Posted in Poetry, The Winners!

Fabostory Poetry Challenge Report! 

Judge’s Report by Melinda Szymanik

Wow! Just like last year, we had a lot of entries so Elena De Roo and I divided them up and judged half each. It was wonderful to see the poems that emerged from all the different prompts we offered in this last challenge for 2021. I read ice cream poems and monkey in hot pool poems, turtle poems and climate change poems, cloud poems and quite a few haiku.

Make sure with your haiku that you have counted your syllables and have the right number, as this is one of the most important rules for this type of poetry. My favourite haiku included those by Elsa Hurley from Katikati Primary, and Rubina Kim, Ryan Stuckey and Xavier Turner (the first haiku), all from Long Bay Primary. Well done! Haiku may look easy to write, but they definitely aren’t.

I wished fervently that some of you had let your poems rest for a day or two before you revised and submitted them. They had such lovely ideas inside them but they needed a little more work. Poems can be like that – like a block of marble that you need to chip away at carefully to find the sculpture inside.

And I’m sad to say some of the poems submitted were plagiarised. It was disappointing to see that a few of you chose to steal someone else’s work and submit it under your own name. Please don’t do this. I would much rather read your own poetry, and give prizes to those folk who have done the hard work and created their own poem.

I really enjoyed Grace Evans’ Friendship Recipe poem which was well thought out and quite delicious, and Amy Gilbert’s poem about the monkey in the hot pool which included some lovely descriptive language. Aveline Forsyth also wrote about the monkey in the hot pool, using great rhythm and with a powerful ending which reminded me of the Lion King. All three poets were from Selwyn House School.

Olivia Morriss from Oamaru Intermediate wrote quite a dramatic and unusual poem about climate change which I found intriguing, and Grace Moodie from Bethlehem College wrote a very clever poem using colour and the senses in a really interesting way, including the very cool following line which made me feel like I could hear it –

It sounded like gold
The symphony of a rising sun

The science geek in me really liked these lines from the second half of Maria Bereto-Walker from Ilam School’s poem –  

When this generation is over
The next will come
By forming

from the dust
Of the stars

Ben Cranwell’s (Long Bay Primary) second poem about the Last Polar Bear was short but very moving. Amelia Mackenzie from St Joseph’s Whakatane wrote a long, fun, slightly nonsense poem which had lots of lovely rollicking rhythm and rhyme. And Zoe Rive’s (Long Bay Primary) poem about eating an ice cream had me wishing I was eating one too.

I loved this line from Michael Brown at Long Bay Primary – Fluffy clouds were as orange as the hair on a fox – and these lines from Arlo Brooker, at Verran Primary –

He sounds like a piggy in mud  
He shakes the tv with his grumbles

Sophie Danaher from Marist Catholic School Herne Bay used a different poetry style, writing it as a paragraph, which worked really well with the lockdown theme she wrote about.

I thought Cooper Gallagher’s (St Andrews College) entry, which could also be turned into a short story or flash fiction, was clever and very funny. So Cooper, along with Samantha Muirhead from Kenakena Primary who wrote a wonderfully evocative poem, are my runners up.

The Grumpy Ape by Cooper Gallagher
First off I am NOT an ape!
I am a monkey,
A Japanese Macaque to be precise.
I am also known as the snow monkey, but I don’t like that name much
I HATE the snow!
My family all say “oh it’s not that bad”,
But they are wrong snow is TERRIBLE
They all sit in the hot pools and relax
But I sit and brood
I don’t care if they say I’m “being difficult” it’s just too cold!
When I try to sit in the hot pools the snow settles on my head
Then if I sneeze it comes tumbling down on me and that’s even worse!
I wish I could go to the rainforest with my cousin Gary
But he always says I’m to young to go with him
And that my home is here not halfway across the planet
But I don’t care they’ll come around eventually

Samantha Muirhead’s Poem

Wild animal beneath me
Ocean washes away sparkling gold
Pounding hooves a drumbeat
A glorious sight to behold
Wind whipping through my hair
Imprints whispering the way
The gentle warmth like a hug
The sea sends a teasing spray
My toes curl against her sides
Encrusted with sand
She flies on heart, not hooves
I speak to her by hand
Dune grass sings to the breeze
It smells like green
The lullaby speaks to my soul
The water tantalisingly gleams
Plunging through the waves
I trust her to lead
Fingers entwined in mane
Frothing water with her speed
Awash in golden glow
Lying side by side
As quiet as the tiniest whisper
“Girl, wanna go for a ride?”

And my winners (drum roll please …)
 … Vitek Mencl with this wonderful poem, which is short but full of meaning, a quiet confident rhythm and lovely imagery. Vitek is 7 and goes to Ilam School.

The last polar bear
slid into slowly rising water
to catch a seal.
A pack of kind orcas
sneaked up as quiet
as the heart of the sea
to help him catch his dinner.

And my other winner is Holly Fraser from Selwyn House School with this beautiful, quietly confident poem which also has terrific rhythm, simple yet haunting imagery and packs a powerful punch.

The earth silent
 A small room
as blank
as a piece of paper.
Natural light fading
the paint peeling
like a grater
has just stripped
the walls.
A lonely table
perched in the middle
of the room.
A cup
of plain words
swirled inside
waiting to be sipped
of its knowledge.

I will be in touch with my winners via email to arrange for your prizes to be posted to you. 🙂

Judges Report by Elena De Roo

As Melinda said, we divided the poems up between us. There were over a hundred each to judge, and what an imaginative and impressive collection they were, using a wide range of different prompts. A special shout out to the young 7 and 8 year old poets from Verran Primary, whose poems featured strongly in my list.  

Rhyme — one thing I noticed in general was that many poems included words just because they rhymed.  Every word counts, so make sure the choose ones that are a good fit for your poem.

One of my favourite poems that used rhyme and rhythm to good effect was the poem On My Plate by Megan Liew from Kingsway School. Your poem rolled along effortlessly and I could really visualise your plate full of way too many veggies! It had an excellent last line too, which isn’t easy to do!

On My Plate

I sat right down, glanced at my plate
Then soon realised my awful fate:
Spinach, carrots, peas galore
Beetroot, onions, and there’s more
Eggplant, turnip, chopped and cut
A giant chunk of who knows what
I picked it up; it smelled of green
So then I placed it in between…
Two brussels sprouts I’ll never eat
Finishing this will be a feat
Everything, without a bite
But then I saw a glistening sight:
My favourite cake, so sweet, so dear
Plate of veggies, disappear!

Another poem that had great rhythm and rhyme and transported me straight to summer was from Amber Miller, age 7 from Verran Primary:

Beach Days (Amber Miller)

Hot sun, sea air,
waves crashing, salty hair.
Ice cream melting in my hand,
sprinkles dripping on the sand.
Licking, crunching, cooling me down,
ice creams on beach days are the best around.

On titles — make your poem’s title work for you. It’s a bonus line — you might be able to use it to add something that wouldn’t otherwise fit in your poem, or to give us a clue as to what the poem is about. The title of Aria Rajendran’s (from Buckland’s Beach Primary) poemtells us what its subject is without ever mentioning it in the poem. Here’s the first verse:


I climbed until the sky turned inky blue.
The colour gently pulled me through.
I flew and glided without a care.
Midnight bliss, stars amiss.

Some poems felt closer to stories than poems. A poem usually has a sense of rhythm and musicality to it and often uses lines in a different way to prose. By reading lots of different sorts of poems you’ll soon get a feel for how they look and sound.

Owen Alvarez, age 7, Verran Primary cleverly experimented with line-breaks, and played with the shape of one of his words to mirror its meaning in his poem

Dinosaur Battle

One time a Stegosaurus
was having
a battle with a Tyrannosaurus
and the moon
on the Stegosaurus

I also loved Cece’s (Buckland’s Beach Primary) surreal melting poem which cleverly used repetition to create a strong rhythm.

Everything is Melting!

Pick up an apple,
it melts,
pick up a peach,
it melts,
pick up a T-shirt,
it melts,
pick up a pair of shorts,
it melts,
pick up headphones,
they melt,
look down at your feet,
they are melting,
look at your legs,
they are melting,
turn around,
no one is there,
just puddles,
you grow shorter,
you can’t think,
you are no more,
you’re melted!

Tip If you can, leave your poem for at least one night before submitting it, so you can look at it with fresh eyes. Often, you’ll find there are words you want to change.  

Luca Delonge’s (Bucklands Beach Primary) poem began “Scuba diving in my lava-orange suit” and featured a different colour in every line which I thought was a clever idea and gave the poem a clear structure.

Ada Calveley, 8, Gladstone Primary created some beautiful images in her lines:
The swaying of the silver grass
I whistled as the sky turned from white to silver blue

Ayla Chapman, age 8, Verran Primary – Nice use of the “marble” prompt in your Lockdown poem.

My whole class is a marble
Even Mrs Wilkins and me.
And Charley is a rainbow
And Lily is a star
And Amber is a love heart.

Sophia Brown (Albany Junior High School) wrote a poem full of delicious summery images called Summer & ice cream. Here is the first verse:

a pool of sticky sweet heaven rests on my tongue,
a cloud of whipped cream floats at the top of my mouth,
as the summer breeze blows by.

Arshiya Tuli ‘s (Queen Margaret College) poem (or is it an anti-poem?) had a wonderful strong last verse, which was full of energy and almost a complete poem in itself.

That is why I will not write a poem. You can not make me.
I will not. I have never written a poem in my life.
And if I do, you will never read any of my poems.
Ever. Goodbye.

Special Mentions go to:

Elsie Dickson, age 7 (Verran Primary) for her lovely, and very funny poem, My Poppa. I really enjoyed reading it and especially liked the lines, “He will make you laugh like Pinkie Pie,” and “He has a cucumber coloured tractor that he keeps in a barn near a chicken coop.”

Sophie Kirkov, age 8 (Verran Primary) for her poem, A Pair of Pears — I loved the image created by your lines:

A thousand reasons why
they should be dancing at night.
But instead I hear them chatting.
I wonder what they say.
Do they think they will live another day?

Bella Chen from St Cuthbert College who wrote a very controlled and accomplished poem, full of the imagery of spring and rebirth. Here are the first two verses:

Nature emerging slowly out of the past
Spring winning the battle against Winter at last

Blossoms bringing back colour to the earth
From the ruins of 2020 begins a new birth …

Now to my shortlist:

I found it really hard to choose between these four poems as they’re all so good but also so different from each other. However, after much deliberation, I decided that my two runners up would be:

Quinn Dixon, age 7, from Ilam School, with his evocative polar bear poem, which I think really captures the feeling of being the last polar bear.

The Last Polar Bear

The last polar bear
On Earth
Standing there
As white
As a cloud
It dived
In the ocean
To get fish
It was wet
And soggy
And lonely

And Sophias Wright  (AGE School) who sent in a beautiful lyrical poem, full of movement and sweeping images.

The Wind

Gracefully dancing through hills and valleys
Stirring up waves
Twisting round birds in flight
Murmuring in my ear as quiet as the tiniest whisper
Setting autumn leaves afloat
Swirling past mountains and forests
Playfully puffing at cotton candy clouds
Skimming the surface of the lakes
Cooling down a hot summer’s day

Well done Quinn and Sophias!

And my two winners were:

Joona Zaza, aged 7, from Verran Primary who wrote a tiny but pitch perfect poem about a turtle

A baby turtle
crawling to the sea
Tomorrow I wonder
where it will be.

And Indigo Tomlinson (Hunaui College) whose poem on the moon painted a beautiful and timeless image, with its perfect simile.  

The moon was a frown, upside down,
It made a slice of silver
On the early morning sky,
Like the scale of a fish
That jumped so high,
It landed among
the stars.

Congratulations to both of you! I’ll be in touch by email soon to find out where to send your prizes.

2 thoughts on “Fabostory Poetry Challenge Report! 

  1. Hi! I have a question sorry. My name is Gracie Moodie from Bethlehem college school and I’m 11 years old, I enter fabo story pretty much every time a new competition comes up and most of the time I get a mention like for example in the poetry competition but I can never seem to win? I was just wondering what I could do to you know push my writing over the edge so I can start getting better then mentions?
    Thanks so much for running the competition.

    1. Hi Gracie. You’re already doing the right thing by entering regularly, and you’re doing very well to get mentioned! Keep practicing by writing stories and poems, and of course reading, reading, and more reading. The FABO authors were just like you at your age, practising and reading a lot. Remember that just because you didn’t win doesn’t mean your entry wasn’t great. Winning the competition is tough! Next year there will be a whole lot more chances to enter, and we look forward to seeing more of your work. 🙂


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