Tag Archives: Kate De Goldi

Poetry Box celebrates a new anthology: Ben Brown, James Brown, Lynley Edmeades & Ashleigh Young read from Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip: Poetry, eds Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi, illustrations by Amy van Luijk, Massey University Press, 2021

Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, editors of the popular and best-selling Annuals, have edited a lively, much-needed and altogether stunning anthology of poems for middle and older readers. Kate and Susan commissioned ‘original, and sometimes rowdy poetry’ from a selection of well-known Aotearoa poets. The collection is shaped like a school year, with four terms, and with the poets both recalling and imagining school days. The poems are pitched at Y7 to Y10 readers, but will catch the attention of a range of readers. The subjects shift and spark. The moods and tones never stay still: you will move from fascination to eek! to warm glow.

Each poem takes a poetic form and follows the rules or bends them. Some of the poems are free verse (no rules) and some are written according to the rules of specific forms. There is a useful glossary detailing some of the forms at the back of the book (rondel, tanka, haiku, ode, cinquain, rondel, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, pantoum). There are also found, prose, strike-out and dialogue poems. A genius idea for a book that shows how you can follow poetry rules, break poetry rules, play with poetry rules. I especially love the way different forms change both the way a poem looks on the page and how a poem makes music.

In Skinny Dip, the makers of the best-selling Annuals bring you thirty-six poems for young readers from all the New Zealand writers we love: Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, Kōtuku Nuttall, Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft.

Through doing my poetry blogs, schools visits and author tours over decades, I have enjoyed poetry simmering and bubbling, somersaulting and sizzling, the length and breadth of Aotearoa. Poetry in my experience can excite the reluctant writer, advance the sophisticated wordsmith, and captivate all those writers in between. There are no rules, as Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ben Brown and I constantly underline, but rules are a useful addition to your poetry toolkit. Poetry forms are fun! Skinny Dip is terrific poetry handbook for readers and budding writers. It looks good, it is good to hold, and the Amy van Luijk’s illustrations are fresh additions.

Sadly, poem anthologies for younger and middle readers are as rare as hen’s teeth in Aotearoa, so it is a special day when a new one hits our library and bookshop shelves. Kate and Susan have curated a selection of poems that will fit all your moods, send you on new thought and writing paths, and will maybe inspire you to write a poem of your own.

Skinny Dip sparked my November challenge (posting November 2nd). In the meantime, four poets have recorded their fabulous poems for you to enjoy. I have listened to them several times already, because I engage with them in so many different ways. Have fun listening! Try my challenges in November.

The readings

Ben Brown reads ‘After the first instruction’ (free verse):

James Brown reads ‘Lunch Experiment’ (a cinquain series)

Lynley Edmeades reads ‘Waiting in the School office’ (a haiku series)

Ashleigh Young reads ‘At the pool with Epeli’ (ode)

The poets

Ben Brown, Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Pāoa, was born in Motueka in 1962. He’s been writing all his life, across all genres, and published his first children’s book in 1991. If pressed, he will have something to say about anything. He says his poem ‘After the First Instruction ‘ is about ‘getting your heart and mind and actions and spirit working together with the world.’ He reckons his children are his best work. He is Aotearoa’s first Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador.

James Brown lives in Wellington’s Island Bay, and enjoys reading and writing poetry. James’ Selected Poems is published by Victoria University Press. He also writes poems and stories for the School Journal, and has written English versions of books by Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers. ‘My Skinny Dip poems all involve following formal rules, which I like because rules push your imagination outside its usual boxes. That said, all writing involves careful listening and rewriting what doesn’t sound right.’

Lynley Edmeades lives in Dunedin with her partner and young son. Her most recent book, Listening In (Otago University Press), was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. When she’s not writing or teaching or playing in the sandpit, she likes to walk in the hills. She wrote her Skinny Dip poems in stolen moments, reimagining her own school days.

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington. Aside from writing and reading, she loves running, riding her bicycle, and swimming. ‘I’ve always marvelled at ultra-endurance athletes and wished I could be one, but I’m far too lazy to do the work. A while ago, I watched a great documentary about people training to swim the English Channel and all the friends and family who helped them do it. I realised that my character, Epeli, also wants to try something bigger like that — he wants to swim the Cook Strait. Unlike me, though, I think Epeli is actually going to to pull it off.’

Bios courtesy of Skinny Dip.

Massey University Press (Annual Ink) page.
Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris talk to Kim Hill
Read an extract at the The Spinoff
ReadNZ Q & A with Kate & Susan

The Gecko Press Annual is a sumptuous swirl and it got me puzzling (and there’s a challenge with a book voucher for you!)

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Annual edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, Gecko Press, 2016


(pitched at 9 to 12 year olds)


If I had opened the Gecko Press Annual when I was ten I would have jumped a jig of joy under the Christmas tree.

I would have loved the bright orange cover, the gold floating leaves and bird.

I would have loved the sumptuous swirl of words and illustrations inside that meant before I read I would have to do an awful lot of looking.


When I was ten, I would have wanted the Annual to last and last for a whole year. I wouldn’t have known what to read first. Probably the poems first and the activities second.


Now that I am way-old, I still need to look at the Annual for ages before I start reading it.

This is because the Annual is very very beautiful. It is a very special book.


There are three poems written by poets (Jenny Bornholdt, Tim Upperton and James Brown) who usually write adult poetry books. I am a big fan of their poetry. There is also a handful of ninja-rhyme poems by Michael Petherick. The poems are like chalk and cheese. They give you  different feelings as you read. One is thoughtful and slightly mysterious, one is madcap crazy and one is like a wonky funny found poem that is all made-up.

I find the whole question of children’s poetry fascinating -as you know! Some people say when you write a poem it should be for anyone – child or adult. This is a very popular point of view. Most poets I know think like this. I guess I feel like a fish out of water because when I write poems for children, my head fills with all the children in all the schools I visit and I feel like I am writing for them. As I write, I am wanting the words to be so infectious that children will want to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. They feel ALIVE with poetry.


p o e t r y   is a   wan   der     playground for children


When I write poems for adults, I write for myself first. I am not writing because I want adults to jump for joy and race out and read and write poems. I don’t think about the reader at all. It all seems very different and mysterious and puzzling.

… so the Annual got me thinking about writing poems … and where I fit as a poet


For the annual, the poets were given starting points for their poems – as everybody in the Annual was (a bit like I do on Poetry Box!). This what happens now for School Journals.

So it’s not a book where people send in what they have written – but a book where authors  (and comics, and illustrators and all the rest) are commissioned to do something in particular. I think that gives the Annual a particular feel. A special feel. Like an exhibition with a curator. Not a lucky dip.


There are so many different kinds of things in the Annual, it is like a magnificent magic box. You might fall upon a painting or a photograph or a comic strip or a very cool craft idea from the fabulous Fifi Colston.


My favourite story is from one of my favourite NZ children’s authors, Barbara Else: ‘Tingirl and the Crying Time.’ The story features Assistant Squint with apple stuck in his teeth, Madam Upright with a tooth that glinted silver and Tingirl who yearns to turn into a Realgirl. Oh so imaginative and deliciously written, it will make you think about robots in a whole new light. Wonderful! Gorgeous illustrations by Kieran Rynhart.


I also loved Paul Beavis‘s guide to visual storytelling. Do I want to give it a go? Yes!!!!


….. have I read the whole Annual? No! Have I tried all the activities? No! I am like that ten year-old girl because I want to make the Annual last and last.



I would love to post some reviews by children of the Annual.  Give it a go! send your review to paulajoygreen@gmail.com.

Include your name, year, age and school

Put Annual review in email subject line

I will have a book voucher for my favourite review and a copy of The Letterbox cat for another reviewer.

Deadline :  November 1oth

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

Book  awards can be nerve wracking times. My heart goes out to all those who didn’t get a gong and my delight goes out to all those who did. I was really impressed with the flurry of inventive activity that celebrated the shortlisted books throughout New Zealand. Bravo organisers!

I have read a number of the shortlisted books and I certainly had some favourites. Kate De Goldi generously answered some questions for Poetry Box ( May 19, 2013 — and I talked about what I loved about The ACB of Honora Lee). But I also loved Barbara Else‘s The Queen and the Nobody Boy. This is a book that is deliciously imaginative with exquisite detail. You enter the world of the book and you want to stay awhile! I really enjoyed Racheal King’s  Red Rock. This is like a beautifully written fable that is also grounded in the real world. David Hill‘s novel Mr Brother’s War won Best Junior Fiction and I was happy for David. His book takes you into the grip and guts of war in ways that are both complex and moving. It’s ages since I have read it — now I want to read it again ( I will publish one of David’s poems on Poetry Box sometime this year). I highly recommend all these books!

queen_0   my-brothers-war   whistler   melu-picture

AAhhh! Picture books. I love children’s picture books. And these two winners are heavenly. I have already flagged Mr Whistler on Poetry Box (March 28, 2013) — Gavin Bishop‘s lively illustrations and Margaret Mahy‘s brilliant story are a treat. This won best picture book. Later this year Kyle Mewburn is going to answer some questions for Poetry Box and I will share what I love abut his books. There is a poet lurking inside this fabulous storyteller that’s for sure. He knows what to do with words to make them sing and gleam. I was happy he won the children’s choice award. Well deserved!

A YA book won the top prize: ‘Ted Dawe’s book Into the River won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and was also the winner of the Young Adult Fiction category.  This engaging coming of age novel follows its main protagonist from his childhood in small town rural New Zealand to an elite Auckland boarding school where he must forge his own way – including battling with his cultural identity.’

Simon Morton and Riria Hotere won Best Non-Fiction with 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa. Will have to get a copy of this!

100-tales in-the-river

Now all the authors can get back to the real world of writing and reading and visiting schools and cooking dinner and driving children to school and feeding dogs and cats and walking on the beach or in the bush or up mountains and flying in aeroplanes and riding bikes and catching ideas and trains and going to the library and bookshops and watching movies and answering the phone and sending emails and posting letters.

This Week on Poetry Box

This week (unlike other weeks) I have no idea what I will post each day as I have so much on. Tomorrow I am flying to Wellington for the second launch of my book — and with a new book out  I am really lucky to have some interviews to do. It is always fun (and slightly scary) talking about what you have just written. I always hope I find the words to answer the questions because it is not the same as sitting at your computer typing away at your own pace (as I am doing now!) and a delete key at your fingertips. So an exciting week for me.

I have been at the Auckland Writers and Readers festival all weekend and I am full to the brim with new words and ideas and books to read. I got to hear Kate De Goldi read from The ACB of Honora Lee and that was such a highlight. The words make magic on the page and they most definitely make magic in the air.

Check out the interview she did for Poetry Box last week (Wednesday).

SO I am just reminding you ALL to have a go at a story poem ( a poem that has a little story in it about a place or a person or something that happened). You have until Thursday 23rd 6pm to send to me at paulajoygreen@gmail.com.

My second challenge this week is to give you another chance to interview me (it seems fitting in my week of interviews). It can be a class set of questions or an individual set. I have done this once with a class from Roydvale School so see if you can come up with some different questions. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com by Friday May 24th. I will post the interview next week.

Kate De Goldi talks about her first stories and more on NZ Poetry Box

Kate De Goldi writes the sort of books that inspire me to write. She has written for all ages and often her books are as good for grandmothers as they are for grandsons. Kate pays attention to the world. I think she must have a little backpack where she stores things she sees and hears and tastes as she travels through each day, and then when she is writing a story she goes rummaging for things that make her story come alive.

After the interview below I have set you all (children, teachers, other writers) a Kate-De-Goldi challenge.

Kate De Goldi Kate De Goldi

Kate also uses her ear when she writes because her sentences are delicious sound treats. Not all writers do this because some writers are more interested in plot (the order of things happening in the story). Kate’s words dance and weave and slip and sing just like the words of our other fabulous word magician, Margaret Mahy, do. Kate, then, is part poet as she writes.

Stories are more than things happening. Kate’s stories show us the importance of character, setting, and time — and hiding in these you will discover mood and ideas. Her stories make the real world more real so you get to feel something about something. I love that. I always feel like her story has taken me on an extraordinary expedition where I discover more about the world (and my own life!).

Kate lives in Wellington. Her books have won lots of awards — she has won the Esther Glen Medal and she is a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate.

You might like to check out two of my favourite books of hers (if you haven’t already).

The 10PM Question is the story of twelve-year-old Frankie. He is a bit of a worrier (to say the least!). Here is the first sentence of the book: ‘Tuesday the fourteenth of February began badly for Frankie Parsons.’ Kate has used her backpack and her ear and has written a story that is rich and loveable, wise and funny, at every turn. The book not only won the NZ Post Children’s Book of the Year, but was the People’s Choice in the adult book awards which is a first. (The 10PM Question Longacre, 2008)

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The ACB with Honora Lee is the story of Perry and her Gran. Kate’s words sing with invention, feeling, and what it is to be alive. She has taken a serious subject and made it hum with surprise, humour and good feelings. Perry’s Gran has dementia so Perry makes her an alphabet book as a present. The book follows the ups and downs and topsy turvy life of Gran.

This is the first (wonderful!) sentence of the book: ‘That summer there seemed to be a lot of bumblebees around.’ Gregory O’Brien has done terrific illustrations for it. This book is shortlisted in the Junior Fiction section in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards this year. The winners will be announced on the 24th June in Christchurch. (The ACB with Honora Lee Longacre 2012)

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The Interview. Kate has very kindly answered five questions for us. At the very bottom I have set you a Kate-De-Goldi challenge.

1.  What did you like to write when you were little?

I wrote stories first of all – usually imitations (or direct thefts) of fairy tales. I was enormously influenced by what I read – as I think most writers are – and the Brothers Grimm, Hans Andersen and the classic British folk stories were a large part of my early reading. I wrote stories that mixed up folk tale themes and characters with aspects of my own life (school, cousins, home) – for instance one story, The Christmas Tree Fairy, was about a fairy called Jean who hated Christmas (and therefore her job) so she flew away to… Timaru (my cousins lived in Timaru at the time)…I imitated a lot of the picture book stories I read too. When I was six I wrote a story which I can still remember by heart: ‘Harry did not like a bath. So he hid the scrubbing brush and ran away. When he got hungry he ran back home.’ (This is basically a precis of Harry, the dirty dog – one of my favourite books) Underneath I drew a picture of a dog with white spots (and only two legs. I can’t draw for peanuts).

When I was a little older (about 7…and on til I was about 16) I wrote a lot of plays – partly because I loved to be able to organise my sisters and cousins and classmates into parts. The School Journal was a big influence on me in this regard. In class we acted out SJ plays which was great fun. I wanted to make up my own dramas and have everyone act them…I liked being the director/producer/costumer as well as the writer. Thinking about it now, I realise that these plays were my first adventures in dialogue (I really enjoy writing dialogue in novels).

2. What else did you like to do in your spare time?

I was a pretty lazy child – physically, that is. I liked to read a lot and listen to story records and music. I wasn’t much good at ball sports (well, hopeless, actually), and I hated PE at school. (I’m less lazy now that I’m older – I like running). Much of my childhood was spent playing imaginary games with my sisters and cousins. (I have a lot of cousins – 42 – and many of them lived nearby). Our back yard was large – half an acre – and full of beautiful trees (it was the remains of an old orchard). The trees were all characters in our games. We had a most beautiful wattle tree that I named Anitra. Another tree was called Peter Pan. (I must have been reading Anne of Green Gables – she names a lot of trees and flowers). We lived in a crescent which was very safe and quite secluded so we played in the actual street a lot – in the gutters, I seem to remember. We went for long bike rides all over the suburbs – Christchurch is wonderfully flat and good for biking. My mother was a musician, so we sang songs a lot. When I was six I started learning the piano, then a little later the cello. For the next ten years or so I played music a lot of the time.

3. Do you have any favourite children’s books or poems?

I still have my favourite book of poems from childhood, The Golden Treasury of Poetry edited by Louis Untermeyer (I used to like saying that name). It’s a great collection of English and American verse with good mix of long narrative poems (‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, ‘The Highwayman’, for instance) and lots of shorter works – wonderful poems about animals, and many comic poems. It was a very good introduction to a variety of poetic voices. I liked acting out the narrative poems (especially ‘The Highwayman’) and learning the funny poems and the animal poems by heart…The book is wonderfully illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund – I’ve been thinking lately that illustrations and artwork were a very important part of my early reading – a visual accompaniment or elaboration of the stories or poems that have stayed part of my mental furniture.

Perhaps my favourite book as a child – at least for several years – was The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith. It was the first book I was conscious of owning. We used the library a lot, but when I was about seven my mother started buying us a lot of Puffin paperback chapter books and novels – this was one of them. I read it over and over again – still read it every couple of years. Beaut drawings in that, too.

4. Do you have three tips for young writers (5 to 12 year olds)?

How about: Firstly, read a lot – and read a variety of stories and poems. That’s basically how I learned to write – by reading – and, especially re-reading – other people’s stories. Without really noticing I developed a good vocabulary (I liked the look and sound of words). I learned how sentences were shaped. I learned about characters and plot. And I learned that you can write about anything. The many, many good books I read and re-read as a child somehow got into my very being and echo there still – in very helpful ways.

Secondly, I think it’s a good idea to actually writeas in, sit down (or lie down) and do some writing every day…and again, try a lot of different kinds of writing – poetry, story, drama, reportage…The more you write (and not all of it will be ‘good’ but it’s all important) the better you get at it…and – this is the really interesting part – the more you write, the more ideas you have, the more words and possibilities well up in you. I realise school students are extremely busy these days (lots of other activities)…but try and make time every day to read and do some writing.

Thirdly, be a noticing person. Be alert. Listen and look (and smell and taste and touch)…The world is strange and interesting and so are people. Notice what’s going on; ask yourself questions about it…that’s how writing starts usually, by wanting to explore curious or puzzling matters…

5. I really love the way your stories are full of poetry — particularly The 10 PM Question and The ACB with Honora Lee. If I say one of your sentences aloud it is a delicious treat for my ear. Your words dance and skip and weave and, like Margaret Mahy was, you are a word magician. How important is the sound of words when you write a story? 

The sound of words is probably the most important aspect of writing for me – the sound of words and the sound and shape of a sentence. I think this must be partly because of my background in music. A sentence feels to me like a musical phrase – I like it to be shapely and have a subtle rhythm. Words are a kind of music – I have always been attracted to the sound of a word, its feel on the tongue – even before I knew what it meant (say, quotidian, gymkhana, diabolical, osprey….). I think that’s why I like names so much (Christian names and surnames) – they sometimes have meanings – carry a history, you could say – (Fletcher, Cooper, Goldman, Forester, Veronica, Dominic…) but often they just sound wonderful (Penelope, Barney, Hepzibah, Broadacre, van der Merwe, Rigaldo, Ingelow, Untermeyer!). I get quite obsessed with names from time to time…for instance, years ago in Sydney I was introduced to a boy called Jetson Fawcet…and couldn’t stop thinking about his name for days.

 Thank you Kate!

Here is a Kate De Goldi challenge for you:

Take one of your favourite children’s picture books. Try writing a story poem where you mix a bit of that story with your own life (or cousins). Remember you aren’t writing a picture book, you are writing a poem so it can as short as you like and maybe no longer than 25 lines. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Don’t forget your name, age, year and name of school. Tell me the name of the picture book. I will post my favourites and find a prize for one or two of you (even the adults!). This seems such fun I think I will have a go at it too (maybe more than once!).