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Gail's Prompt: The Apostrophe Poem

Our wonderful tutor and resident poet/ poetry editor, Gail Ingram has put together a special challenge for you. She has even responded to her own challenge with a poem to her zebra-striped shoes.

A classic apostrophe poem:

Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star How I wonder what you are Up above the world so high Like a diamond in the sky Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star How I wonder what you are

Apostrophe poems are addressed to ideas, objects or events – you talk to the star! Or you talk to your Dad’s truck, or tell your house how much you hate it, or talk to the Anzac monument, tell it how it stands like a soldier on the corner.

Check out these two poems by Hone Tūwhare, who was one of Aotearoa’s first poet laureates. Notice how he is addressing the albatross, and then the rain.

Toroa: Albatross by Hone Tūwhare

Day and night endlessly you have flown effortless of wing over chest-expanding oceans far from land. Do you switch on an automatic pilot, close your eyes in sleep, Toroa?

On your way to your home-ground at Otakou Heads you tried to rest briefly on the Wai-o-te-mata but were shot at by ignorant people. Crippled, you found a resting-place at Whanga-nui-a-Tara; found space at last to recompose yourself. And now

without skin and flesh to hold you together the division of your aerodynamic parts lies whitening licked clean by sun and air and water. Children will discover narrow corridors of airiness between, the suddenness of bulk. Naked, laugh in the gush and ripple—the play of light on water.

You are not alone, Toroa. A taniwha once tried to break out of the harbour for the open sea. He failed. He is lonely. From the top of the mountain nearby he calls to you: Haeremai, haeremai, welcome home, traveller. Your head tilts, your eyes open to the world.

Rain by Hone Tūwhare

I can hear you making small holes in the silence rain If I were deaf the pores of my skin would open to you and shut And I should know you by the lick of you if I were blind the something special smell of you when the sun cakes the ground the steady drum-roll sound you make when the wind drops But if I should not hear smell or feel or see you you would still define me disperse me wash over me rain

Write On!

Now it’s your turn. Write your own poem to an inanimate object, an animal, or an event that has touched you deeply in some way.

For an extra challenge, can you include all of these?

  • a journey to meet someone or something, or a journey of your relationship with the object

  • a question to the object

  • words or images that evoke the sense of touch and your perception of it

  • a reference to a myth

Gail’s attempt to meet her own challenge!

To my zebra-striped shoe by Gail Ingram

You have a bronze buckle

for decoration, with FLY

LONDON engraved on it.

I fly In you, shoe,

but not to London, I fly

along the ground, the

parched and golden

ground – like a zebra

sending up dust, on the way

to my teaching job

at Hagley Community College

in New Zealand, shoe, and you

are comfortable, shoe,

your suede rides

up my leg in a calf-hugging way,

unlike, I imagine, Mercury’s wings

that might beat his ankles

as he delivers messages,

what do you think, shoe,

I have no snake

caduceus in my hands,

only papers

to write on

– about you, shoe,

on the floor, as my class trit-trots

out their own words?

2020 copyright Write On School for Young Writers and Gail Ingram.

Check out Gail's poetry here:


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