Give Words: ‘The Spanish Connection’



For all the winning poems go here

Report from judge, Charles Olsen:

It’s the hospice, the old provincial hospice.
A decrepit building with blackened roof tiles,
Where in summer in the eves swifts nest
And the caw of crows sharpens winter nights.’

– Opening lines of The Hospice, Antonio Machado (Translation by Charles Olsen)

This poem caught my attention as I was reading the Spanish poet Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla for the first time having just been awarded the III Antonio Machado Poetry Residency in Segovia and Soria in Spain, more of which later. So I decided to choose from it the five words for this year’s Given Words competition: decrepit, window, nest, cast and snow. Each participant had from the beginning of August until National Poetry Day 24th August to write a poem that included the five words. Over 120 poets of all ages took up the challenge so I had my work cut out making a selection of my favourites and deciding on the winners.

I find it interesting how the same five words can lead to such a diverse range of poems and I am particularly drawn to those where you hardly even realize the five words are there and also those where the words are not used in an obvious way. These are both true of the piece I chose for ‘Best Poem’, the peculiar Processional with it’s otherworldly use of the five words beginning with ‘the baying of nests’ and the sensations it leaves hanging in the air like the ‘decrepit forms’ in the wake of this quasi-religious funerary procession.


Here is Processional by Craig McGeady:



Matching coveralls and wide brimmed hats
three marching in funerary procession
heads bowed beneath the baying of nests
as if that for which they mourn
is yearning from the other side of silence.

The first balances a weed-eater on his shoulder
the second pushes a mower, the third
carries a broom of brambles, as they follow
a stoic path between turning trees
ignorant of the leaves that catch upon their brims.

They wade through waves of decrepit forms
whose flesh once echoed sunlight
while brethren maddeningly cling to bitter boughs
shaken by unceasing winds, announcing
winter on the verge of snow.

Their steps slow, time is a window to the past
the heady cast of sweat and stench
of nests before abandonment took hold
heavily, those final steps are taken
to darkened doors and the silence of home.


For ‘Best Poem by Under-16s’ I chose Seasons Poem which deftly sets the scene with all five words, opening with snow as a cast ‘keeping the broken bones of earth/while they heal’. Although, as in many of the poems sent in, a nest is a nest, a window is a window and snow is snow, each element has its own particular place in the story as it gently unfolds with the change of the season. This is Seasons Poem by Jemma Prileszky, aged 13:


Seasons Poem

winter is here
the snow today is like a big cast
keeping the broken bones of earth
while they heal
a decrepit bird’s nest sits in frost
at the base of a black tree
from the window, a boy sees three eggs
pale blue as a frozen sea
slowly freezing while the unknown bird
is away
he doesn’t want to watch
turns away
asks the air if mother will return
to save her children
spring is here
the cold shell of winter broken
life bursts from newly healed wounds
a black tree is no longer black
instead shimmers pink as its flowers
ruffle in the breeze
the boy wades through ankle-deep grass
boots shuffle
cicada hum
something cracks underfoot
carefully hidden by snow long-forgotten
at the tree’s base
lies the nest
icy ocean eggs have disappeared
along with the cold
something new here
besides the nest
surrounded by delicate spring snowdrops
an ivory skeleton
of the mother bird
she’d been there all along


It was a difficult task choosing just two winners and I encourage you to take time to read the rest of the selected poems on Given Words – they all contain the same five words but each has it’s own story to tell.

So now, as we get closer to autumn in Spain, I’m about to head off to start my residency in the Spanish cities of Segovia and Soria, where Antonio Machado lived and worked, looking for inspiration to write my own poems. Everyone is telling me to make sure I pack warm clothes because – although we like to think of Spain as a hot Mediterranean climate – it can get bitterly cold in the winter months and you realise why the old houses have stone walls over a metre thick and wooden window shutters to keep out the cold (as well as the baking sun). I will be sharing photos from the residency on Instagram: @colsenart, like the one above of the beautiful River Duero passing through Soria that I took during the book fair in August, and my plan is to spend time walking in the countryside and the cities, meeting people and taking time to paint and film alongside my writing. So, as well as finding inspiration in Machado’s descriptions of the Castilian countryside and the people who live there I’m sure something of the two poems above with their descriptions of the changing seasons and the way people interact with their environment will also stay with me during the residency. And I’m going to have a go with the five words myself…

About the winners

Craig McGeady is from Greymouth and lives with his wife and two daughters in Xuzhou, China. He is a teacher at the China University of Mining and Technology. His writing runs the gamut of length and form thanks to a homeroom teacher with a penchant for Michael Moorcock. Poetry first came to him in study classes in the small prefab classrooms on the fringes of Fraser High School in Hamilton.

Jemma Prileszky is a thirteen-year-old high school student. Her main interest and hobby is writing and she is always scribbling or typing; busy capturing new ideas. She has been attending The School for Young Writers in Christchurch for the past four years. When her fingers are aching from typing or holding her pen she relaxes with her pets, including her gorgeous whippets Kirby and Pip and her rescue cat Miss Maple.

The winners’ prizes were kindly provided by Massey University Press and Mākaro Press.

Dunedin writer Sue Wootton is the recipient of the NZSA Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship 2018



Sue Wootton will use the fellowship to work on an historical novel. She says: ‘I’m proud and delighted to be the recipient of the 2018 Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship. It’s really invigorating to receive this vote of confidence in my project, and wonderful to know that I can now dedicate a sustained stretch of time to work on my second novel, which begins during the 1948 polio epidemic and explores the effects of this on one NZ family’.

Sue Wootton’s poetry, fiction and essays are widely published in New Zealand and internationally, and her work has been recognised in a number of awards and competitions, including the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, the Caselberg Poetry Prize, the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s Prize, the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition and the NZ Poetry Society International Competition. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted for the fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and her fifth poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the 2018 poetry category of these prestigious national awards.

Selection panel convener David Hill commented: ‘Sue Wootton is a versatile and much-admired writer, with a growing track record in both poetry and prose. Her sample of work is distinguished by writing that is both adventurous and accessible.’


Full details here






Poetry Shelf audio spot: Rebecca Hawkes reads ‘Sighting’


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Photo credit: Mitchell Botting 




‘Sighting’ was originally published in Starling 5



Rebecca Hawkes is a poet and painter who has traded the tussock-clad hills of the Canterbury high country for the suburban slopes of Wellington. More of her work can be found in Landfall, Mimicry, Sport, and elsewhere via her website.









University of Waikato invites applications for the position of Writer in Residence

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Each year the University of Waikato invites applications for the position of Writer in Residence, tenable for twelve months from January. The salary is $52,000 jointly funded by the University of Waikato and Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.

The position is open to poets, novelists, short story writers, dramatists, and writers of serious non-fiction. The appointment will be made on the basis of a proven track record of publications of high quality, and on the strength of the applicant’s Residency proposal.

The Writer is expected to live in Hamilton during the tenure of the award. There are no teaching or lecturing duties attached to the award, the sole purpose of which is to give the Writer the freedom to write. It is expected the Writer will participate in the cultural life of the University. The Writer will be able to make use of the Michael King Writers’ Retreat in Opoutere for up to two weeks (current market value $3,000).

Enquiries can be made to Assoc. Prof. Sarah Shieff, telephone 07 838 4466 extension 8425 or email:

Closing date: 12 October 2018 (NZ time)

Vacancy number: 380360

For more information and to apply visit here

Four highly talented wāhine at Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi

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Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi
Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Tel: 04 463 6835
Email: from top left: Anahera Gildea, Arihia Latham, Tayi Tibble, Te Kahureremoa Taumata

In situ: writers reading in and about place
Friday 14 September, 6pm
Adam Art Gallery
Refreshments provided
Please join us for an evening of live readings generously organised by writer and art theorist Cassandra Barnett, who will moderate the evening. This series of readings uses the occasion of the exhibition The earth looks upon us / Ko Papatūānuku te matua o te tangata as an opportunity to hear from four highly talented wāhine.

We are pleased to host Wellington-based writer Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-Te-Tonga, Kāi Tahu, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāi Te Rangi), author of Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa (Seraph Press, 2016); poet and short story author Arihia Latham (Ngāi Tahu, Kāi Tahu); singer, songwriter and storyteller Te Kahureremoa Taumata (Ngāti Kahungungu, Ngāti Tuwharetoa); and Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou), who recently published her first collection of verse titled Poūkahangatus though Victoria University Press.

Poetry in Multicultural Oceania 2 – a teaching resource for Years 6 to 9




Poetry in Multicultural Oceania Book 2

edited by Vaughan Rapatahana, Essential Resource, 2018


‘mountains once roamed/ this land’  Apirana Taylor


Vaughan Rapatahana has edited a second collection of poems with associated activities to encourage the reading and writing of poetry and to further develop a student’s multicultural awareness. Vaughan is committed to drawing upon diverse poetry voices: Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Aboriginal Australian, Asian.

This issue includes: Mere Taito, Renee Liang, Apirana Taylor, Gregory Kan, Alan Jeffries, Simone Kaho, Paula Green, Michelle Cahill, Reihana Robinson, Alison Wong, Serie Barford, Michele Leggott, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Iain Britton, Makyla Curtis, Lionel Fogarty, Shasha Ali.

Each section includes the poem, a warm-up, focus on vocabulary, tips on reading aloud, consideration of the language and layout, questions to explore understandings and evaluations, followup suggestions.

The subjects are wide ranging but generally attached to identity issues.


I love the way this book will expose new and familiar poets to students and teachers and offer accessible and stimulating entries into poems. Bravo Vaughan for continuing to celebrate local poetry. This is an essential resource.


‘I am told that the wai of who/ is the water of our veins’  Makyla Curtis


Vaughan Rapatahana commutes between Hong Kong SAR, the Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published in several genres in Māori, English and other languages.  His latest poetry collection is ternion (erbacce-press, Liverpool, England). Vaughan has a PhD in existential philosophy from the University of Auckland. Vaughan has written commentaries for Jacket2 (University of Pennsylvania), including a 2015–2016 series and a new series currently in progress.


Essential Resource page




Erik Kennedy reads ‘Your Grandfather’s War Stories’ from his debut collection







Erik Kennedy, ‘Your Grandfather’s War Stories’, There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime, Victoria University Press, 2018. Originally published in The Interpreter’s House, no. 66, October 2017.


Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018). His poems have recently been published in places like 3:AMMagazine, Hobart, LEVELER, The Manchester Review,and Poetry, and his criticism has been in the Los Angeles Review of Books and the TLS. He is the poetry editor for Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.