On Saturday June 11th I am due to be admitted to Auckland Hospital for a stem cell transplant (the date can change, especially if I get a cold!). For the past months I have been having millions of tests and scans to make sure I am match fit. It is a high-risk high-reward procedure that can save lives. I am feeling immeasurable gratitude to an an anonymous stem cell donor. Beyond the words a poem might hold for example.
I will be in hospital for four to six weeks all going well, and then have multiple weekly visits. My Covid vaccines will be back to zero and I will be steering clear of people and shops for the rest of the year (and book launches and writers festivals!). I have no idea how things will go, and there are loads of forks in the road, but I will take and love each day as it comes.
Writing and reading have been my go-to place since childhood. I find strength and happiness when I write, devour books, and do both my blogs. I cannot imagine what it will be like ahead of me, but I have created a clearing in the bush. I am taking two beautiful notebooks to hospital and I may or may nor write a word on a page, or string five together, or leave a sequence of pages silence (Sarah Scott).
My blogs will both go on hold – bar four poems I have lined up to post automatically on Poetry Shelf. And this is a very strange feeling, after all this time, after all this glorious Aotearoa poetry blog time. It’s never a chore, never hard work creating a space for poetry communities. But for now, I will be ignoring requests to do this or post that or read this (unless you are recommending the perfect book to read in body battering conditions – or movie, or tv show, or podcast, or puzzle).
I liken this adventure to climbing Mt Everest and I am currently at base camp in training. I am packing my emotional and physical bags with things to help me through. And that includes lines from Poetry Shelf’s Paragraph Room 3. The wonderful cat and dog poems you sent me. Your kindest messages.
Some of you have asked me what you can do to help. I know that what is ahead of me is unspeakably tough – some people hate to remember it in fact – but having such supportive poetry communities matters so much.
I came up with an idea (you know me!). Write a card, put a poem you love in it by you or someone else, and mail it to me with a stamp. I can only have two named visitors, as the ward is ultra filtered from outside bugs – not even flowers get in! So Michael can deliver cards that I can open when I need a poem lift.
PO Box 95078 Swanson Waitākere 0782
My stem cell transplant team at Auckland Hospital, my heaven-sent transplant nurse Mia, my Doctor, and the rest of the staff on Motutapu and Rangitoto wards are extraordinary. Think warmth, compassion, empathy, diligence. If I had the words, they would get the best thank you poem ever. A bouquet of better pay and extra staff, and some divine pastries.
Finally thank you: Poetry Box has been around a long time now and it wouldn’t be what it is without you. A special thank you to all the children who sent kind messages with your cat and dog poems. Your kindness moved me to tears. Poetry is aroha as much as mahi. It is the listening and sharing and that means so much. Young poetry writers your poetry is a gift. I am packing it in my bags. I am carrying poetry with me as I climb the steep mountain – along with children’s books, picture books, novels, puzzles, beautiful teas and juices.
Just writing this – fills me warmth and strength, happiness and light.
My poetry books for children are full of poems are about cats and dogs, and I guess I was often inspired by our own cats and dogs. We don’t have any cats or dogs at the moment, so it was a magnificent pleasure reading about your pets, and the cats and dogs you invented. I love how the Samoan New Entrant class made up a poem together at Richmond Road School. What fun!
So many poems arrived in my email box – what a treat! But it meant it was hard picking just a few to post. I am so sad I couldn’t post all your brilliant poetry.
I can tell you all love writing, and writing poems is such a fun thing to do, whether your poems are serious or playful.
I have picked Isla, Ashton, Vitek and Jessie to send a copy of one of my books to.
Exciting news: I have two new animal books out this year with Penguin! Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat (July) and Roar Squeak Purr (October). You can see the covers above and you can check them out on my Penguin page.
Golden teddy bear face Find a ball and chase Smell a stick and munch Sniff a bone and crunch Wet sniffly nose Black velvet toes Sharp wiggly nails Little stubby tails.
Yoshi, Y6, Helensville Primary School
Long delicate whiskers wave Curly tail sways from side to side Sharp claws grip on couch Sensitive ears twitch listening for noise Springing into the air with energy like a supercharged missile
Porou, age 8, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
The German Dog
Lick, lick, lick Slimy saliva dripped Her furry tail waved Her huge paws stomped Her big puppy eyes looked at me
Michael, Y3/4, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
The Samoan NE Entrant class at Richmond Rd school (10 children, 5-6 years old) made up these together:
All Cats are Different
I have a cat and it is white and fluffy as a cloud. I have a cat and it is as soft as a duck. Its teeth are as sharp as scissors. Its tale is as long as a python. My cat hates water as much as I hate chilli. I love cats as much as I love chicken nuggets, ice cream and lollies. My cat jumps as high as a giraffe. My cat leaps like a frog. I’d like a rainbow cat of red, green, yellow, pink, purple and blue. If I had a cat I’d call it Dorito or Bunny or Daisy or Feather or Cherry or Ringo or Fluff or Rose or Spotty or Fishy or Sarah or Mousey or Shark! Miaow! Growl! Hiss! Yowl! I have a cat and I give it a pat. Purr, Purr, Purr!
All Dogs are Different
I have a dog and it can run as fast as a cheetah. I have a dog and it can dig holes like a mole. It likes to stick its head out of the car window and let the wind wobble its ears and tongue. My dog wears a pink jacket, as pink as my cheeks. Some dogs are very clever and can chase the bad guys. Some dogs are very clever and help blind people to walk. Some dogs like to chase pine cones and bring them back. Most dogs like to eat meat and sausages and steak. If I had a dog I would call it Mango or Coco or Rainbow-Dash or Godo or Chop or Lucas or Rival or Sprinkle or Pancake or Broccoli! Woof Woof! Growl Growl! Yap Yap! Whine Whine! I love my dog as much as I love basket-ball! Wag! Wag!
NE class, Richmond Rd School
My cat once climbed a mountain taller than the stormy sky thundering louder then a lion’s roar.
Vitek, age 8, Y4, Ilam School
Taking a chance Jumping on the bench Sneaking past the sandwiches with a quiet purr Past the fruit, with small soft steps Past the butter and the cheese Past the remnants from breakfast Listening for movement with a guilty smile Creeping up to last night’s roast Missing the noise of the door swinging open “No cats on the bench!” Down comes the tea towel Down jumps the cat Away goes the roast
Harriet, age 12, Y8, Selwyn House School
I Do For My Cat (a list poem)
I feed my cat fish for Breakfast I feed my cat potatoes for Lunch I feed my cat gummy bears for Dinner I take my cat to the graceful cherry Field.
Leo, age 8, Y3, Ilam School
Barks flooding the room, Bailey’s slobber all over, Soft fur running through my fingers,
Bailey’s tail everywhere, I finally stand up, And see the couch torn in two!
Chloe, age 11, Y7, Selwyn House School
A Dog Poem
Long tail wags Floopy ears flop Fur like silk Red tongue drops Bows like a performer Rolls like a rugby ball Jumps like an athlete
Noel, Y8, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
Bright shining moon looks over the fields Looking for signs of movement But almost everyone’s asleep Apart from one cat
A large tabby cat is patrolling his border Making sure no one enters his home Making sure that his family is safe inside
He flicks his ears happily He lowers his legs Curls his tail around him As there is silence
Slowly the cat closes his green eyes He relaxes Enjoying the peaceful silence of the night
But he must not fall asleep He must always be alert Always on watch Until the sun wakes
Olivia, age 11, Y7, Selwyn House School
My cat Sonny Is quite funny He’s named after a rugby star He listens to me when I play my guitar I pet my cat dusk till dawn When he wakes up he’ll go YAWN My cat Sonny Is quite athletic He runs to the neighbours Quite energetic! My cat Sonny Has a cat door He mostly jumps off the roof He really is quite a goof!
Sid, age 9, Westmere School
The cat’s tail curls around the wall claws scratch on soft carpet paws softly crawl onto the sofa eyes stare at the mouse mouth open wide tongue licks its fur clean as a white paper
Karin Y3/4, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
Ziggy can jump like a rabbit. She pounces around outside like a weirdo. She has a brownish gold coat and a pointy snout. Her ears are as golden as the sun. She has the most ridiculous barks in the world.
FlorenceY3/4, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
Big Cat had one kitty inside her. Kitty had a baby inside her! Big Cat pops out kitties, cats, and babies! “Mum, can we go and buy a wheelbarrow of kitty food?”
Sophia, aged 6, Green School
My cat wants to be a princess She wants all the dresses She wants to be pretty She wants breakfast in bed The guards will make her bed She wants foot massages every day
Dinadee, room 5, Ilam School
Glowing golden eyes stare back at me, Sharpening her claws on the cabbage tree. Her ginger spots along her spine, Who’s that cat? That cat is mine.
Fluffy and soft dark fur, A very loud, comforting purr. Her whiskers are long and fine, Who’s that cat? That cat is mine.
Slithering through the grass, Or staring at birds through the glass. If wanting food she whines, Who’s that cat? That cat is mine.
Jessie, age 10, Westmere School
Lying in the golden sun with my tongue hanging out of my dry mouth Lolloping around the house when the lead is presented Hanging around the kitchen waiting in suspense for mum to drop some stringy mozzarella cheese on the floor Wrestling on the couch with my brother Louis Curling up on the pink fluffy blanket waiting for someone to scratch my belly Panting hard and waiting for a nice big drink of fresh cold water Hoping that cuteness is my way to escape trouble Swishing my tail so quickly that I could take someone’s eye out Beaming when I see my family walk through the door Devouring up my scrumptious dinner before bed
Holly, age 12, Y8, Selwyn House School
As golden as the sun, Ears as floppy as a puppy, Nose as wet as a waterslide, Paws as soft as can be, Eyes as clear as the moon, That’s my dog
Aysha, age 10, Y6, St Andrews School
Woffy the dog
Woffy runs around like a tornado. He jumps like a kangaroo. Woffy’s tail wags at the speed of light. His ears flap like wings. The sound energy calls Woffy’s name. Woffy runs so fast you can barely see him. He begs for bacon. He whimpers for dog treats.
Kobe, age 9, St Andrews School
Cat’s whiskers quiver Sleek fur stands up, now golden soldiers Marching like rippling waves The dog’s sharp teeth grin His tail wags, a clock ticking He’s ready to pounce
BAM, CRASH They collide A mess of claws and fur Fast cat jumps Pinning down the scary dog
As the cat relaxes The dog becomes a bed again Muscles melt into pillows Fur turns back into a blanket Her illusion melts away As she drifts off she knows At the next dog attack, she will be victorious She has been practising
Amelia, age 11, Selwyn House School
My Cat Star
My cat is a crazy critter. Dashing through the grass. Purrs as loud as a lawnmower. With stripey stripes, as stripey as a bumblebee. As warm and cuddly as a fluffy blanket. Waiting to catch a noisy bird and begging for my bacon at the dinner table. She is my shooting Star!
Chloe, age 8, Westmere School
When the shining sun starts to set, And the fluffy clouds fade away, Lying in the near shadows Is Panther waiting to play.
Out he comes, Looking for some dinner, As he creeps into the jungle, The moon’s light slowly gets dimmer.
Further in Panther creeps, His stomach starting to growl, Then he takes a mighty leap, And lets out an eardrum shaking howl
All the animals bow to him, As he wanders past, No
Georgia, age 10, Westmere School
Me and my dog
I wanted a dog for years and years but dad always said no, I wanted a small fluffy brown one as fluffy and sweet as a bunny, I wanted to call it Smartie like my favorite horse. I was barely sleeping in my yellow bouncy bed when I heard moving branches, so I went outside to check what it was in the shadows, there was a brown puppy, he was weeping and crying with big cute baby eyes, so I asked my dad if we could keep him and guess what he said, he said yes!!
Lena, age 10, Y5, Selwyn House School
Super spy cat
Bulging eyes stare Rough paws touch Sensor nose detects The super spy cat strolls on the footpath outside my house like a vicious tiger
Ashton,Y6, age 10, Te Parito Kōwhai Russley School
My Wild Cat
A sly walk to a warm place, Fur blankets the ground below, The little bell dinging below his chin, His black glossy coat gleaming in the sun, Eyes as sharp as glass, The stare of a playful tiger, Claws hidden in his fur, Ready to pounce, Springing like frogs, Cuddling against the warm grass.
Phoebe, age 13, Y8, Selwyn House School
He the dog who comes out today All he wants, is to get someone to play When he gets the purr-fect touch He strides around like the Dutch But who is this cat with big blue eyes? This cat protects every dog, big and small, And that cat who protects every dog Quickly became friends with the dog Who, I forgot to mention, looks like a frog!
Xander, age 8, St Andrews School
Blaze barks Energetic black and white spots Surprise me Standing at my door I smile Then he’s gone. Suddenly he’s there Behind me Jumping on my bed
Sydney Aged 11, Year 7, St Joseph School, Waitara
Honey the horse Owns the house A naughty child Dipped in gold As energetic as she can be Beautiful, young and car sick Runs away like a cheetah And still Honeybee is our best dog
Tali Aged 10, Year 6, St Joseph School, Waitara
Glow worm hair A collision of the sun and moon Loves with all his heart His jumps are mountainous He’s as tall as an oil rig And as strong as a bulldozer He makes a good soft pillow He drawls for my ice-cream My 11-year-old baby Is a rot wheeler named Tane.
Carley Aged 12, Year 8, St Joseph School, Waitara
He wears a white t-shirt and matching boots He’s a lot older than me That’s why all he wants to do is sleep and eat His eyes are an emerald And he sings with a siren call He’s as soft as a cloud While his smile is the sun But beware If you pick him up He’ll make you bleed With his sharp claws My monster cat Ginger
Keira Aged 10, Year 6, St Joseph School, Waitara
Black and stealthy like a ninja He’ll be in the shadows You’ll hear him at night Fighting All fear him He’s like the terminator Fur blowing in the wind He stands like a villain With surprise claw attacks I call “Puss, puss!” And he comes Swiftly, silently My fluffy ninja friend
Latu Aged 12, Year 8, St Joseph School, Waitara
My Dog Poppy
My dog Poppy looked like a bush. She was as podgy as a carton of milk. When we took her to the groomers When she felt the hairdryer she tried to eat it! She was trying to grab it! We said NO! She ran. I said ‘Poppy, No!’ When we got her back, she was as beautiful as a lion. We took her home. She ran! No! My dog Poppy looked like a bush…
Chloe, age 9, Westmere School
ZAK Zak is a small Chihuahua. He is very old. He is half blind, And not very kind. When we try to pick him up, He just barks and growls, Sometimes he howls, And bites. When we try to get him out of his basket, He shakes and wiggles, Which makes me giggle!
Mia, age 12, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School
Light hazel fur and dark brown Ears. Muddy brown eyes. With a wet and glossy nose, she never sheds a tear. She snores in the emerald beanbag, Everyday. She waits to watch For her dinner, so she doesn’t Have to stray. Her tail wags Like willows, fluttering in the Breeze. Her nose sniffs hard Like she has a disease. She Smells the juicy steak, cooking On the barbie. She drools Fountains and prances around Like she’s dancing. She is Tutu.
Amelia C, age 12, Selwyn House School
The claws of a cat dig into the soil. The purring of the drowsy kitten in the shape of a coil. He is swift like a car zooming on the road. He is small like petite toad.
His fur is white and soft like a stuffed animal and sometimes lazy like a cloud lounging in the sky.
He jumps from one chair to the next while springing up high. I cherish my warm, loving kitten Yuki. They feel how you feel when you’re feeling droopy.
Whetū Toa and the Hunt for Ramses, Step Matuku, Huia Publishers, 2021
Steph Matuku’s children’s novel, Whetū Toa and the Hunt for Ramses came out last year. I have only just read it and love it so much want to track down the first one (Whetū Toa and the Magician) – more importantly I want to sing its praises to inspire you to read it too.
This is the kind of children’s book where the stars align and everything falls into perfect place: characters, plot, ideas, feelings, language, tension, surprise, illustrations. The cover artwork underlines how this book might engage you. Steph knows how to get a story to do a cartwheel, a forward or backward flip, so you end up somewhere surprising and different. I had to keep reading reading reading it, but forced myself to save the second half for the next day.
Character is such a vital hook for the reader, and Steph’s characters matter. Whetū is about to start school. She and her mum live at the magician’s place (I don’t know the backstory yet!), and Whetū’s job is to care for the animals. I am talking horses, a chicken (who might become a squawking multitude), a golden ram named Ramses, and a very helpful cat named Tori. None of the animal crew are happy about Whetū’s school return. Even though she has pledged to get up extra early so she can still look after them!
I adore Whetū. She is exactly the kind of character I want to carry with me at the moment. She has cunning and she has grit, she has tenderness and a sense of justice. She gets into difficult situations and figures out what to do, even though the magic in her fingertips is scarcely working.
I also adore Tori the helpful cat. Ramses goes missing so it is up to Whetū and Tori to find the ram. This is where the story forward flips and somersaults. Where you care so much about the characters but are never sure what will happen next. The blurb mentions starbeams, strange worlds, other planets and an evil magician, so I am not giving anything away there.
Buckle yourself in and enjoy the exhilarating ride this book offers, so much fun, so beautifully written and illustrated. You get magic and daring, you get insight and empathy, you get a novel that taps into what it means to human.
I put Whetū Toa and the Hunt for Ramses down, smiled from head to toe, and felt immensely grateful our world is a book world, a story world, a world in which we can connect and converse through the stories we share. Thank you.
Steph Matuku (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Te Atiawa) is a freelance writer from Taranaki. She enjoys writing stories for young people and her work has appeared on the page, stage and screen. Her first two novels, Flight of the Fantail and Whetū Toa and the Magician were Storylines Notable Books. Whetū Toa and the Magician was a finalist at the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In 2021, she was awarded the established Māori writer residency at the Michael King Centre where she worked on a novel about post-apocalyptic climate change.
When I picked some favourite poems from my April cloud challenge, I showed how poems can do many different things with the same topic. You can check out the post here.
I had a long list of ideas for May but in the end picked my favourite thing to write about: 🐈⬛ cats and dogs 🦮. My own poetry books brim with cat and dog poems. Maybe because we had three cats and two dogs and they would always end up in a poem! Not all at once though. They liked to be the star and have a poem all to themselves. We have no pets now, but my daughter has the cutest new puppy named Pablo. And my friends have gorgeous newish kittens!
You can write a cat poem, or a dog poem, or a cat and dog poem.
Ten TIPS for POEMS
ONE: Play with sound. Listen to the sound of every line. Make patterns that sound good with dog or cat words. Try short lines or long lines. Listen to how words sound as partners (elastic cat, darting dog, gingernut cat, chocolate chip dog).
TWO: Play with detail. Use you eyes to gather words that show what the animal looks like, how they move and sound. All cats look cute but not all cats are sleek and the colour of macaroni cheese!
THREE: Tell a story in a poem.
FOUR: Use your imagination. Invent your pet. Or use a real pet and invent something about it. Your poem can leap and bound in any direction you want.
FIVE: Memory. Go scavenging for a fascinating memory about your pet cat or dog (or someone else’s).
SIX: Use humour. It might be all the way through or saved until the last line! You choose!
SEVEN:Mood can be like the poem’s heart beat. Sometimes it is a challenge to write a sad poem without ever using the word sad. Or happy. Or mad. Other times those are the words you want to use. You choose!
EIGHT: Poem forms are like poem houses. They have rules but you can always PLAY with the rules. There are so many forms. Haiku, sonnets, acrostic, limericks. People write whole books about them.
NINE: I love how poems can surprise me. It might be the word you choose. What happens. The first line. The last line. What you don’t say. What you put next to something else.
TEN:Layers are fun. Poems have a truckload of things going on. Maybe everything above without realising it. I don’t think about it when I write a poem, but later I might see I have used my ears and eyes, my heart and mind. It makes me feel good when I write a poem, and writing a poem is always a mystery! It is a discovery. It is a hot air balloon ride. It is archaeology. It is a road trip. It is what you want it to be. No rules. Or you can use rules! The important thing is you enjoy writing it, and maybe you will discover a little something about words, yourself, and the world.
🦮 have FUN 🐈⬛
Deadline: 28th May
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget to include: name, age, year, name of school
Put CAT or DOG POEM in subject line so I don’t miss it.
I will read at end of May and post a few favourites. It’s not a competition but I will give a few books away.
The Lighthouse Princess, SusanWardell, illustrated by Rose Northey, Picture Puffin, 2022
Susan Wardell (author) and Rose Northey (illustrator) are a match made in heaven. The Lighthouse Princess is the most scintillating picture book I have read in ages. The first page offers an inviting scene. The pared back opening sentence set me daydreaming about how it might unfold into story.
“The princess lived in a tower by the sea.”
Rose’s illustration holds me all through my morning coffee and my chocolate pastry before I turn the page. First the crumpled paper ocean, then the floating curiosities: a boat with a goldfish bowl, another setting sail with a tree. The lighthouse tower bends like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, upon a bed of rocks with flowers and seals and cascading water.
The princess lives alone in the lighthouse tower, looking after the light that keeps ships safe, and finds fascinating things to fill her day. And then something happens. Out of the blue. Out of the storm.
And I refuse to spoil the book by telling you what happens next!
Each page is a picnic spot of delight, the words reverberate and the illustrations gift intricate visual layers.
This is a story of filling a day, of finding ways to be content, whether alone or with friends. It is a story of light and lightness. Above all, it is a story of friendship.
The Lighthouse Princess is an altogether breathtaking heartwarming exquisite hug of a book. Sublimely written. Sublimely illustrated. I adore it.
Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand. She lives by the harbour, and teaches at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. Alongside academic writing Susan publishes in a variety of creative genres. Her poetry, micro-fiction, book reviews and literary essays have been published in a variety of journals throughout Australasia, and won several awards. Her first picture book for children, The Lighthouse Princess, was selected for the 2021 Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration.
Rose Northey is a Takapuna-born, Wellington-based illustrator and poet. She spent her childhood sketching animals with her grandfather and mother, doodled her way through an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and after three years in Product Development Engineering tried her luck at a creative career. At first Rose focused on performance poetry, but one day, when her domestic flight was delayed, she sketched other waiting passengers and rediscovered her joy for drawing. She is the current champion of the Going West Writers Festival Poetry Grand Slam. Rose won the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration in 2021, producing illustrations for The Lighthouse Princess.
Poems are like the sky. Every sky view and every poem shows new lights, new cloud patterns, changing moods. Poets have been writing cloud poems for centuries, and we have been gazing into the sky since the year dot.
This month I have picked a few poems to show how poems can dance and sing in multiple ways. Just like the clouds.
I am sending a book to Tom, Ana and to Scarlet.
I am a big fan of imagination in poems. You can step off from real things and see where your words will lead you. I loved Tom’s poem because it surprised me. It’s not a bouncy castle, it’s bouncy candy floss! And somehow he carries us from melting chocolate to a comfy bed. Genius. I loved Ana’s poem because she imagines what it is like from the point of view of a cloud. And her poem goes full circle! Sublime.
Inside the cloud is melting chocolate. Inside the melting chocolate is bouncy candy floss Inside the bouncy candy floss, Is a warm comfortable bed.
Tom, age 7, Y3, St Andrews
Clouds Live With Us
Clouds in the sky They smell like peppermint They hear us talk They see us live They can touch the horizon They can taste the fuel from an aeroplane Clouds in the sky
Ana, age 8, Westmere School
I also love humour in a poem. Humour can make you laugh out loud but it can also be a quiet smile. Cooper’s poem made me smile. The poem is imaginative. The ‘nose’ line made me smile and it got me thinking how clouds look like all kinds of things. Ah! The idea of a pet cloud! Amber’s poem also made me smile as I loved the idea that she is so loud she would never be able to hear a cloud anyway! Two double brilliant quiet smile poems.
Do you have a Pet Cloud?
Could go as grey as an old rusty car Love goes all around the big blue sky Or a white bump, bigger than a book Us and clouds are not the same Does a cloud have a nose? Soft and white all over
Cooper D Age 8 Westmere School
I’m loud But not clouds They stay quiet They’re soft and fluffy. I’ve never heard a cloud Because they’re quiet And I’m loud.
Amber P, 7 years old, 3, St Andrew’s College Preparatory School
Sometime poems are like miniature stories. I love the way Sonia’s poem is full of cloud characters that come alive with strong detail. I also like how she has added in some cloud terms for an extra layer of interest. Brilliant!
The clouds are kittens playing in the sky Batting at the sun through it’s way too high Jumping and tumbling little and light All through the day and into the night
A dragon snakes through the sky Rainbows glittering in his eye Morning sun turns scales gold He sings his song a tale so old
Antelopes jump on cumulus clouds Their heads turn to the sun bowed They land on altostratus fields In the moonlight, their horns shine like steel
Songs run like cirrus through hearts Staring all day watching clouds change and restart The moon smiles the stars grin Natural beauty like this is very slim
Sonia, age 12, Y8, Selwyn House School
Physical detail and strong similes can make a poem come alive! Liliana has packed terrific detail in her poem. I loved imagining the ballerina cloud. My head is bursting with cloud pictures after reading her poem. Scarlett has also packed sublime cloud detail in her poem. The similes are fresh and surprise me. Every word is carefully chosen and adds to the cloud images. Each line also sounds wonderful. Try saying: ‘whirlwind gusts’ and ‘sugar spun pink’. Genius! Both poets have used ears and eyes to produce standout cloud poems.
Colourful, depending on the time of day Light and full of air Over the ground and the tallest buildings Up, up, up in the sky, higher than the Sky Tower Dancing like a beautiful ballerina Soft and fluffy as sheep’s fleece.
Liliana Age 8 Westmere School
Ghosts in the sky Haunting the sun, overshadowing the world Grappling at the paint doused sky Being whisked away by the whirlwind gusts
Sunsets powdered with a sprinkle of fog Mist clinging to the ground, sugar spun pink Islands In the sky Kites scattered like sprinkles
Scarlett, age 12, Y8, Selwyn House School
Poems can be simple like my cloud photo above, or knotty and thick with fascinating sounds and ideas, moods and images. I love layers in poems! All the poems I have picked have more than one thing to admire. Check the sound. Check the images that unroll. There may a terrific slice of something real or an imagination bounding. I am finishing up with Rebecca’s poem which imagines, invents, and has used ears and eyes in its making. Wonderful!
Sheep in the sky
Sheep clouds jump about the sky with no care in the world. Occasionally one turns black, and the shepherd shears them all, and down below we see it fall and call it rain and snow.
Rebecca F, Age: 8, Selwyn House
I had such fun reading all the poems you sent me. i hope you try my May challenge (up this week). Read my tips and starting point and play with what a poem can be or do.
Elsie reading to students at South Brighton School
Kia ora tatou e hoa mā,
We are thrilled to announce that the Elsie Locke Writing Prize is coming to Toitoi in Term 2, 2022! The prize commemorates Elsie Locke’s life and career as a writer, historian and activist.
The Writing Prize is offered by the Elsie Locke Memorial Trust. It provides a wonderful opportunity for young writers ages 5-13 to develop an original piece of writing for publication inspired by New Zealand history and Elsie’s work for peace, the environment, women’s issues, and our community.
Submissions can be any writing on a topic – past, present or future – that you think would have been of interest to Elsie. For example: personal narratives, poems, articles, essays, speeches or plays. The winner will receive $250 and their story will be published in Toitoi 29. They will also receive a copy of Toitoi’s latest hardback publication – Jillion 2.
Email your writing to email@example.com by July 8, 2022 and include your name, age, school and a parent or teacher’s name and contact details. Check out the submissions guidelines here, then take the leap! We can’t wait to hear from yo
Elsie Locke was a writer, broadcaster, social historian, environmentalist, and an activist for peace and civil rights. She campaigned for women’s rights, nuclear disarmament, social justice, and the environment. Learn more about Elsie’s life here.
Elsie was also a writer. She wrote stories and books about New Zealand and its history for children and for adults, and enjoyed writing by young people as much as writing for them. Elsie was a contributor to the School Journal for more than 40 years. Learn more about Elsie’s life here.
Elsie learned to speak te reo Maori as an adult and used her analytical skills to support iwi to research the history of their land. She was also a keen tramper and swimmer, and brought up four children. See some photos from Elsie’s life here.
The Other Sister, Philippa Werry, Pipi Press, 2021
Philippa Werry is one of my favourite New Zealand children’s authors. She is a fan of history and many of her novels take you back into the past. You get to experience historical events, characters and places that are so vividly detailed you feel you are there too. It is as though you are hiding behind the curtains witnessing a scene. It’s important, this rich research-dependent detail, but I am even more drawn to the way the past is reviewed in new lights. A trip to the past can reconsider how girls are shaped, how people of colour are treated, how damaging ideas are circulated. How individuals can make a difference.
Philippa’s most recent novel, The Other Sister, is set in 1920 after the end of World War One. It is sumptuous in detail and and resonates with refreshing lights. Tilly Thomas is about to go to secondary school. It is the beginning of a new decade and she wants to do ‘something remarkable’. But she has no idea who she is and how she wants to be in the world. Expectations for girls in 1920 were not what they are in 2022. Back then, marriage and babies was their chief destination.
I wished there was a map to follow, or a path, like the way I walked to school. I wished I knew that when I got to this intersection, this would happen, and when I crossed that road, I’d be up to that stage. The future’s so invisible. The Principal told us there were all these new opportunities waiting for us, but how would we know where to find them?
In her endnote, Philippa says the female characters are some of her favourite heroines. And I can see why. I love these young girls stretching into knowledge and new experiences, finding empathy. Tilly, of course, but also her sister Beaty, her best friend Olivia who lives in an orphanage, Ingrid, Molly, to name a few.
Even though the war had ended, the world was not the same. The sharp grim edges of war were brought home by soldiers – there were the wounded and there were the dead. The war was carried back on scarred bodies, in the troubled hearts and minds of the young men, and this heavy luggage affected friends and families. At the weekends, Tilly works in a nursing home with wounded men. At first she finds it tough. But she draws closer and closer to the residents and their stories, and it opens life wider. Education, as her school principal indicates, occurs in all kinds of ways. It is book learning, but it is so much more.
As I hide and observe from the nooks and crannies of the novel ( I am so embedded in it!), I take such comfort in seeing a young girl grow in strength and wisdom. To see her question racism and sexism. She is friendly with Jim Lee, a Chinese delivery boy, and despises the way others treat him. She becomes best friends with Ingrid, a German girl, and despises the way she is treated.
I love this intricately crafted, exquisitely written, entertaining book, that brims with warmth, humanity, insight. With life! I love how Tilly looks up to her older sister (she was the town’s first telegram girl in wartime), and is then able to find her own directions, her own self belief. In 2022 we live in a precarious time. Back then, there was the flu pandemic, and now we have Covid. We still witness and experience unspeakable racism, sexism, genderism, global hunger, a threat of war, actual wars. I am thinking too of the online misogyny directed at our Prime Minster (and other women MPs) because she is a woman. These things overwhelm and feel unspeakable, yet we must speak them.
We must speak the past in new lights in order to speak and address the present. Philippa’s sublime and enriching novel does exactly this. It is a book of now as much it is a book of then. I love it so much.
Philip Werry lives in Wellington with her family. She was born in Auckland, went to school in Wellington, Auckland and New Plymouth. She wrote poems and stories from the age of six, some of which were published in The Evening Post. She studied Greek and English at university, travelled, trained to be a librarian, got married, travelled some more. Her writing has been published in the School Journal and her novels include The Telegram, Enemy at the Gate, The Lighthouse Family and Harbour Bridge. She has also written the nonfiction book: Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story.
For centuries poets have written cloud poems. I will never grow tired of the way clouds drift in and out of poetry. They can be the star of a poem or a passing shadow. They can add mood. They can add to a scene. They can add mystery. They can add beauty.
From my kitchen table, I have an excellent view of clouds bustling to and fro, from the Tasman Sea to the Waitākere Ranges. Sometimes they sit and sleep like tiny cloud islands above our bush. They surprise me and delight me. I watch them every day!
For April, I challenge you to write a cloud poem. Clouds (or a cloud) might be the star of your poem, or clouds (or a cloud) might have a bit part. Over to you!
I will read all the poems at the end of the month and choose a few favourites to post. It is not a competition but I will give a few books away as I love giving books away.
Tips and starting points
Draw a cloud then fill it with as many cloud words as you can. Think colour, texture, movement, shape, size. What do they remind you of? Use some of your words to kickstart a poem. Or any of the ideas below.
Find some cloud facts and use one to launch a poem.
Tell a cloud story in the form of a poem.
Write a poem as though you are the cloud. From its point of view!
Make a concrete cloud poem (or shape or picture poem). Use some poem lines or cloud words to make the shape of a cloud (or clouds).
Make a pattern poem with your cloud words. Listen to the sound your pattern makes. Does it make your ear HAPPY?
Make a cloud pattern poem that pleases your EYE!
Let your imagination go running with clouds! Who knows what will happen in your poem. It will be a poem discovery.
Go outside and describe the clouds you see in a poem.
Base your poem on a cloud experience.
Make a cloud list poem.
Add another character to your cloud poem. What or who will it be?
Go hunting for cloud similes. Which ones put a smile on your face?
Say your poem out loud and see if there is anything you want to change.
Try not to send the poem the day you write it. Read it the next day or even the next week and see which bits you might want to tweak.
Deadline: 26th April
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget to include: name, age, year, name of school
Put CLOUD POEM in subject line so I don’t miss it.
I will read at end of April and post a few favourites.