The 2017 WriteNow Poetry Competition for Dunedin Secondary School students was judged by Dunedin poet Lynley Edmeades. Lynley’s first book of poetry, As the Verb Tenses, was published by Otago University Press in 2016, and was longlisted for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
The WriteNow prize ceremony was held on Friday 25 August as part of the National Poetry Day public event.
Thank you to all the entrants in this year’s competition, and congratulations to those who received a prize. There were some really captivating poems that stimulated and entertained me on a number of levels.
I was really intrigued to read what teenagers are writing about today. Whichever direction the poems took, I found myself being invited into the minds of these young people and was often impressed with the treatment of the subject matter. I don’t know what it is like being a teenager today, but I do know that the modern world is, for many of us, a difficult place to understand at the best of times. Some of these poems remind me that poetry offers us navigational skills for the complexities of life. That these young minds are turning to poetry in times like these gives me solace and optimism: solace that they are looking to the written word as a medium of expression, and optimism for a future that has the humanities at its core.
Some of the best entries here did what great poetry can and should do: offer an element of surprise; exhibit technical control and craft; and capture something of the poet’s worldview, without forcing it on the reader. These are hard things to juggle and sustain, so I tried to reward the poems that showed some strengths in any of these areas, particularly those that maintained this integrity throughout the whole poem. Some of the entries showed technical aptitude, while others made up for the lack of craft by illustrating humour or surprise. Some showed a sensitivity to the lyric, which I really enjoyed.
Headlights (1st place), by Molly Crighton
This is a beautiful lyric poem, which I was immediately struck by for both its treatment of subject matter and attention to craft, particular its sound and rhythm. It turns a daily traffic jam into something very visceral. I see that Molly has been placed several times before in this competition, and I have no doubt that, with a lyric acuity like this, she will be one to watch in the coming years.
The Summer House (2nd place), by Charlotte Dickie
A very adventurous and audacious poem, The Summer House is full of striking imagery. It is full of big questions, which is often hard to pull off in a poem, but managed well here. It also shows a playfulness with typography and form, which I really enjoyed.
Poem (3rd place), by Fiona Una
This powerful and important poem really opened my eyes to the reality of what it might be like to be a teenager today. It contains some really potent imagery and manages its heavy subject matter with sensitivity and an attention to craft.
Morning (1st place), by Mia Parsons
A lovely playful meditation on morning with some echoes of Hone Tuwhare’s Rain. It has some great imagery, which really surprised me and threw new light on an old and fairly well-trodden subject matter.
Morning (2nd place), by Lily Maley
This poem showed great technique and attention to the craft of poetry. It also manages to maintain the rhyme scheme it set for itself, without it becoming too forced, which also managing some fairly commonplace subject matter with fresh treatment.
Morning Poem (3rd place), by Jemma Tutty
Another surprise poem for me, this piece puts everyday things into new territory by using quirky metaphors, like “the wind rolls over top of my house like a cartwheel.” A short lyrical meditation, which really capitilises on the senses.
The Caledonian (Highly Commended), by Jesika Sebelin
I liked the playfulness of form of this poem. It utilizes a form we don’t see very often in contemporary poetry, the acrostic or mesostic. This poem is fun and experimental, and pleased me a great deal to read.
Junior (years 9-10)
- First prize: $100, and an invitation to read alongside established poets at Dunedin’s National Poetry Day event
- Second prize: $70
- Third prize: $30
Senior (years 11-13)
- First prize: $150, and an invitation to read alongside established poets at Dunedin’s National Poetry Day event
- Second prize: $100
- Third prize: $50
All placegetters also receive book tokens courtesy of the University Book Shop, and will be invited to be interviewed and podcast by Otago Access Radio’s Youth Zone (listen to some young Dunedin poets here).
AND… all placed poems will be eligible for publication as a ‘Parking Meter Poem‘ – a Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature initiative.