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Given Words from More of Us

13 Sep 2019
Artist and poet Charles Olsen introduces the winning poems from the Given Words competition for National Poetry Day.

Written by

Charles Olsen
May 14, 2023

The winning poems from the National Poetry Day Given Words competition have been published on Given Words.

New Zealand residents and citizens were invited to write poems that included five words chosen for the occasion by poets from the collection More of Us (Landing Press), which were: solitude, pulse, moving, circles and self-acceptance. [See video.]

Charles Olsen, who directs Given Words, was inspired to base the competition on More of Us after having two of his poems included in the collection which features migrant and refugee poets in New Zealand. Landing Press in Wellinton collaborated on the organisation and provided the prizes.

From the 200 poems received, the judges, Charles Olsen, Mikaela Nyman and Clare Arnot, have chosen 40 to publish on Given Words.

The winner of ‘Best Poem’ is commuting with angela by Lily Holloway, which “stood out, hooking us emotionally with its visual presentation echoing the creatures, ‘those grey spotted tongues’, that frame the narrative, along with the multiple details and references that add a sense of place and time, and link the personal and the universal.”

There was also a category for ‘Best Poem by Under-16s’ which went to 12 year old Thalia Peterson from rural Canterbury for Vines. “The whisper and circle of S and R sounds through the poem invoke the curl, grasp and unfurl of the growing vine, immersing us in its magical internal world.”

Nelson-born artist and poet, Charles Olsen, runs Given Words from his home in Madrid, Spain, where he also runs a poetry competition in Spanish, called Palabras Prestadas. He says “Poetry has been a way for me to reconnect with my kiwi roots and the competition is a wonderful way to read poetry from across the country.”

He added "I have been particularly encouraged by the increased participation of children and schools this year and hope to build on this next year", not least because, together with Colombian poet Lilián Pallares, he has been awarded a year-long residency in 2020 at the Matadero Madrid, Centre for Contemporary Creation on the theme of ‘Childhood, Play and Public Spaces’ and plans to do a project linking Spanish and New Zealand children.

Further information: 

The winning and selected poems from Given Words for National Poetry Day 2019 can be read here.

More of Us, edited by Adrienne Jansen, is published by Landing Press, who also kindy provided the winner's prizes.

Charles Olsen’s article ‘On Being Sanguine: Two Years of Panic and a Response to Terror in Christchurch’ mentioning his two poems from ‘More of Us’ is published in the Cordite Poetry Review.

Find out more about National Poetry Day on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.