New Zealand Poetry Competition: 2020

The New Zealand Poetry Society’s most recent poetry anthology was released in December 2020. Titled Haumi ē! Hui ē! Tāiki ē! Stay Well Here, and edited by Raewyn Alexander, the anthology contains poems from the 2020 New Zealand International Poetry Competition.

The Open section of the competition attracted 727 entries and was judged by Johanna Emeney. First Prize was awarded to a poem with the intriguing title, oroo’, written by Fiona Chivers Shirreffs. Beyond the three place getters and five Highly Commended poems, I was very pleased to have my prose poem, Dance Of The River Gums, included among those poems to be Commended.

Dance Of The River Gums

The broad sweep of a sleepy riverbed emerges, timidly, from its shroud of darkness. A child seeking to scale either bank would soon find the need to proceed on all fours; hunched, nose to the ground, reminiscent of an echidna sniffing out a meal. Formed into a close-knit garrison, a dozen reeds stand to attention, to the left of centre, where the ground is still boggy from the remains of recent rain. On the right, a few shallow pools tremble at the touch of morning air. At last, some early light, and the performers begin; each one looping ribbons of bark behind their back like a stately gentleman whose braces have slipped from his shoulders to fall where they please. Amid the uncertainty of dawn, a new dancer steps forward, only to step back; the way young people fall in and out of love. The scene fills with daylight, river gums bounce and sparkle, leaves dangle at the oddest of angles, reflections from the pools lift the leading members of the troupe before gently setting them down once more. Imperceptibly, the sun heads higher until the day is undeniable and each artist assumes their most statuesque pose. At which point, a wallaby twitches the last of the dew from his whiskers, a tawny frogmouth pretends not to notice and a couple of diamond sparrows make their way, unhurriedly, in and out of the shadows; the way old people fall in and out of love, and back in again.

Gregory Piko

The anthology contains all the awarded poems from the Open section of the competition, plus poems from the Haiku section and Junior sections of the competition. Copies of Haumi ē! Hui ē! Tāiki ē! Stay Well Here can be obtained from the New Zealand Poetry Society website.