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Poetry arrived in search of me

We asked our tutor and award-winning poet Gail Ingram to select 15 of her favourite poems from recent Write On workshops and submissions. Here they are for National Poetry Day, 2023.

“And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived in search of me.”

Pablo Neruda

An editor’s selection: How these poems arrived in search of me.

So how did I come to choose these 15 poems from an outstanding field of poetry by young people? If you are thinking ‘It’s just what she likes’, then you’d be partially right. Editors do choose poems based on their tastes and interests. But first, we take into account some other factors. Like the poet’s insight into their subject, their original use of language, and how well they craft it.

Take “Little Bug” by Jamie Irwin. This poem discovers something through minute observations of a bug and by putting those observations into language that moves the reader. It shifts from how the bug looks – like ‘a tiny piece of moss’ – to how it blends in, to its many small legs, to how it derives energy, to that final discovery that it is ‘unnoticed’. In other words, it doesn’t care that it is being observed and it goes about living anyway. What a small but profound observation of not only a bug’s behaviour but of our own human behaviour – how much we do or don’t notice, about little wonderful things going on around us all the time. It’s the kind of discovery or insight a poem can bring, not only to its writers but to its readers too.

Or take the careful crafting of Jessica Hurrell’s poem “Chase me with your lying tongue”. What a title – how can you chase someone with a tongue? This immediately catches our attention with its strangeness. But the poet knows it works metaphorically; the power and anger behind this turn of phrase. And how beautifully this feeling is developed with the building repetition of ‘Chase me’ until the poem turns in the last stanza and the speaker becomes the chaser. The arrangement of the lines and stanzas on the page works to also enhance the powerful feelings evoked by the poem.

All of the writers selected here use language to good effect. For example, have you ever come across acorns like skydivers? An army of chipmunks? Cucumber to kill? Or a boat called Poetry? These ideas are all striking and humorous and affecting, and come from the pens of writers as young as nine.

So, I invite you onto this boat. The wind is strong. The crow’s in the nest. The conditions are right for the poems to find you too.

Gail Ingram is an award-winning writer from Ōtautahi Aotearoa, a teacher at Write On and an editor of poetry and short fiction. Her second collection of poetry Some Bird is forthcoming in September 2023 from Sudden Valley Press. Her first collection Contents Under Pressure (Pūkeko Publications 2019) was described by Paula Green as "a gift of a book". Her work has appeared in Landfall, Turbine/Kapohau, The Spinoff, The Poetry Shelf, Poetry New Zealand, Cordite Poetry Review, Blue Nib, Barren Magazine and others. More at


THE POEMS that arrived

Little bug

Little bug,

sitting on a small leaf,

small in size,

looking like a tiny spot of moss.

Sitting upon a leaf

of spots, little bug

blends in with the spots of

the leaf.

Little bug’s legs are small in size,

yet there are lots of them.

You sit, little bug, on the small

withering leaf.

You eat from the small leaf

gaining all the energy you can.

You are sitting unnoticed.

Jamie Irwin, Year 8


She draws…

the sunlight cascades

like falling water

into the room

onto the glowing girl

she sits and watches

the world go by

she creates new dimensions

of people passing

like the serious man

wearing a bowler hat

she draws him

dancing like a ballerina

like the smiling lady

swishing her skirts

she draws her

sitting alone with the grey clouds

she wonders

who are these people?

what do they dream?

what do they hope for?

the sunlight pools around the window

and retreats to its cave

she sits alone in the dark

but across the street

sits the young man

who sketches

by the light of his lamp

the light flickers

he is distracted

he wonders

who is she?

what does she dream?

what does she hope for?

he draws her

Madi Sillifant, Year 8

This poem first appeared in Write On Issue 60 Moments and Milestones

The Sleepover

Late evening, tired after a full day

laughing under a yawning sun, we retreated

to the back of the garden.

Restless under slippery too-hot blanketing

you tried to doze. Impossible.

your friends chatted about trivial things.

Then argued until it was too late to sleep

One friend went inside.

Left alone, fears joined the party.

We all slunk indoors.

That night was alive in ways others were not.

Rosa Sheard, Year 7

This poem first appeared in Write On Issue 60 Moments and Milestones


Flying acorns

Today I saw some acorns fall from a tree

It reminded me of a skydiver

leaping out of their plane

It was their first time

so they weren't very graceful

They flipped and twirled through the air

getting ready for landing

Colette Marsh, Year 6


Chase me with your lying tongue

Chase me with your lying tongue Let steam roll through your teeth Let me see your mouth burning lies

Chase me through golden castles Shrouded with rosy mist Let your mouth become thick With the ash of your weakness

Chase me through smoke Chase me through fields full of glowing roses Chase me through bronze eruptions Chase me through the inky nightmares of my childhood

My irises, once blue, will glow red When I catch you in that dandelion field You will sob into your hands You will wish you were never a spy And that I was never your friend

Jessica Hurrell, Year 9


cold just like ice

cold just like ice

ice just like cream

cream dribble and drips

drips jiggle like jellyfish

jellyfish is nothing but funky

funky is nothing like funny

Mahdia Jafari, Year 8


Drenched In starlight

He is a favourite of the night; blessed with stardust locks and bright sterling eyes. Although they are the most beautiful, they are bleak and even more dangerous.

When he looks at you with those eyes, those unnerving eyes, you start feeling smaller and smaller. In the presence of the entire solar system, the entire galaxy.

Flying comets had once kissed his cheeks. The fifty freckles dotted across his nose bridge made up the Milky Way, where the Cowherd and Weaver would cross on every seventh lunar month.

His smiles are supernovae, burning with the light of a star now gone. Arrow sharp, his Cupid lips twitched with fervour. They could blow up any second if something didn’t go his way.

He is every universe, is space itself: A vast cold emptiness which no one could understand. Yet they still tried, tried to delve into his existence with their probes and rockets. But they all found nothing.

Miranda Yuan, Y9


He’s as old as the hills

Old as the hills,

his wrinkles are ridges and valleys.

His hair is snow,

powdery and white

and his eyes are caves,

dark as night.

His legs are buried underground,

he’s standing still

not a sound.

His mouth has closed,

formed a river

but when winter comes,

boy, does he shiver.

When I look up, I can just

make out a face.

But I don’t get how, just how

he can tie his lace.

Macy Rochford, Year 6


What if pets were people?

Do they have a government?

Do cats rule the Pet Kingdom?

Do they plan

to overcome us?

Do they have an army

of chipmunks

with nut artillery?

Do they have Tortoise Tanks?

Do they have an Air Force

of trained Parrots?

Do they like being pets?

Hamish Webb, Year 8


Ars Poetica (The boat called poetry)

A blue and yellow boat

sits on the Kaiapoi River.

It has no intention of doing

anything wrong. Nor does it wish

to do anything right.

It glides along the water,

it sits and stares at its reflection,

or it rocks and sways like waves

crashing onto the shore.

It goes where its captain takes it.

I like to call this ‘poetry’.

Anna Viljoen, Year 7

This poem first appeared in Fuego Volume 1, The World Congress of Poets Literary Journal.


Maim Kithom Ham - Where I Am From

I am from my mum flicking the light on and off to wake me up, from hurry up, we're late

To the shouts of my mum getting frustrated.

I am from inside the stories

From tasting each book one by one to see which I like

I am from characters waiting to be read.

I am from annoying siblings

From let me in or I'll tell mum!

To the shrieks, tears and anger.

I am from; You can do it! Stop it, I don't like it!

From fall down, get back up

And don’t compare yourself.

I am from the golden honey-brown roast

from picking out the vegetables and flicking them to the other side of the plate

To breakfast in bed with the pancakes crackling.

I am from chanting Waheguru

inside my head before going to sleep

From the sounds of the duvet, to stay awake.

I am from those Punjabi ways,

From my connection to Punjab.

The doorway to my culture.

Mehakpreet Kaur, Year 8

This poem first appeared in Write On Issue 60 Moments and Milestones


Four of Swords

Four knives

stuck in a wooden holder.

Red lipstick

cap off.

Powder box

swirly flowers on the lid.

Nail polish

with a lilac lid.

Pink ribbon

draping the products.

Cut up cucumber

on her eyes.

Yellow turban

on her head.

Blue top

halter neck.

Ready to kill

the party.

Elle Williams, Year 7

This poem first appeared in Write On Issue 60 Moments and Milestones


The Pouty Pink Lips

The hot pink lips express their beauty for all to see

waiting to be admired

The vibrant, pouty lips and straight white teeth

would make Barbie proud

"Why are you staring?" it seethes

"I know I'm gorgeous, but …"

Self-absorbed, sleek

a sinister beauty

Lips stained pink to hide the scars …

of tragic beauty

You, look, hot!

A Queen Card, not willing to forfeit,

stepping down is not an option

The sun cowers in its presence

a speck of pink glitter atop a matte black world

"Humor me,"

the lips state drily

Elsie Earle, Year 8


What if there are other worlds out there?

What if there are other worlds

out there we know

nothing about?

Places we haven’t explored before?

With glowing violet sunsets

and oceans the palest green.

What if there are worlds

beyond our own, where

there are people just like us,

but very different

in how they live?

Maybe they are wide awake

during the night.

Are there other worlds

that mirror our own?

Is there a place that is exactly

like ours? With everything the same?

A double of you?

A double of me?

A double of me writing a poem

just like this?

Could there be places

more beautiful than ours,

with lush plants, exotic forests,

and stunning crystal lakes?

Or maybe worlds

more dangerous

with evil at every turn

the constant reminder of death.

Very near.

Very real.

Or they could be invisible and

we simply can’t see them

or we haven’t looked hard enough..

Is it because they really

don’t exist?

Daisy Neave, Year 8


Five and a Dozen

Five and a dozen

Birds of a feather

Flocking together

Souls untethered

Five and a dozen

Stalks of heather

Lavender rings

Beautiful things

Five and a dozen

Boats in a sea

Stars in the sky

I still wonder why

Five and a dozen

Worlds skybound

Life underground

Yet to be found

Five and a dozen

Thoughts in my head

Words unsaid

Stories unread

Xuan Xuan Yeo Year 8

This poem first appeared in Write On Issue 60 Moments and Milestones


The poems selected for this page are by young writers from Casebrook Intermediate, Heathcote Valley School, Homeschool, Kaiapoi North School, Knights Stream School, Pegasus Bay School, Tihiraki North Loburn School and Westburn School, as well as Write On Saturday classes and the Write On Summer School 2023.

We commend all schools and whānau that support their young writers by providing opportunities to explore and write poetry.

Some of these poems and many more wonderful pieces appear in Write On Issue 60 You can order your copy now.

(c) Write On and the young poets


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