Saturday, 1 August 2020

Given Words for National Poetry Day 2020

This year we have a chosen five words from the poem Las Moscas ('Flies') by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado which you can read below. All you have to do is write a poem which includes the five words and send it to us before midnight on 21 August, National Poetry Day.

We will award prizes for the Best Poem and the Best Poem by Under-16s. The winners will receive books courtesy of Landing Press and The Cuba Press (see 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 presented by Charles Olsen…

(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:
– Note: This year the only exception is that the word 'fly' is the animal and not a verb.
– The theme is up to you.
– The poem must include the five words.
– The words can be in any order.
– You may change the tense of verbs and change between plural and singular.
– 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 21 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 Jordan Jace.

Mikaela Nyman is a Kiwi Finn born on the Åland Islands in Finland and living in New Zealand. Four years in Vanuatu, a sister’s death and a cyclone (TC Pam in 2015) changed her life. Her PhD research focuses on creative writing, rhetorical alliance and Ni-Vanuatu women’s voices. Her first novel Sado (2020) is set in Vanuatu. Her first poetry collection, När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets, was published in Finland in 2019 and is nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2020. It connects the islands of her heart: the Åland Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand. Currently she is collaborating with Ni-Vanuatu writers and editing Sista Stanap Strong: A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology (forthcoming) to commemorate Vanuatu’s 40th independence anniversary.

Jordan Jace is a writer based in Los Angeles and will begin their MFA in Poetry at Brown University in the Fall of 2020. A student of abolitionism, their work has been published with Freedom Arts Press, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Recluse, a publication put out by the Poetry Project. They have words forthcoming in Smoke and Mold in September.

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. He has contributed essays to the forthcoming The Poetics of Poetry Film, Bristol: Intellect Books, S. Tremlett (ed).

About the prizes:

The winner of Best Poem will receive My wide white bed by Trish Harris and Keel & Drift by Adrienne Jansen, courtesy of Landing Press

The winner of Best Poem by Under-16s will receive The Ghosts on the Hill by Bill Nagelkerke and Super spare parts and the nemerons from the twefth quadrant by C. J. Parker, courtesy of The Cuba Press

And here is Antonio Machado's poem Las Moscas translated by Charles Olsen:


You, long-familiar flies
Inescapable, avaricious,
Everyday housefly, you
bring it all back to me.

Oh, hungry old flies
Eager as April’s bees,
Insistent flies intent
On my baby brow!

Flies of that first tedium
In the family living room
On bright summer afternoons
As I begin to dream!

And in the hated school
Speedy amusing flies
By a love for that which zooms

—All is flight—, persistent
Buzzing against the windows
On autumnal days…
Flies of all hours,

Of childhood and adolescence
Of my golden youth
Of the second innocence
As one loses all faith,

Of all ages… Dirty flies
Such common things
You’ll never have a decent singer.
I know you have walked

On the colourful toy,
The closed textbook,
The love letter,
The stiff eyelids
Of the dead.

Unavoidable greedy ones
Who neither labour as bees do
Nor sparkle like butterflies,
Tiny, mischievous things
Old friends,
You remind me of it all.

You can read about Antonio Machado on Poetry Foundation.

(The five words are: letter, childhood, fly (the animal), greedy and dream.)

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