Saturday 14 September 2019

Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2019 – Adults

Here is our selection of the entries for Best Poem for the Given Words competition for National Poetry Day. They all had to contain the five words solitude, pulse, moving, circles and self-acceptance, chosen by poets from the collection More of Us.

You can read the winning poem Commuting with Angela by Lily Holloway along with the judge's comments here and the poems from the Under-16s category here.

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Solitude she writes in the mission log as Earth swings by,
a faint blue pulse in the window while all the instruments blink.
Too late she raises her thumb to blot it out like Mike Collins once did.
Those astronauts understood fragile, watched God float past
in the dark. At least up here with the stars she knows the deal,
knows who she is, writes self-acceptance in bold, circles it
as Earth swims by again like a germ in a dish. She supposes
it’s pretty, raises her thumb. Mike Collins was always her favourite.
Now, there was a man who knew his way around wonder, could take it
or leave it, go back to his fishing, his paintings of flowers. Maybe
one day a pale smudge of moon would move him to tears and he’d stop,
raise a hand, then simply wade out in the river, like her, be gone.

Lissa Moore
Palmerston, Otago

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Breathing is the long grass moving
Solitude the flower which hasn’t dropped
A moss holds the night fast
Each cough a pulse of dampness
A pressing moko of self-acceptance
Silent warriors line the banks
Breathe calm breathe
Balance fine wings on a slender branch
Imagine your face carved in rock
The current beneath you pulling deep circles
Measured leaning into each stroke
You carry your flower downstream
Alone on the river

Stuart Airey

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Still Here

We are uncertain:
our futures, our pasts, our very bodies.
‘Very’ bodies, indeed!
Very slow, very sore, very tired.

Hope lives closer now though,
in twitching sparrows,
a curtain’s lift and furl,
every pulse,

Self-acceptance was terribly important once.
All those circles of pride and shame.
Where is it now, this moving self?
My edges are so porous,
and maybe they always were,
but I feel… capacious;
time finds solitude in me.

People fear uncertain edges
and we are so many here.

Ella J. Robinson

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Flower Bones

The flower bones bloom in solitude
Book-pressed and weighted after maceration
Piled up, an archived field for later beside the bed.

Moving under the covers,
Crepuscular and cold as if to plunge yourself
Into some wild body of water
Contentedly engulfed to your fingertips.

Circulation strangled feet
Fossicking for the bottom,
Finding it
Snapping back
Rising again.

Thoughts pulse in subsonic circles
Self-acceptance sucked up
Through a metal straw
Being in love is a tapu state
And in the darkness, the flower bones bloom.

Lara Sanderson

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The Announcement

“I’m moving to greener pastures” (his announcement caused a hush)
“I’m just going round in circles here. To be honest, I’ve had enough.”

“I came to this town for some solitude, just wanted to be left alone.
But the pulse of life here is far more frantic than any place I’ve known.”

“So I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, self-acceptance and the like
And I’ve made up my mind. I’m outa here. Tomorrow, I’m on me bike.”

The Drama Club members were stunned. They’d taken him to heart.
But the canny director saw right through his ruse. “My boy – you’ve got the part.”

Murray Orchard

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In this breath

Circles of wind flurries
pulse through pines
behind this cottage

word floats as a whisper
within needles moving
among dark branches

a reminder of indigenous
people who say thank you
for being there

instead of I love you
does their self-acceptance of
another desire no ownership

words pine-needles people
this place is not for solitude
one thing flies to another today

the earth breathes
as only earth does waiting
for snow to settle on branches

Pat White

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fritters in solitude

why kai moana? i eat no other animals, but these creatures
are somehow different.
i suppose we move in different circles.

do these mussels have a pulse? my blender certainly does.
please excuse the cruel joke. a coping mechanism,
self-acceptance of my shell-fish intentions.

of course, i don't use a blender.
they gasp open in the steam.
i chop them roughly with my favourite knife
and mix in the veg
and bind them with as little batter as possible
like my dad does it.

and soon i'm the only animal in the room,
cooking fritters in solitude.

Kim Shepherd
Mt Roskill, Auckland

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Uncle Thornton Skis to Work

the sun is only just up on a night-fall of powder
trees line the hidden street like evergreen sentinels
their white-scarved limbs pointing every which way

an elderly man glides through the fresh solitude
all rhythm and routine, stretching one leg then the other
his skinny skis shush—shush shush—shush shush—shush

warm breath puffs as he steams ahead, a visual pulse
to match a textbook herringbone up a slight slope
each step moving him further away from memory

woolly as self-acceptance that spirals loose
and elliptical just like the circles he tracks
each winter like a captured echo or souvenir

or the habit of half a grapefruit, strong coffee,
toes that find boots and bindings, arms that pump,
and a mind that returns the ageing body home again

Jenna Heller

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To my son, on his 9th birthday

You’re in our bed again
Such a big boy to still sometimes need your mum
when Lego monsters become animate in the dark.
Limbs still moving even in rest
Slowing pulse on white throat
Lips apart, breath whistling
I feel you sleep as you did inside me,
when my body formed a circle of protection.
What do I wish for you?
Not academic prizes, important job, fat bank account.
(Rising pressure, nagging worries, never having enough.)
But the space to always be yourself
To revel in solitude, giving your mind space to breathe
That the universe sends you someone who will love you as I love you (even as you snore)
And that you do not take so long to find self-acceptance
As I did, doubting every fibre of my body
The first time I held you in the world.

Sarah Ell

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Beach, Dog, Sky, Sea

Weekend, and solitude, finally.
The beach beckons. I taste
sharp, salt-strung air, savour
sand-suck and grasp, watch
moving mounds of kelp flurry
shoreward in the waves’ pulse and
pour, hear a gull scream as it circles
above, wind-tossed, erratic.
My three legged dog hobbles after
thrown sticks she will never catch – such cheerful self-acceptance!
I think
Perhaps nearly there is really there
Perhaps we find ourselves in the trying
Perhaps it’s enough for things to be
Beach, dog, sky, sea – and on occasion, me…

Stephanie Mayne

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Inner nut’s hell

Scientists say that the peanut cannot be a pulse
as though it’s a legume it has too much fat
yet chickpeas and lentils, peas and beans
get to shake off their pod days and gain a new name
this fat-shaming re-naming makes me afraid
for each young peanut’s sense of self-acceptance
especially if they have access to magazines
those could make a young legume start thinking in circles
until it decides it should start moving more
exercise, shift the bulk from its smooth nutty hips
or would it lie peaceful in protein-filled solitude
knowing in its mono- and polyunsaturated heart
that it’s the type of fat that counts

Fern Campbell

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When undercurrent unrest
into action

we pulse.

And what we thought
were steps in solitude
begin moving

towards others.

The movement stirs
reaching out
from self acceptance
to self determination.

Nafanua Purcell
Hastings, Hawke’s Bay

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When I Grow Up I Want to Be Like Lizzo

when I grow up I want to be like Lizzo
fizzing with self-acceptance          self-love          self
always moving
          moving forwards
          moving hearts          breaking hearts          to shake them up
to re-make them
breathing life          making life worth living
pulse of beats and words heard by those
who most need them
never dancing circles around truth
but hitting          head on

when I grow up I want to be like Lizzo
dizzying attitude          full of soul
knowing we are never whole          in solitude
seeking seclusion breeds          disillusion
so she
          she demands attention
                    commands stage
                                      rages against isolation
                                                  offers salvation
                    sensational education
          how      to      be      yourself

when I grow up I want to be like Lizzo
busy taking up space
               facing world

Kate Spencer

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Winding down

Grandfather clock with dicky ticker pendulum
Checks my pulse (tick tock _ tock)
Each in our solitude, together in the dusty hall (tick _ tick)
You, trying to make circles, me, trying to keep moving
Struggling our way to self-acceptance
Together in the dusty hall (tick _)

Ruth Brassington

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Eggs Benedict

Damp clothes send out vapour shields,
Blocking the view of the depressants
On the other side of the glass,
Moving like disturbed ants
Clutching the pulse of life under their overcoats.

You sit at the table,
Mingled mutterings stealing your sense of solitude.
A circle bearing the number nine
Lays claim to your territory.
A red and white circle like a stop sign.

And the cup sits common place on the saucer,
It's self acceptance in paying lip service to the public,
Annoys you.
Metal implements wait, swaddled in napkin,
And enhancers stand side by side, unshaken.

And then they come,
Eggs like cumulus clouds,
Hollandaise coated, hiding the sun,
Ready for you to release the molten light
That will bath the green foliage resting atop of golden crunch.

Warmth and flavour amalgamate
And nullify winters bite.

Glenda Lassen

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First try | twenty-fifth try

Moving in circles,
solitude stings; then, a pulse
of self-acceptance.

Gabriel Field
Palmerston North

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It is no small feat
to catch the attention
of a goldfish-and hold it.
The one who approaches me
as I peer through the glass,
doesn’t live in lonely solitude,
it has three companions.
Moving lazily up and down,
their lives are spent
cruising in circles
in the search for food
or, perhaps, for excitement.
Anyway, the one who looks at me
with unblinking scrutiny,
its fins beating a faint pulse
of curiosity,
has an air of self-acceptance
that, on my side of the glass,
I envy.

Lesley Vlietstra

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My pulse doesn’t like solitude,
          Or so I’ve noticed the past shored-up
Months or so –
My          dis          jointed heart beat
                    Moving, like an Olympic
Swimmer in perfect


From an anticipating
Stillness to a           sprint
In seconds,
          Loneliness sucks

It’s never quite resting –
Just a hint of hope
          A hint of gold

Muscles          taut beneath smooth skin
And pretend self-acceptance
When really, you
Yourself, blowing
Bubbles in          circles
Around his bloody head like          halos
Like how you can close your
                    Tired eyes
And pretend you’re          flying
But all you          want to do is

Emma Sidnam

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The Spaces In-Between

What of the ones who inhabit
the spaces in-between?
Not the first-come
earth-pulse takers;
the dispossessed.
Nor those who came late
to find their place or
to take the place of others.
But what of those who move
between worlds?
The together twined?
The married-ins?
The plastics?
Heart ties twisted.
Tell me who? Who told us this:
that humanity should be viewed
through a lens of naked solitude
as if we
aren’t all interwoven in
the same shaggy robe
of history?
Why do we heed the all-wise
the ones who categorise?
Pinning people in place
like broken butterflies
with labels that glide onto some
like a gentle glove
and clamp onto others
like a thorny crown.
Self-acceptance withering
in the hoarfrost circles of other’s
self-imposing posturing.
What do we do
with this disingenuous truth
that whispers to the old ones
sneers at the youth
saying you
must be either one
or the other.
Or else you

Barbara Uini
Manurewa, Auckland

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After the flight

Tell me of these things
which inhabit you       through silence,

which for a moment
you imagine me imagining.

                            That opaque, still water beneath
              mangrove shadows at high tide. Or how she put in an earring,
graceful beside the line of her moving wrist, and you caught
              her eye in the mirror. How it happened –

                                          how you came here.       Moments in
                            the solitude of morning darkness. The feeling of rain
              against the pulse at your neck. The slow circles
of stars towards dawn. These wonders.

You move in and out of self-acceptance, even now.
There is nothing between you and the river.

A shadow on rough rock
                                        becomes angular, becomes
                                                                           a seabird in flight;
                                                                                         impulse briefly becomes desire.   

If I cannot sleep and it is raining,
I may think of you standing in the rain.

Olivia Macassey

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Pulse softly, wounded world.
Slow breathing, listless tides.
Life is glass thin. Crude sutures stitch years.
Solitude is a border to the day.
Halfway to the end, with cracking knees,
I inhabit myself.
Self-acceptance means life
is familiar as an old blanket,
unrecognized as a foreign city.
Circles spiral inwards,
moving towards silent endpoint.
Pulse softly, wounded world.

Victor Billot

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I close the door, shutting out
lists and dirty dishes.

In this hard-won solitude
I am not alone,

fecund black dots
and my piano await.

My fingers start moving, then flying
circles, leaps, arpeggios, repeats

until my last piece for the evening,
Poulenc’s Novelette in E minor,

resolves itself through glorious harmonies
in a glimmer of self-acceptance.

My breathing and pulse slow.
I rise, and head for the door.

Tui Bevin

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Fear not thoughts of solitude;
For solitude still beats a pulse
With cadence slow but ever moving;
Gentle undulating circles
Within doubts of self-acceptance
Often unexpressed in words.

Fear not consequence of words
Fear not they’ll cause solitude.
Hold fast instead to self-acceptance
Feeling still the measured pulse
In gentle undulating circles
Within mind and body moving.

Value things you find moving;
Waste not life in idle words.
Feel security in circles
Of your friends – yet solitude
Still has place, still has pulse,
Still builds a base of self-acceptance.

Ditch all doubt of self-acceptance;
Roll the stone, keep it moving!
Let the lifeblood course and pulse
Through your veins till wings of words
Lift you up from solitude
Enclosing you in gentle circles.

Circle as the eagle circles,
Climbing high on self-acceptance
In the wave of solitude
Or with friends likeminded, moving
Silently – no need for words,
Distinguishing the measured pulse

Of life and love. Respect the pulse
That bears you up in silent circles,
Driving out self doubt. No words
Can substitute for self-acceptance
In a world that’s always moving;
Moving you to solitude.

Embrace the pulse of self-acceptance
Keep the circles ever moving
Fear not words nor solitude.

Hugh de Lautour

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