Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot … Poetry

Kim Hill had a terrific conversation with Patrick Ness on National Radio on Saturday. When asked that tricky question on what YA fiction is Patrick suggested that teenage fiction is fiction that is enjoyed by teenagers (or something along those lines). Which makes it gloriously open and gloriously real.

I have been pondering the same issue on what children’s poetry is (a highly pertinent question while I am editing an anthology of children’s poetry). As a writer, when I write poems for children that is always my primary audience. I want children to pick up my books and want to read them. If they do, game, set, match.

Poetry can ignite word sparks for children, even the most reluctant reader and writer, in ways that are utterly magical. Poetry can lead a child back to their own world and find surprising and wonderful pathways through. It can lead a child back into memory and it can take a child into the productive world of the imagination. It can do all these things and more, but what makes it such a tool for children is that it can render words delicious. Fat, squelchy, sour, sweet, sticky, gooey, melting, icy, hot. Words are the playground extrordinaire (to shift metaphors) when that playground is full of poetry beams and mats and jungle gyms and whirligigs.

So, yes, a children’s poem is a poem a child wants to pick up and read and then maybe but not necessarily have a go at writing their own. Other poets have other ideas on this of course and rightly so!

One of the biggest thrills I have is when a child comes up to me (or writes) and tells me they have loved one of my poems. This is bigger and better by far than awards or reviews or sales. I am sure other children’s authors will agree with me.

Spreading poetry

NZ Poetry Box is now two months old (give or take a day or two!). It is attracting masses of views from all round the world as well as from NZ which is really exciting. Wow! Thank you.

I am really keen for children to interact with the site and to send in things but it is much harder in the holidays when parents don’t know about it to the degree NZ teachers do. I will work harder on this in preparation for the next holidays so that younger poets can get help visiting the site and sending in writing and letters. I wondered if some schools could send home a piece in their newsletters and flag this as a place where children get feedback from an author. I write back to all the children who send in writing (manageable at the moment anyway!). I have a poster that I will get printed and put in bookshops and libraries. So please let me know if you know a good place to send some to.

The whole aim of my blog is to celebrate poetry writing for children and by children so I really appreciate all the teachers and young writers who have got involved. Thumbs up to you. I also appreciate the publishers who have contributed books as prizes. Thumbs up to you!

I have lots of ideas for the rest of the year including another bigger competition as well as all the little ones and the challenges.

So three cheers for poetry in NZ and around the world. Yeah!


Sylvia has a sparkle on NZ Poetry Box

Yesterday I curled up with a good book – Elizabeth Knox‘s new YA book (Mortal Fire, Gecko Press) which I am loving (it is out June 1st). I will be writing a review of it for The NZ Herald.

Thank you for all the entries for The Fabulous Poetry Competition for Children. The deadline is Tuesday but I plan to start reading them all on Monday. Exciting!

Meanwhile this week and next week I am posting children’s poems so thanks to all the Mums and Dads who are helping children find this site and interact with it. Check Friday April 19th post for details).

Today I am going to post a poem by Sylvia who goes to Parnell District School, is aged 12 and in Year 8. Sylvia wasn’t sure if this was a poem but I think it is. It is what I would call a prose poem – you could say a poem made up of sentences.  It is really inventive and thoughtful and surprising. It built an amazing picture in my head. Great job Sylvia!

Sylvia’s Prose Poem

I sit silently at the dinner table and watch my reflection in the window.

My red jumper definitely dominates the image.

And then I notice a little sparkle reflected on to my nose.

I find that if I turn my head, I can make the sparkle settle anywhere I want. After a couple

minutes of adjusting, the sparkle settles on my cheek, close to my nose.

Then I decide to investigate where the sparkle is. Looking past the window, the sparkle is

coming from a lighted room in a building.

I don’t know what building, but there it is, twinkling at me.

Maybe in that building is another little girl, one with a red jumper sitting on a chair staring at

a sparkle from another room with another girl.

Maybe we are all connected by these little sparkles.

And the next day, when I start my dinner, there is the little sparkle, waiting for me.

Ewen’s cloudy poem on Poetry Box

At the beach this morning there was a rainbow arching over the lifeguard tower, the water looked like the painting of Otira Gorge by Van der Velden and the rain was driving into my face. All was grey and wet and extraordinary.

So it seemed very fitting to post Ewen W’s poem. She goes to Fendalton Open Air School in Christchurch. She is Year 6 and is aged 10.

I started to play around with her last line as I walked along the beach this morning. I saw a pin hole of blue so could picture the sun. Then I started to play with the last line. What else might a cloud have or be? Ewen’s poem took me on a great word adventure. I do think last lines are great to play with when you are writing a poem as they can take the reader in so many different directions. Great job Ewen!


Puffs of candyfloss roaming the sky

tears leaking from the white

a ball of heat hiding behind the clouds.

It’s cold and miserable,

but remember every cloud has a silver lining.


Sarah Broome 1972 – 2013

Today I am going to the funeral of Sarah Broome. She was a terrific poet but she was also a terrific mother and wife, and so I am full of sadness along with many other people — those who knew her personally and those who knew her poetry. She had such strength and courage and aroha for the world.

I so loved her collection of poems Tigers at Awhitu. I am looking forward to her new ones that Auckland University Press are publishing later this year.

Today my thoughts are with Sarah’s family, and with all families who are going through tough times.

Arohanui,  Paula x



This week on NZ Poetry Box and Sylvia’s Hunger Games poem

After a night of lashing rain and crashing thunder it was a surprise to wake up to sun and stillness. I walked along the beach and shut my eyes to hear the world (I am doing a workshop with blind students soon so I keep doing this). The sea was mild – just licking the shore. There were squawking gulls, cheeping dottorel and beeping oyster catchers.

It is holiday time so I am keen to post poems and letters by children every day. See Friday 19th April post for some suggestions by myself and by Bill Manhire. But really — for the next two weeks Poetry Box is like a blank canvas on which you can write. This invitation is open for students up to Year 8. Send your writing to Include your name, age, year and name of school.

Happy days writing poems!

Sylvia O  goes to Parnell District School in Auckland. She sent me this poem with a little note whch I have included. I have read The Hunger Games trilogy and really loved each book so it was a delight to read this poem. I think it is really inventive (and well proof read!). I love the way she has used details from the story and I love the methods in her recipe. I am sure Suzanne Collins would be tickled pink to read this! Great job Sylvia!

Here is a recipe poem. I know you finished that ages ago, but I just wanted to send it to you anyway. My name is Sylvia O. I am a Year 8, age 12. Just in case you haven’t read the books I will explain a few things. Primrose and Rue were two characters Katniss loved in the books. Prim was her sister, and Katniss loved Rue like a sister. Katniss declared lamb and plum stew as her favourite thing in the Capitol which is why that’s there. And there are thirteen districts which is why I have made thirteen instructions. Okay, here it is, and I will thank you in advance for examining it:

The Hunger Games

MockingJay food-colouring
Three brutalities
Four cups of love
Five cups of sadness
Five cups of fighting
Six cups of stories and memories
One teaspoon of Rue
A dried primrose
1. Take the sadness and capture it by putting a cool surface near it. Take three drops of it to use for later. Then store the rest in the freezer so it condenses overnight.
2.Take one love and add three tea-spoons of water to it. Mix with a wooden spoon until it is fluffy. Add a teaspoon of Mocking-Jay food colouring.
3.Take the fighting and mix with the love until it is right through.
4. Separate the quotes from the stories and memories. Whisk the memories and stories then put into the love and fighting. We will use the quotes later.
5. Take the brutalities and crush to a very fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Put the brutalities into the Rue.
6. Take the dried primrose and crush it. Sprinkle it all over the Rue.
7.Then put it in the bowl with the love and mix.
8. Put it in the freezer and wait overnight.
9. The next morning, add the three droplets of sadness to the quotes.
10. Take out the sadness and the bowl. The hunger games inside the bowl would have turn into ice if it is ready.
11. Wash the contents of the bowl with the sadness.
12. Take out the quotes and put them in a small bowl for dips.
13. Eat. The Hunger Games tastes good with the quotes but not with every bite because then it doesn’t have any effect. Please also note that the Hunger Games tastes good with lamb and plum stew.

Mitchell’s winter poem is wild! Go Redcliffs School

I can’t wait until holiday time to post one of your poems so here is a poem by Mitchell. I don’t think I have ever written an acrostic poem in my life! I should give it a go because it looks like fun. Mitchell has been on the hunt for things that happen in winter. I love the way the trees are losing their leaves and we have to wrap up warm in bed to escape the cold (luckily the trees in my garden are natives so they don’t stand in our garden bare and shivering). Mitchell’s last line is full of lovely alliteration — it’s like a rugby ball is rrrrunning along the line! Magnificent job Mitchell!

Winter and acrostic poem

Wet and windy weather makes the wipers go
Icy roads are slippery, so we stay inside
Nippy noises start to run, nests were made in the sun
Terrible thunder and torrential rains, make the trees lose their leaves
Early evenings off to bed, escape the cold to wrap up warm
Rain drops rustle on rusty roof tops, running rugby’s what we want
By Mitchell aged 6 Year 2 Redcliffs School