did not have my keys
I had to climb through the window.
I got in and placed the nest on the bench.

Willsy Hunter, aged 10
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

The Old Man

An old man stomps through the snow, on a cold winter day
He keeps on walking until suddenly…
He stops at an old decrepit house
He scans the area as he slips an odd shaped key out of his pocket
And into the keyhole
The door creaked open and he dashed right in
A few minutes later he peered through his window and then came out with a cast on his arm and a nest in his other
He walked to the town and everyone judged him
They thought he was mean but what he did next shocked everybody
He went to the vet and told an odd story and came out and left
But without the nest
And went home

Heiana Maeva Ralaimihoatra, aged 11
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

Mother’s rules

Jerry Jack Jerry Jack
Will you be back
For a delicious snack
When you finish that
look out your window
For a nest
In that damp cold snow
Cast your rod to catch those eggs
But never use those silly pegs.
For you might crack the eggs.
Climb up the decrepit tree
If there’s a stork
eat it like pork.
Now get some dinner
You spiky kina.

Jaer Gilbert Patrick Hoare, aged 10
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

Souls Cry Too

Over civilizations behold, a nation built on sorrow and coal with an epiphany which chosen is stolen we become the shadow looking through an empty window which the glass of praise is thrown and tortured for which is our soul bought away our lives are awoken. We shall revoke the temptation is taken because we are all the endless enigma the pondering minds of which we wonder the true likes of the earth we cast the likeness of depression away stay for who we are we the beloveds of those who have be-friended our morbid thoughts our hearts are droughts locks tropes. Stop, stop, STOP! Our lives will always be beaten by silence of which we all neglect humans are the mistake of mother nature’s pure touch, we think. Our souls cry but always they are wiped away like the tears of a child just like water on snow fades away cascades into darkness we are the fun decrepit fair for despair and out tears are the tickets to a pathway of misery our tears never die for we nest inside hinder the locks of our insanity we all hide because… we are all crying inside.

Zeeshan Kamal, aged 14

❆ ❆ ❆

On a bleak midwinter’s morning,
From inside my warm, cosy house,
I stare out of the window
As the snow slowly falls
Covering the ground
Soft blankets
Of fresh white pureness
At a distance away a decrepit house stands
Cast away by its former owners
Now a nest of loneliness and aching
The abandoned house falls apart
Crumbles down
As it yearns for the once-blissful days
Just like I do.

Jenny Nguyen, aged 14

❆ ❆ ❆

A Cold Day

A lady lived in a decrepit house
There was snow outside
She looked out the window
She spotted a nest
And a fisherman cast his line

Hollie Lock-Schwass, aged 7

❆ ❆ ❆


A decrepit nest
Was cast far out in the snow
The window watched

Jasmine Lock-Schwass, aged 10

❆ ❆ ❆


I stroll to the water-hole
Snow falls
A nest drops from a nearby pine tree
We cast our decrepit rods
Miniscule fish eat our bait
Pull them in
It’s early morning
The nest is mourning
Feed the newborn babies, that lost their mother to the crazy fox
Take a deep breath
A window of opportunity has arisen
Golden dappled light shines through the trees
A brand new day

reuben hassell, aged 9
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

A Winter's Night in 1989

Nest the people sleeping at night.
Snow and ice rain down on a winter's night.
Wind blows the cat on one’s window.
People jolly for winter’s joy.
Decrepit trees blow by the road.
While joyful children roam in the snow.
Now darkness will cast another day.

Mana, aged 9
Raglan Area School

❆ ❆ ❆

War Poem

In the middle of the night,
I heard a whine of the engine,
Flying closer and closer.
I went up to the window,
And peered out,
Instead of seeing falling bombs,
I saw snowflakes,
Falling to the ground.
The snow is building,
Without a sound.
I saw a nest
Hidden in a tree.
It was worn and decrepit
And looked very old to me.
I sat watching the snow,
Until the sun began to rise.
As the sun rose,
It cast light,
All over town.
The villagers of London,
Had now awoken,
And were ready for their day.
They were ready to dodge falling bombs,
On the 19th of May.

Rebecca Kidd, aged 12
Mayfield School, Mid Canterbury

❆ ❆ ❆

Turn of the seasons

Out the window I stare
Trees are barren and bare
snow falls, confetti spiralling in the air

Icicles form on the twigs and the leaves
Sparkling like stars
Birds nest and keep warm as they weave,

Winter can seem so decrepit and cold
A cloak of darkness
Days grow longer and spring unfolds,

Bright colours are cast
I feel warmth at last.

Hannah Hardiman, aged 13

❆ ❆ ❆

Snow birds

I look outside my old decrepit window
The jubilant bird sits happy upon its nest
Waiting for its love to cast

White specks like diamonds fall from the sky.
The fresh cut grass turns into snow
As the bird's lover finally returns home

They greet one another with endearment
And cuddle each other for warmth
While watching the snow flakes fall gracefully

I sip on my mug of cocoa
Wrapped in a warm cosy blanket
Watching the day slowly fade into night.

Jade Garrett-Nunn, aged 14
Papatoetoe, Auckland

❆ ❆ ❆


She presses her hand against the cold decrepit window.
The fog of despair clouds her panes.
The innocent yet hurtful
White and pure
Glistening on the grass matching her dream.
Endless cast of judgement
Swirling around her.
Woven together like a nest
Protecting her from help
Safety way out of reach.

Ipolani Magalei, aged 15
Papatoetoe, Auckland

❆ ❆ ❆

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who has sent us their poem with the five words – decrepit, nest, cast, window and snow. The selected poems and winners will be published here mid–September.

If you want to be the first to know please subscribe to our newsletter here. We only send emails related with this competition and you can easily opt out at any time.

You can also follow us on twitter @givenwords

For further enquiries you can contact us at

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Given Words 'The Spanish Connection'

In the video below you can hear the five words we have selected this year. All you have to do is write a poem which includes the five words and send it to us before midnight on 24 August, National Poetry Day.

We will award a prize for the Best Poem and a prize for the Best Poem by Under-16s. The winner of Best Poem will receive a copy of the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook 2018, courtesy of Massey University Press and the winner of the Under-16 category will receive a copy of Slice of Heaven by Des O'Leary courtesy of Mākaro Press. Further details of these books are below. In addition the winning poems will be translated into Spanish and published on the Spanish version of the project Palabras Prestadas.

And the five words are…

(If for some reason you cannot see or hear the words in
the video you will find them at the bottom of this post.)

The rules:

– The poem must include the five words.
– The words can be in any order.
– You may change the tense of verbs.
– Maximum length 200 words.
– Entry is free and open to all NZ citizens and residents.
– Only one poem per person.
– Poems by under-16s must also include the age of the poet. We would prefer parents or teachers to send the poem on the child's behalf.
– FOR TEACHERS: You are very welcome to get your classes to participate, but please help us out by only sending in a selection of up to 10 of the best poems from your students. We have prepared a lesson plan for teachers.
– Participation means you allow us to reproduce your poem on Given Words.
– The deadline for entry is midnight on 24 August 2018.

Submit your poem by email including your full name and town of residence to:

To receive updates about the competition please subscribe to our newsletter here. We only send emails related with this competition and you can easily opt out at any time.

The poems will be judged by the poet and artist, Charles Olsen.  
Charles Olsen (b. Nelson, NZ, 1969) has published two collections of poetry, Sr Citizen and Antípodas. In 2017 he was awarded the XIII distinction Poetas de Otros Mundos by the Fondo Poético Internacional, in Spain, in recognition of the high quality of his poetic oeuvre. In 2018 he has been awarded the III Antonio Machado Poetry Residency in Segovia and Soria. Listen to an interview with Charles Olsen on Upbeat RNZ

Prize for Best Poem:  
Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018
Edited by Jack Ross
Massey University Press, 2018

'This issue features the winning entries of the Poetry New Zealand competition, as well as over 100 new poems by writers including Albert Wendt, David Eggleton, Johanna Emeney and Bob Orr. Issue #52 also features essays by Owen Bullock, Jeanita Cush-Hunter, Ted Jenner, Robert McLean and Reade Moore, and reviews of 33 new poetry collections.'

More details on Massey University Press
Prize for Best Poem by Under-16s:  
Slice of Heaven
by Des O'Leary
Mākaro Press, September 2018

'Life for Sione and his mates at Manawahe East High in South Auckland is pretty sweet – a slice
of heaven. But one day when they’re in after-school detention there’s an emergency. Another school’s turned up for a softball game but the Manawahe junior boys team has gone awol.'

More details on Mākaro Press

Listen to Charles reading The Hospice by Antonio Machado:

The Hospice

It's the hospice, the old provincial hospice.
A decrepit building with blackened roof tiles,
Where in summer in the eves swifts nest
And the caw of crows sharpens winter nights.

Set between two strong ancient turrets
The squalid north-facing entrance,
Its cracked façade, its grimy thick walls,
Lies in eternal shadow. The old hospice!

As the January sun casts its weak rays,
A sad veil over the barren terrain,
There appear in a window at the fade of day
Some pale faces, speechless and ailing,

To contemplate the mountains' blue girth
Or, from white skies, as onto a tomb,
The snow, falling onto the cold earth,
Onto the earth, cold, the silent snow…

(Translation by Charles Olsen of El Hospicio)

You can read about Antonio Machado on Poetry Foundation.

(The five words are: decrepit, nest, window, snow and cast.)