Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition 2023 winning poems

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Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition 2023
Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition 2023
Contents Anushka Dissanayake — First prize Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, Year 11 just a teen 6 Maia Hills — Second prize Wellington High School, Year 11 Typa Vibe 8 Oliver Marsh — Third prize New Plymouth Boys’ High School, Year 11 Bridges 11 Charles Ross — First prize Logan Park High School, Year 12 Hikaroroa 12 Sascha Letica — Second prize Takapuna Grammar School, Year 1� Auckland Baby 15 Siti Nur Aina Binti Mohd Nazlee — Third prize Nga Tawa Diocesan School for Girls, Year 12 No one will ever want to sleep with : love her but I'm sure I'll like her 17 Tunmise Adebowale — First prize St Hilda's Collegiate School, Year 13 A Little Grace 23 Emma Philips — Second Prize Ruawai College, Year 13 NZ 673 To Dunedin: One Way 25 Ruby Appleby — Third prize Albany Senior High School, Year 13 coming of age 26

just a teen / Tearing out grass, laying down, uncaring of stamped stains, frail memories lit gold, clouds braiding hearts and alive mothers, so i take a chance and whisper to mine Mum i’m sixteen today hope rouses cremated bones, ravens cackle but, Mum’s still asleep.

Kicking webbed tombs, disturbing the dead with toppled hate, i leave

Pupils dilate in ecstasy, hazy groping in crowded rooms with drugged ambitions, burnt fingers on rolled joints, to fit in, throats exposed, veins too young, drowning in amber liquor, stashed in duffel bags to pour down, splayed limbs and paralysed opinions, i am one of them, popular congrats.


/ too fat, too fat, too fat beneath ribbed cages, swollen fingers clawing inside, ripping fistfuls of fatty organs emptying out, i convulse, my spine melding one with the rim of cold porcelain, knees numb, crouched in mercy

heaved dry finally pretty

a teacher once told me i was bright, that night i dismembered the running grooves of the heavy thing inside my head, combusted the papers marked red 100s with singed edges into the waste a teacher now tells me i’m a fuck up, finally i smile thank you

i walk the edge, spreading wide my skinny arms, relishing one last hit, before flying that was me.


Typa Vibe

It’s when you get outta bed, you stand up too quick n the world starts spinning, typa vibe.

It’s that brush your teeth, grab yo bag, hug mama bye, typa vibe.

It’s that mental prep, to be racist nd homophobic, on that "fuck the police" shit for some friends, typa vibe.

It’s when you fuck shit up and get used as the example on what to not do when others did worse, typa vibe.

It’s like when you're learning ’bout Māori incarceration rates and the class all turns to you, typa vibe.

It’s that time when you rep your culture loud n proud only for people to play on their phones the whole time, typa vibe.

It’s like when the school only promotes Kapa Haka to the Māori kids, typa vibe.

It’s like being expected to chip in on a conversation about race cause you’re the only Māori in the crowd, typa vibe.

It’s like when you get told off in school for having a taonga, cause apparently "school isn't the place to be flaunting those" typa vibe

It’s like how teachers use you as an example of diversity because of your pounamu, typa vibe

It’s when we call each other "plastic" cause some of us got lighter skin, (but that don't mean they ain’t Māori) typa vibe.

It’s like how the media makes Māori parades look like a gang riot, typa vibe.

It’s when you feel like you're stuck between being queer and being Māori, typa vibe

It’s when you don't know what line to stand in for Kapas so you stand with the girls to fit in, typa vibe

Maia Hills

It’s when you don't got a voice in queer spaces cuz your skin isn't snow white and you don't fit the stereotype of gender fluidity, typa vibe.

It’s when you hear them "Bush Māori" comments that get played off as jokes

It’s when people think you only listen to *garage music", Spawnbreezie typa vibe.

It’s when people sit on the tables, wear shoes in the Marae, and then talk shit behind your back

’cause now you’re the bitch for calling em out, typa vibe.

It’s that moment when you realize society was built on racism, typa vibe.

It’s like stepping back and seein our fucked up reality, typa vibe

It’s when you start losing your voice, going along with the flow of the river carried on the rocks your ancestors died on for white people power, typa vibe.

It’s when you look back and see those little things, that everyday shit, typa vibe

It’s that get home stare blank face at the ceiling thinkin ’bout how shit life got since year 2, typa vibe.

It’s going to sleep dreading tomorrow ’cause you forever part of that life of dealing with that concealed racism every day, typa vibe.

When you think, why is it that our whānau are stuck in mindsets set by people who tried to erase our culture, typa vibe.

Why is it that Queer Youth experience hate from the Māori community when Takatāpui have always been around typa vibe.

Why are our youth growing up with these vibes? Why do we gotta suppress parts of ourselves to play this "given role" that society pushes on us cause of our identities?


It’s these vibes bro.

This ain’t my typa vibe.

This ain’t my typa vibe.

This ain’t my typa vibe.



Driving over bridges, Over rivers, The veins of our country Pass by in a blur.

Lichen on rocks, Bushes, current, trees

Each valley tells a story I wish I could listen.

Bridge 670 1580

Simple numbers catalogue aeons of erosion

Arbitrary labels on terrestrial scars.

A fly slowly crawls

On a spider’s web of roads

Held together by threads of glistening silver

Anchored by a mountainous pin.

An arterial mat, Spread out on a map, Blue tendrils of water

Snake out from the mountain

Pulled by gravity, Following, Flowing, Under bridges.



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 physically 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 cigarette burns 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 right after 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.


Auckland Baby

Hotwiring . . . you reaching into your eye sockets and fiddling with the coils of your nerves

I’m the youth of Auckland, baby ramraiding your heart getting down on one knee to tie my shoelaces and presenting you with a Michael Hill ring I rightfully own shit . . . like your soul

I’m the youth of Auckland, baby nothing scares me more than your mother… and her cooking she poisoned all my mates once and on my deathbed I confessed my undying love for you and stealing Toyota Corollas and smashing the Queen Street shopfronts your mom likes it when I give her Hermes scarves… I rightfully own shit

Benevolent . . . or malevolent let me sleep next to you in the grandstand of Auckland Domain I’m the youth of Auckland, baby that shit’s like the cradle while your eyes are shut I’ll find you a Swarovski crystal necklace from a generous person see . . . I’m sharing the love call me Robin Hood . . . robbin da hood

I’m the youth of Auckland, baby I can’t tell you where I was last night but your ski mask is in safe custody

Sascha Letica

the way I say I love you is ten thousand dollar bottles of champagne . . . a little dented

I rightfully own shit

I rightfully know shit

hotwiring your pretty heartstrings . . . ramraiding your bedroom . . . selling vapes to the young ones

I’m the youth of Auckland, baby

I’ll make all your dreams come true


No one will ever want to sleep with : love her but I'm sure I'll like her


She is long legs and doe eyes. Her laugh gives you visions of a past life: You are an old man of the sea, drowning. There are long nails and bright eyes. Someone is singing. You see splashing, you catch sight of black hair, you hear more laughter. Maybe they’re screaming. No, there are bubbles, and you feel violent.


There are a couple things to know. She walks fifteen minutes to get coffee on Tuesdays, when the air feels sweet.

Once, she’d gone to the zoo and found a stray geese feather. She brings it home, the stray. She puts the feather into a quill-holder bought second-hand at an antique store.

It cannot write, the feather. Yet it stays on her desk, tall, brown and imposing. An imposter, proven to be useless. The quill-holder looks like blown glass, bubbling and charred.


Maybe its previous owner died. Maybe its current owner is

Her lips taste like mint & honey. This isn’t a metaphor, and she isn’t sweet.

There are pictures on her walls that don’t belong to her. Her canines gleam under fluorescent lights and they remind you of the school whiteboards. She’s your adolescent days. She is metal on your tongue and blood on your lips.

Her smiles are bullet wounds and she grins like a gunshot. You can hear the ghost of its thunder in the crack of her elbows.

She is pig-tails at the end of the world. She’s a skirt and a gun. She is on your screen. She’s in New York. You plead to be near her.

(she wishes she were untouchable)


She reads Tolstoy, maybe Kafka. She hates Wilde, she loves his work. She’s a Brontë, she thinks she could’ve been their sixth sister. She wants to sleep with Jane Austen, cry on Allen Poe’s shoulder.

You believe her hips hold secrets, perhaps salvation. She walks like they do.

And you think:

She’ll be where culture is, you’re sure of it.

Her eyes are lifeless, unassuming.


but you’re sure she holds her heart in them.

When you reach New York she is in Venice. You reach Venice and she’s in the Mediterranean. You go to Hong Kong but she’s in Singapore.

You go home, you’re in the city, and She’s across the street. She has large headphones and circular glasses. You think you found God in the dips of her collarbones and the sharpness of her (eye)liner.

She wears perfume on her hair, her deodorant disappears by 10. She puts on another layer at 2. You catch a whiff of the florist’s when her hair falls from their constraints, no longer held up by that rubber.

You’d snap it off yourself, your hands ache from not doing so.

There are lined wrinkles all over your wrists, your knuckles are rubbed raw from concrete, they’re red from the cold. She has soft hands and lotion, she’d soothe your trembling fingers and cracked lips.


She has lightning intuition, it rubs you the wrong way.

She wears retainers and they give her a lisp.


When she’s angry you feel like your father, when she cries you remember your mother.

Her teeth are yellow from coffee. She sniffs the days-old rice in her fridge, to check if they’ve gone crazy.

Her piercings smell odd.

Her complexion is uneven in the day, too pale without the warm undertones of our shared bathroom.

I still want her. I want her on the kitchen counter, I want her between my fingernails.

I want her like a weighted blanket in the middle of winter, when my depression feels like a parasite & I am powerless.

I create portraits of her in my sleep.

Boudoirs of oil, gouache and acrylic paint. I paint her like that woman in Titanic. I paint her better.

She is so alive in my mind.


I see her behind translucent curtains, she overlooks the Magnolias in our garden and I’d crack myself open to give her a bed between my ribs.

4. She will be dead, soon. — She must be warm. I’ll lend her my lungs and she’ll consume my heart. It is St.Valentines and she lives within me. I can never hear her breathe despite how much I strain my ears.

I’m still alive, so is she? She must be. // I don’t have that much power. My knees are knobby and my eyes, downturned. My laugh is loud and it overwhelms the room, giving no space for anything else but silence.

I am quiet and I never scream.

She is dead. She & Her may be Yours. But I am only myself and she is within me and I have killed her.

I eat her whole before the pyramids in Egypt do.


You will thank that you hate me. I’d hate for you to love me instead.


I am not her, but she is everything that I am. She is Narcissus and I am the weeping Lake. I only existed with her and now she only exists within me. She dies inside me.

I died with her.

You fall asleep next to her, and the next morning there is blood on the sheets. Those are yours. It is your blood. Go clean yourself up. There’s a knife in your spleen, sweetheart. Tear it out.


The girl isn’t in your bed. There is a broken shard of glass in her absence. You see the low sweep of your own lashes as you pick it up. You cut your fingers on a corner.

You throw the shard across the room. It does not break.

There is more blood.


A Little Grace

I hail from Nigeria’s southwest Ile-Ife, where the Dwarf lambs stare out at the mountainsides for hours.

The heat like a razor, with no wool to pool for spending.

The farm is a tired place some mornings. Moves slow like honey.

When Grandpa tells stories of his older brother’s death, sickness spreading like sunlight, I think of those sheep in the yard.

I wonder if a man from my family could be gentle enough.

A generation of work-hurt hands bending to touch the softness of the bottom of the basin.

A touch like a pull, like a yearn for a cure, like reaching out for your mother in a dream.

If he stuck his hand out in the middle of the night doused with sick and sweat, would the youngest of the flock


crane its neck from its place in the pasture and send him off running?

Someplace where boys never die before their mothers and mornings are

best spent holding wives by their waist, dying slow deaths,

juicing life with our teeth at the breakfast table.


NZ 673 To Dunedin: One Way

The clouds remind me of white fat lumps on a sheep's heart that I snicked off with small scissors in the gruesome quiet of a lab / I remember how the stringy sinews tore / plane trails across the sky fade and no one can see where I went / Up here I could reach down and cut away theclouds / with a scalpel I could dissect the sky / ignore the revealed red glistening heart below / the sheep's heart was smaller than mine / Less capacity to pump blood / Less capacity to love and ache / Scientists say our brain size divides us from animals / But when all I hear is my heart beating in the dark I think otherwise / And I recount every part of that fist sized organ in my head / two atria / two ventricles / blood flowing and squeezing through / the lumps of fat leave little room for the blood to gush / And I’m so enamored with the way it wetly pumps between chambers / So full on the smell like stubbed toes, skinned knees and ice packs / I don’t hear the snick of the scissors / the moment all the thin strands of flesh snap / the clouds are shaved away revealing somewhere else I must go alone / not my raw heart

Emma Philips

coming of age

we are laundry on the line, damp white shirts in the breeze. we are knees & ankles in salt water, & the crackling campfire on the beach behind us. we are glittery pink keychains. we are chipped nail polish on intertwined fingers. we are mini skirts & baby tees & goosebumps. we are night drives, feeling alive & shout-singing to What’s My Age Again? by blink-182. we are dad’s beer beneath the playground’s wooden bridge. we are everything there is & everything there is not. we are arriving, we are becoming, we are so young & yet we are so staggeringly human.


Highly Commended

Year 11: Tayla Francis, ‘untitled’; Joanne Kim, ‘“Let us poets”’; Genesta Hamm, ‘If you say I am free then who am I to disagree’; Lisa Murata, ‘eyes wide or you might miss it’; Isabelle Nash, ‘Requiem for the Boy’.

Year 12: Ivy Feng, ‘bruised’; Kathleen Mitchell, ‘Plums’; Adeeba Shaik, ‘reviving an industrialised heart’; Hannah Naidoo, ‘My culture’; Layla Hoskin, ‘Mature’.

Year 13: Jade Wilson, ‘Boy Racer’; Sydney Brandolino, ‘shallow end’; Sarah Smith, ‘An extended metaphor of the circulatory system’; River Mein, ‘railway lines, shattered lives’; Oshadha Perera, ‘Teardrops’; Oriana Ewens, ‘Ready, Set, Girl’.


Massey University Press

Private Bag 102904, North Shore Mail Centre, Auckland 0745, New Zealand

Showcasing the winners of the Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student

Poetry Competition 2023

Compiled to celebrate Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2023

With thanks to Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato the University of Waikato

Text © copyright individual contributors, 2023

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