August 25th was National Poetry Day this year, and it landed at LPHS with some potency.
Year 12 student Charles Ross was named the winner of not one but two national poetry competitions, achieving a very distinctive and impressive duo to celebrate the day.
Te Ptahi Tuhi Auaha o te Ao | The International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) holds the National Schools Poetry Award annually for Year 12 and 13 students. Charles’ poem The New Year was chosen as one of nine finalists for the top ten poems this year.
The overall winner and nine finalists all received cash and prizes for their poems, as well as attendance at an exclusive masterclass with leading New Zealand poets at the IIML on Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington’s Kelburn campus. This proved to be an incredibly rich reward, as more poetry was shared and created in this dynamic and celebratory space. Read all the winning poems here.
Early into period two on August 25th, Charles was also greeted with more news of success, as they were selected as the winner of the Year 12 section of the Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Competition, organised by Massey University. Editor and judge Tracey Slaughter commented on Charles’ poem as showing a: ‘Strong, open, involving voice with relaxed, graceful tone and a fresh contemporary feel, drawing the reader into a clearly lit scene.’ She was especially struck by the line: ‘bright citrus slices of light/ that create bold shadows on my wall because my friend’s father sold the curtains’.
Charles’ winning poem, Hikaroroa, will be published in the 2023 edition of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook along with the other first-place selections, and each poet and their school will also receive a copy of the book. Read all the winning poems here.
Both competitions are popular and aspirational events, making the calibre of poetry particularly impressive and offering us new ways of seeing both the old and new worlds. LPHS could not be more impressed with Charles’ success.
The New Year
to the very end of the beach’s curve,
to the rock tipped great wide wingspan,
the finish of the pale stretch of sand.
We set out
the line gripped in my hand
drawn by the promise
of the capture of a meal.
I untangle my line
along with my thoughts
it’s a chase
it’s a wait
then it’s a pull pull pull
evasive, slick, slippery but
it carries the dark
of the ocean on its skin
but I’m probably imagining the depths
in its eyes.
A body heavy as rain.
I stick my knife into its gills
one more jerk then it stills,
its body and a feeling of guilt
under my hands.
My needs are simple
I think I should stick
to that more often.
Back at the hut
scales come off easy, and pile up
fresh white flesh spits back from the pan,
well-fed smiles in the dark
there is no other way
I would rather have seen in the new year.
Inspired by Mary Oilver
If you get the right few firm friends
together talking in a kitchen
maybe there’s religion in that.
I’ll try to pray
by watching the geese fly overhead
from where I am
on the porch with my friend
as she has her morning smoke
in the fresh air
by gazing out at Hikaroroa, remembering
that this rounded peak
six hundred and sixteen metres
high on the horizon
had its name long before the Reverend James
ever set foot on this soil.
I’ll sit in the red lazy-boy chair with my feet up
running my fingers over the blackened holes in the left arm rest
from when my friend’s Nana used to chain-smoke
in this lounge
before she died
and we’ll pretend this space is the confessional:
“It has been good to be here with you both”
I place my thoughts down
and wait to see how they are received.
“Then stay, move in” she says to me
“You really could, if you want” he echoes her
so I hang my keys on their spare hook as a joke
but hey, what the hell,
I could get used to this.
The roundabout walk to the beach feels like a pilgrimage
with the sun lowering
casting our shadows longer and longer
and the grapes that we steal
to share along the way
and how it ends as it does
with our stock-still group
staring out at the sea
as its surface sprays up
slamming the pillars of rock
that rise up on this still sunny side of the pa.
We make it back by evening to dance around the hazy lounge
to the dumbest songs,
and one friend says
“It’s so f-cking funny how you’re all going so hard to this sh-t I f-cking love you guys”
in one breath
from where she’s sitting on the couch
a glorified single mattress.
I can wake at six and wait
for the sun to rise at seven
and experience something similar
or akin to ascension
while watching the low hanging morning sun
come through the grapevine
bright citrus slices of light
that create bold shadows on my wall
because my friends father sold the curtains
I enjoy witnessing each day
as it approaches and recedes
watching the sun rise and the sky expand at night
stars lurking and emerging
and there, too, is religion
felt in that mundane vigil.