Saturday, 14 September 2019

Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2019

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who sent their poem with the five words chosen by poets from the collection More of Us. We received a record 200 poems and have made a selection from these to publish here on Given Words. The winning poems have been selected by Charles Olsen, Mikaela Nyman and Clare Arnot. (You can read about them here.)

Charles Olsen comments on behalf of the judges: “In choosing those poems that stood out for us we were not only concerned with the quality of the poems but we also wanted to be surprised by original and unexpected uses of the five words – not easy with words like ‘solitude’ and ‘self-acceptance’. ‘Solitude she writes in the mission log as Earth swings by’ begins Astronaut, one of the most unexpected settings with its reflections of a female astronaut lost in space. Kume with its dreamy evocation and reverence for nature has ‘Solitude the flower which hasn’t dropped’ and along similar lines with its rhythmic images of a figure in a natural landscape Uncle Thornton Skis to Work ‘an elderly man glides through the fresh solitude’. We appreciated the tremendous line ‘time finds solitude in me’ in the poem Still here with its sparseness and the directness of an elderly person, and where, in contrast to many of the other poems received, self-acceptance is no longer a goal. We enjoyed the humour in the ‘air of self-acceptance’ of the goldfish in It is no small feat… and the ‘cheerful self-acceptance’ of the dog in Beach, Dog, Sky, Sea. Talking of animals, the poem that stood out for us is commuting with angela, which hooked us emotionally us with its visual presentation echoing the creatures, ‘those grey spotted tongues’, that frame the narrative, along with the multiple details and references that add a sense of place and time, and link the personal and the universal.

“In many ways it was more difficult to select the poems by the younger poets as they took more risks squeezing words into strange expressions. Like Astronaut, mentioned above, Pluto – The forgotten planet goes out into the solar system with a thoughtful philosophical approach and a great final twist. The Monsters in Men is a dark cautionary poem constructed around descriptive pairings ‘sweet/rot’, ‘whirlpool/drowned’ that create a graphic picture of the ‘monster’. Another vivid character is that of Mrs Ash with unnerving fragments of her story such as ‘That night he was tidied up.’ Some poems reflected on stories of migration – like those in the collection More of Us – such as I stand/in a world alone… which appears simple but speaks volumes of how circumstances can change us with its revealing line ‘I used to be like them.’ Also related with travel is the humorous not again with its evocation of winter, ‘face melts on the glass/woolly coat’, and the wonderful ‘Self-acceptance misses the bus.’ In the end we were all captured by and became immersed in the internal world of Vines. The whisper and circle of S and R sounds through the poem invoke the curl, grasp and unfurl of the growing vine, there is lovely alliteration and both ‘solitude seeping’ and ‘self-acceptance churning’ cleverly take these concepts into a poetic world.”

We are delighted to announce the winning poets. The winner of Best Poem is Lily Holloway for their poem commuting with angela and the winner of the Under-16 category is Thalia Peterson for her poem Vines. They both receive copies of More of Us and All of Us and a $50 PaperPlus voucher courtesy of Landing Press. Congratulations from Given Words and Landing Press. 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: solitude, pulse, moving, circles and self-acceptance.

commuting with angela

last night i walked            her dog                    boots scuffing concrete solitude
glistening in puddles                   pissing on laingholm poles

she is scared of slugs                    those grey spotted tongues
                    inching under porchlight
           towards her door              invasion       moving morning perspiration

hold her thigh          —not hard or that’s charlie’s horse
i’m driving                but slips hand into yours
           two fingers
           circle your pulse                              to the backstreet boys

           self-acceptance is
frida on her back                         staring mirror ceilings                     strokes
skinny west auckland signs
it is what it is
she says, slugs pop like blisters     rat lungworm burst forth            confetti larvae

           and we cannot survive it

Lily Holloway
Torbay, Auckland


A mellow, silent song whispers through,
Fingers grasping the sides, spindly and moist.

Solitude seeping through its veins
Forever hugging its dying hope,
The pulse of pattering paws below,
Creeping past, ignored.

A blind slick form, no moving to and fro
But the roll of the dark and light
Wrapped in delicate furls of emerald skin,
Self-acceptance churning in the stems as molten gold.
Circling its way around the limbs of its life,
Its home.

Thalia Peterson, aged 12

About the Poets

Lily Holloway is a 20-year old undergraduate student studying English and Ancient History at the University of Auckland. They are an active member of the queer community and are passionate about New Zealand literature, op-shopping, and Teletubbies. In 2019 they were shortlisted for the Monash Undergraduate Writing Prize and won highly commended in the Divine Muses - New Voices, Emerging Poets competition. Their academic essay on The Lord of the Rings is to be published in the university's Interesting Journal and they have a short story coming out in the October edition of Mindfood magazine.

Thalia Peterson is a happy-go-lucky 12 year old home-schooled girl. She lives in rural Canterbury with her parents and twin sister, Saphra. Her passions include reading, writing, piano, art and of course, chickens. Thalia spends every waking moment being ‘arty’. When she is not being creative, she is outside with her precious pet chickens, whilst listening for the little brown owl in the neighbouring orchard.

Continue reading our selection of poems from adults here and from under-16s here. You can read the poems in Spanish here.

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