More of Us in Given Words

Inspired by 'More of Us': Charles Olsen reads in a Senegalese restaurant in Madrid.
Inspired by 'More of Us': Charles Olsen reads in a Senegalese restaurant in Madrid.
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.

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 also collaborated on the organisation and donated 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.”

Artist and poet Charles Olsen runs Given Words from his flat in Madrid, Spain, where he has also run a poetry competition in Spanish called 'Palabras Prestadas' since 2011. He lived in Dunedin in the 1970s, attending North East Valley School, but has lived many years in the UK and in Spain since 2003. 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.”

A Dunedin writer, the recently deceased Elizabeth Brooke-Carr, won the competition two years ago with her poem 'All this' – “a simple story full of wonderful details. A conversation with a gull on a windswept beach introduces the concept of kaitiakitanga and we move on towards a second conversation and unanswered questions…”

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. (

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