Monthly Archives: May 2013

The first fabulous poetry competition for children

Thought you might like an update on the big poetry competition.

I am still reading the entries — there are hundreds.

I will let the winning schools know by the end of June and I will post the details on Poetry Box.

In a competition of this size this is the way it is usually done.

You will have to wait to read the winning poems in the book when it comes out.

I will however post my other favourites on Poetry Box over time.

There are some schools and classes that have sent in some terrific writing so I do want to showcase this.

It has been wonderful reading the poems so thank you!

Warm regards


This Week on NZ Poetry Box: Remember when Nana and Granddad


Last week I read a wonderful book which made me change what I was going to do on Poetry Box this week. I read A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik (Scholastic 2013) and got caught up in another time. Melinda wrote the story of her father and his family when he was twelve. They had been forced to leave Poland and go and work in a Russian labour camp round about the time World War II was starting. They had to leave behind almost everything and live in a place that was tough, freezing and had hardly any food. Melinda used her father’s notebooks to help write the story. I loved the way this children’s novel opened a window wider on time when terrible things were happening in the world (unfortunately they still are).

So I thought it would be really great to set a challenge that involved two things: memory and our grandparents or our parents. It is time to go hunting for their memories and turn them into little poems (see below).

This week on NZ Poetry Box it’s all about memory. On Monday I will set you a memory challenge, on Tuesday I will give you some sizzling memory-poem tips and starting points, on Wednesday it is time for poetry play so we will think backwards, on Thursday I am posting an interview with one of my favourite children’s poets, Peter Bland, and on Friday I want to play with CAPITAL letters.

The Poetry Challenge:   

I challenge you to ask an older relation (Mum or Dad or Nana or Granddad) about a memory they have from their childhood. It might be something that happened to them and it might be funny or sad or exciting or interesting. It might be a memory that shows how things were different when they were young. This challenge can come through a school, a writing group or an individual child. I am excited!

It might help to write down words as your relative shares their memory. You could visit them or telephone them or write them a letter or email them. You might have to ask them questions to get them to talk more about their memory.

You have until June 13th (nearly three weeks) to do this challenge, because I am really excited about it (I want to do this challenge!)!

I will give you tips, and starting points during the week (especially tomorrow.

Send to Include your name, age, year and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email address if you like. This is of course also open to home-schooled children.

There are two prizes. An older child (up to Year 8 or 9) will get a copy of A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik published by Scholastic NZ in 2013.

A younger child will get a copy of The Song of the Ship Rat (2013) by the fabulous Ben Brown and Helen Taylor thanks to Scholastic NZ. This book, with Helen’s gorgeous illustrations and Ben’s sizzling words, is full of the memories of a rat at sea.


Poetry Play is Going Backwards

Now that we are in the mood for memory poems I have thought of a mini challenge for you all!

Some of you are busy talking to older people so you can find a memory for a poem.

But what about you? Sometimes when I have visited schools I have asked students to think back to early memories. Think back to before you started school. What can you remember?

What is your earliest memory? You could do this if you are in Year 2 or Year 8 and anywhere in between!

Find one of your earliest memories.
Make a list of words about it. See how many words you can find.
Sounds? Weather? Things? Details?

You don’t have to write it all.

Play with the words on the line.

Listen to how each word and each line sounds.

Give your poem a title.

Send to Include your name, age year and name of school. You can include the name of your teacher and email address if you like.

Poetry Tips and Starting points: Memory is poemagic

I am very excited about this challenge.

Now that you are on the hunt for a childhood memory of your grandparent or parent here are some ideas to help you search:

Ask some of these questions to help find the memory for your poem.

Did you ever see anything that got in the newspaper or on tv?
Did you ever see anyone famous?
What was different when you were little? At school or at home? Food? Transport? Toys? After school time? Holidays? Clothes?
Did anything funny ever happen to you? Or strange? Or exciting? Or scary? Or kind?

Sometimes the best memories are very ordinary. I loved talking to Great Nana about her life as a girl. I think the memories of old people are like little treasures and poems are a great way to keep them safe.

Some tips for memory poems:

Stick to one memory.
Or make a list poem of all the things that were different.
Put real things in your poem to make it come alive.
Hunt for things you see or hear or smell.
You don’t have to fit everything in.
Your poem might flow like a conversation. The words might match the way you talk.
Your poem might flow like a little story.
Find words that shine on the line.
Use some of your Nana’s (or Granddad’s) words in the poem.
How many words will you put on the line?

Jelly, Clouds, Leaves, Crash! The story-poem winners on Poetry Box

Thank you for sending in all your story poems. I had fun reading them! Thanks to Gecko Press these young writers will each get a copy of Friends by Joy Cowley (illustrated by Gavin Bishop).

ViewImage  ViewImage   ViewImage   ViewImage

These are three of my favourites (keep sending in poems!).

This is the first poem Gus has sent in and he has let his imagination go flying by wondering what it would be like if the whole world were made of jelly. The setting is a big part of this story. It seems like a great starting point for other poems. What else could the whole world be made of (give it a go!). There are some great words in here: wobble, grazed, jiggling, pohutakawa. This poem sounds good when you read it aloud. Fabulous job Gus!

If Everything Was Made of Jelly
If everything was made of jelly
I would eat everything in the house.
I wouldn’t get hurt if I was jumping on the bed —
I would bump my head on the jelly ceiling.
When I put my feet in my boots
they would wobble.
I would never get a grazed knee again

if everything was made of jelly.

If my scooter was made of jelly
I’d ride it while jiggling.
If a paper plane was made of jelly
the ground would wobble when the plane hit it.
I’d eat the pohutukawa tree.

I’d eat everything in the world.

Gus, Year 3, aged 7, Gladstone Primary School

Sylvia has sent in lots of poems to Poetry Box, but this is the the first time she has won a prize. She sent in three story poems, all a little bit different.  I have picked two to post. She always tells me something about the poems she has written. The first one she made up when she saw ‘the pink clouds of sunrise,’ and the third one was based on a true experience. The first poem shows so beautifully how something we see everyday (clouds) can be a stepping stone for our imaginations. Sylvia has used some gorgeous phrases: the dust pink clouds, the out tips of the clouds. And I like the ending. Great job!

Sky Ships

As the morning comes

dusty pink clouds suddenly appear out of nowhere

like a band of flying ships

making its way


They come each morning

and pick up people,

people who have been deprived

of a good life here,

and on that ship of pink dust

there is a girl called Swing.

She has blonde hair

and black clothes.

She sways on the out tips of the cloud,

careful not to go through.

She is going somewhere

somewhere special

somewhere nice

somewhere that is not


Sylvia’s second poem has a great rhythm. The short lines work really well. I like the way she pays attention to the world and bends over to look at these leaves. This is exactly what we do as poets; we bend over and stretch up to look at the world more closely and then go hunting for words to show what we see and feel and hear on the page. I also like the ending of this poem. I loved the way the arrival of dad means we have to leave too! Awesome job Sylvia!

In the Bright City Lights

I dance at night

It makes me feel happy

Night is exciting

I walk through the street

Trying not to skip

When I stop by a fountain

There are two little leaves

Sitting wet on a seat

I turn one over

To see if it’s the same underneath

It is dark with wetness

I turn it over and leave it there to dry

And once this is done

I feel obliged to do it to the

Other one

From somewhere

Little wisps of music catch my ears

Faint but there

Magic music

That makes me want to dance in the night

In the bright city lights

By the pretty mosaic fountain

And overturned leaves

The bubble in my chest

Is now about to pop

When Dad calls me

I sigh

And leave

Sylvia aged 12, Year 8, Parnell District School

Ewen has also sent in lots of poems (and won several prizes). This story poem has action and it has atmosphere. She has found terrific words to set the scene with such wild weather. Her rhythm helps with that too. I held my breath as I read it. Great job Ewen!

A Cold Autumn Afternoon

In the chilly weather
a leaf blown by a southerly wind whipped in my face
pushing me backwards.

A hint of fear crept up my spine

and the next thing I knew …

I was collapsing onto the ground
the wind was brushing against my face

as I struggled to stay standing.

I was slipping on the damp concrete
and landing elbows first into a murky puddle

as the storm crashed violently.

I was lying still and shaken
thinking and thinking

as my body ached.

I was freezing
listening to silence

as a tear and a drop of red trickled down my face.

I was exhausted
hoping it never happened
but you can’t wind back the clock.
Ewen aged 10, Year 6, Fendalton Open Air Primary School

say cheese and bananas on Poetry Box

Sylvia from Parnell District school sent me this poem ages ago and I really like it (guess what they say when they have their photo taken!). She is Year 8.  She told me this:

It is based on memories from when I was little. The part about taking a photo was because my nanny, Liz, always got us to say “Cheese and Bananas!” rather than just plain old cheese. It also meant that when I first started school and they told everyone to say cheese, everyone would say “CHEESE” and I’d be left saying, “AND BANANAS”. Anyway I hope you like my poem.

Cheese and Bananas

Eating carrots
and apples
cut up in squares
watching a movie
and when taking a


Your bubbles and nursery rhymes on Poetry Box

I love the way some of you search back through the mini challenges and send in poems. Thank you! It is never too late to do this.

Madeleine sent this poem from Gisborne. She is in Year 8, aged 12 and goes to Campion College. I like the Madeleine has combined action with objects. Each line has a great rhythm and you get a real sense of the swimming occasion. Great job!

Bubble bubble

Shoulders arms hands

Pull through the water

Kick kick


Breath blow out

Roll your body


Glide across the top

Dive to the bottom

Flip at the ends


Tight rubber cap

Tight fitting goggles


Pull buoys


Drills breast stroke back stroke free style

Dolphin dives

Flutter boards noodles


Bubble bubble

Shoulders arms hands

Pull through the water

Kick kick
Mrs McRobbie teaches Year 6 at Ohaupo School and sent in these playful nursery rhymes that two students in her class wrote. Amy and Lucy have mixed and matched things as you will see! It was fun to read them.

Incy wincy spider
went up the bumpy hill,
got a pail of water
and splashed it on Jill.

Humpty had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb.
Humpty had a little lamb
that was very fat.
It was so greedy
it had a tummy ache.

Twinkle twinkle
little black sheep,
one for the star
and one for me.

Humpty and Jill,
went up the rocky hill
to get a basket of eggs.
On the way down Humpty
tripped on his crown,
and tumbled down
and cracked his head

By Amy and Lucy 10 years



Poetry Box Suggestion Box

Back from my book launch in Wellington. It was a great adventure with lots of surprising action.

If I were to write a poem (my iPad just turned ‘poem’ into ‘oboes’!) about it, it would be a very busy poem with lots of strange events!

Flying home I thought it would be good to have a suggestion box on Poetry Box. So today is suggestion box day. I have a notebook filling up with ideas, but I would like to hear from you.

Is there an NZ author you would like me to interview?

Is there a poetry book you would like me to talk about?

Is there a poetry tool you would like me to give tips on (I do have lots planned for this year!)?

Is there a theme or topic you would like to see?

Do you have a cool challenge or idea for a competition (I have heaps but would love to see what you come up with)?

Is there anything else you would like to see?

What about letters? We could have a letter day?

Alarm clock poetry challenge

I am in Wellington. Last night I had a lovely launch for my new book. So it is time for me to head back home and get back to work on the children’s poetry anthology. Time to get back to reading all your fabulous entries. It’s a huge job so you will have to be patient.

In the middle of last night(10 to 3) in my hotel room the alarm went off and woke me up. I couldn’t find the light switch or the clock and couldn’t figure out to turn it off. Ten minutes later it did it again.

It gave me the idea for a poetry challenge. I first pictured a little poem with an alarm clock going off in the middle of the poem. But I also thought it could be quieter! I like the idea of a poem with a little surprise in the middle. It might be a change, a surprise, an unexpected word or thing or change. It might be something that is not what you first thought … Or a mood change.

Have a go at an alarm-clock poem and send it to Include your name, age, year, name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email if you like. Have fun.

Here is the poem I wrote in my head at 3 am:


I am following the path
up the hill, steep, steep.
I am following the girl
to the wounded animal
turning the page
of Mortal Fire
turning the page
not sure what
will happen next.
Then from between ‘the’
and ‘path’ a little
black ant scurries off
the edge of the book,
and I follow the girl
back down the hill
puffing, puffing
to get help.

PS Mortal Fire is Elizabeth Knox’s new novel to be published by Gecko Press in June.

Poetry Play Pick ‘n Mix

When I was at the festival I heard an author from Britain say she liked to write a list of heaps of things she was interested in and then try and put them in a novel. It sounds a bit like a join-the-dots picture as she wanted to link the things up.

I thought it would be fun to write a poem like this. Think of five things you like and then try and put them all in a poem.

I thought of water, chocolate, fountain pen, windows, kereru and then tried writing a poem (see below for my first go). It’s quite tricky  but its definitely fun! I had no idea where the poem was going to take off to.  

Have a go!  Send to paulajoygreen@ Don’t forget your name, age, year and name of school.

When I Was Young

When I was young

the bump on my writing finger

was covered in radiant blue ink

from my fountain pen,

and if I wasn’t careful my words

would end up floating

in a pool of watery blue.

I would look out the window at the kereru

and dream of hot chocolate

(we used to drink cocoa)

and the long walk home

up Maunu Road.