In the finest tradition

The winners of this year's Robert Burns Poetry Competition come from both sides of the world, showing the "global power'' of this man binds people together more than 200 years after his death, Rebecca Fox finds.

Victor Rodger.
Victor Rodger.

Whether in Scotland or Dunedin, poet Robert Burns inspires people to write. This is highlighted by the winners of the annual Robert Burns Poetry Competition, with two of the three section winners being from Scotland.

Organiser Kay Mercer said she received entries from all over the world, including Scotland, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as from all over New Zealand.

''We had a record number of entries, and a large increase in the number of youth entries, which was pleasing.''

Judge Victor Rodger, who admits to not engaging with poetry, was blown away by the entries.

The youth winner especially spoke to him. The entry from Auckland schoolgirl Ioana Moana (17), also a finalist in the 2016 Victoria University National Secondary Schools poetry competition, talks about her Scottish-Samoan heritage and links it with Burns' Auld Lang Syne, sung annually at her primary school.

''It completely reflects my heritage. She did such a fantastic job honouring both sides of her heritage in a beautiful way,'' Rodger said.

He found it a very ''deep'' and mature work for someone her age.

''That line, 'inked thighs to Kentucky fried thighs', I totally get that line. I love that line.''

Rodger found the published section the hardest to judge as there was a lot of really good work entered.

The winner, Lorna Wallace (24), a poetry blogger from Scotland who works in her mother's fabric and wool shop, fell in love with the dialect and rhythm of Burns' writing as a schoolchild.

She wrote her first Burns-inspired poem in 2014, Tae A Selfie, which went viral on Facebook and Twitter overnight and was published in Poetry Scotland magazine, excerpts of it in The Times and in a poetry anthology.

''I thought it would be fun to imagine the things he'd write about if he were alive today.''

So her entry in the competition was about the election of Donald Trump.

''I like that it is very relevant. Out of all the entries this probably had the finger most on the pulse,'' Rodger said.

''I was thinking if he [Burns] was alive today what would impress him and I think this would tickle his funny bone.''

The unpublished section was won by Frances Ainslie (58) of Scotland, a recent retiree from the information technology sector with a bent for writing.

Last year she travelled to Dunedin and was so surprised to find Burns' statue in the Octagon she had her photo taken with it.

She was ''dumbfooner'd'' at her win.

''What a small world we live in. It makes you appreciate the global power of this man who still binds us together over 200 years since his death.''

Rodger enjoyed the humour of her piece The Daisies especially the line ''hula-hula girls oan tiptaes''.

''That and the Kentucky Fried line are my favourites.''

For someone not ''engaging'' with poetry, Rodger said many of the poems he had read for the competition would stay with him.

Lorna Wallace. Photos supplied.
Lorna Wallace. Photos supplied.
A Scot' s Lament fur her American Fellows (Oan their election of a tangerine gabshite walloper)

Published Poets section:
Winner: Lorna Wallace, Kilmarnock, Scotland

America, aw whit ye dain?!
How could ye choose a clueless wain
Ti lead yir country? Who wid trust
A man sae vile?!
A racist, sexist eedjit
Wi a shite hairstyle?

Yet lo, ye votit (michty me!)
Ti hawn’  this walloper the key
Ti pow’r supreme, ti stert his hateful,
Cruel regime.
A cling ti hope that this is aw
Jist wan bad dream.

But naw, the nightmare has come true,
A curse upon rid, white an’  blue,
An’  those who cast oot Bernie
Must feel sitch regret
Fur thinkin’  Mrs. Clinton
Was a safer bet.

So noo we wait ti see unfold
Division an’  intolerance, cold;
A pois’nous bigotry untold
Since Hitler’s rule
As the free world’ s hopes an’  dreams
Lie with this fool.

Alas, complainin’  wullnae change
The fact this diddy has free range
Ti ride roughshod ow’r human beings
That fall outside
The cretinous ideals borne of
His ugly pride.

Awch USA, we feel yir woes
An’  pour oor wee herts oot ti those
Who ken this oarange gabshite isnae
Who they chose,
But jist sit tight;
Trump’s cluelessness
Will time expose.

Fur sittin’  there beside Obama
Efter the election drama,
Trump looked like reality
Had finally hit:
Aboot the role of president
He knew Jack shit.

Poutin’, glaikit through this farce,
His mooth wis pursed up like an arse,
His Tangoed coupon glowin’  like
A skelped backside.
Despite all his bravado
Trump looked keen ti hide.

Let’s therefur no despair an’  greet,
Or see this outcome as defeat.
Let’s wait an’  watch this bampot
Flap his hawns an’  squirm
When presidential pressures
Crush him like a worm.

Hawd oan ti values you hold dear,
Don’t let this numpty bring yi fear,
His chants of hatred don’t speak fur
The human race.
Love will endure despite this
Oarange-faced disgrace.

So USA, in ma conclusion,
Know we Scots feel your confusion:
We are also chained ti those
Not of oor choosin’ .
Stand firm fur unity will break
Through Trump’s delusion.


Ioana Manoa.
Ioana Yule Manoa.
Leaves Fall as the Roots Grow

Youth Poets section:
Ioana Yule Manoa, Auckland

Define your identity.
Select your ethnicity.
New Zealand Census —
we sense this: a cultural separation
based on an ancestor’s migration.
Putting us at cultural crossroads
to cross a box,
to shade it with pale pink, or brown skin-coloured pencil.
Tick one, choose one:
New Zealand/Europe-an, Maori, Chinese or Samo-an.
Fit me in a box, wool press me, family pack me, quarter pack me.

My ancestors.
Cargo, go, go
for shore.

New Zealand/European.
Shade this the colour of
top hats, coat tails, corsets, pipes,
tartan kilts, buchanan stripes,
organs, hymns, pews and pedals,
parade of clans, jigs and thistles.

Trunks, cases, lockets in hand,
farewell to family, off to new land.
Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales,
inside, outside, the immigrants sail.
Starboard, stern, port and bow,
home-sick voyage to the long white cloud.

Scotsman, miner, minister, preacher.
George Morrison my brave ancestor.
George walked ten miles to the Carluke mines.
George worked ten hours in the hellish mines.
To set sail, he set his mind,
the coal mines to leave behind.
From the brick works, mines and working class,
miner to missioner — at last.

For Auld Lang Syne, my dear
We’ve sailed twelve thousand weary mile
Since auld lang syne
And seas between us broad have roared
For auld lang syne

My ancestors.
Cargo, go, go
for shore.

Shade this the colour of
Fa’a Samoa
Siva siva
White puletasi 

Fa’a Samoa
loosely tied to the side
lavalava in the fale
lavalava to the school
lavalava playing the kilikiti

Siva siva
the wide feet of my people
the fire dancer
the slap slap

machete harvest the coconut
machete crack the coconut
machete open the can
machete mow the lawn

behind the left ear
behind the right ear
behind the fale

White puletasi
women in white for church, wide brimmed hat
women’s fans fasi

fia palagi
wanna be palagi.
PI, so fly
2000 miles.

Tofa to the homeland.
Samoan to English to Te Reo Maori.
Young boy sent away, south of the Bombay
to St Stephens, Hato Tipene.
From lavalava and singlet to boarding school greys, nomads and
bleak days.
From games in the tropical heat to frosted feet.
From open fire cooking to mess room meals and tuckshop deals.
From ocean-side fale to dorm fights and homesick nights.
Tofa to the homeland,where we fished from the sea and lived off
the land.
Tofa, far away to New Zea-land.
Long distance, plenty remittance.
To make a living with no land and fish from cans.
White to black sand
Umu to oven
Cocoa to coffee
Talo to potato fries                              
Inked thighs to kentucky fried thighs
Inked thighs
Tatau, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

My heritage is the coloured threads of the tartan,
the wool of the crochet shawl,
the woven pandanus grass of the fine mat,
the bark of the tapa cloth.
Cast on, cast off.
Count the stitches, weave the mat, under, over.

We are leaves on our family trees.
We are home grown with strong roots.
Don’t forget your roots, my friend.
Don’t forget your family.
Embrace your ethnicities.
Celebrate your identities.


Frances Ainslie visits Dunedin's statue of Robbie Burns in the Octagon last year with friend Robert Beaton.
Frances Ainslie visits Dunedin's statue of Robbie Burns in the Octagon last year with friend Robert Beaton.
The Daisies

Unpublished Poets section:
Winner: Frances Ainslie, Dunblane, Scotland

Bonie gems?
Thrawn wee bitches mair like.
A wheen o them, 
hoatchin oan ma back green.
Cut doon wan day, 
syne, next forenoon    
they lowp up smirkin. 
There’ s nae modesty here. 
Dinnae let them fool ye
wi their herts o gowd, 
an scanty gress skirts
white as the driven snaw. 
Hula-hula girls oan tiptaes
shooglin their dewy hurdies,
makin a bloody gowk oot o me

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