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.

Posted in Enter Now, Poetry

Enter the Pop-up Poetry Challenge with Elena de Roo and Melinda Szymanik now!

There’s a fun new competition to enter on the FABO website!

Pop-up Poetry Challenge

With Elena de Roo and Melinda Szymanik

Using any of the starters below, or one of the pictures as inspiration, write a poem no longer than 25 lines. (It can be as short as you want). It’s okay to be inspired by a picture and use one of the starters.

Have fun – there are no rules in poetry! Your poems don’t have to rhyme but they can if you want them to. They don’t have to tell a story or even make sense, unless you want them to. You can have long lines or lines that are just one word or something in the middle. You can even make up new words just because they sound good.

Read your poem out loud — listen to the words and the rhythm they make. How does your poem make you feel? What shape does your poem make on the page?

You have two weeks to write your poem, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best poem you can write.

Send your poem to us by 7pm Friday October 1st (NZ time).

You can enter TWO poems (at most).

The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

Here are some poetry prompts to get you started on your poem – they could be the title, the first line, the last line or somewhere in the middle.

• The last polar bear
• Everything was melting
• I held the golden ticket
• The moon was a frown, upside down
• One cup of plain words
• I climbed until the sky turned inky blue
• It smelled of green
• As quiet as the tiniest whisper
• Like a shiny marble
• The boom of moon tubers*
(*You can change the spelling to “moon tubas” if you prefer).

You must:
1. EITHER use one of the poetry prompt lines somewhere in your poem,
2. OR write a poem using one of the pictures on this page as inspiration.
3. OR you can use BOTH a poetry prompt line and a picture to inspire you.

Send Us Your Poem Here…

Posted in Poetry, The Winners!

FABO Poetry Challenge report by Melinda Szymanik and Elena de Roo

Melinda Szymanik’s Report and Winners

Crikey! We had a fantastic response to the Poetry Challenge we set. Not just a terrific number of entries but of a very high quality as well. You are a talented bunch of poets! As we had close to 200 entries we decided to divide them in half between us and I judged the first 93. Here is what I thought.

Wowsers, what wonderful wordsmiths you all are. I laughed, I cried, I gasped. Some of you wrote thoughtful clever poems, some of you wrote heartfelt laments, and some of you wrote funny twisty poems. I found it really, really hard to pick. I thought many of your poems were very good.

In no particular order I especially enjoyed the poems written by Mia Holtom from Epsom Normal Primary, and Sienna Brits and Emily Fotheringham, both from Balmacewen Intermediate. Also poems by Phoebe Smith from A.G.E. (The Bench in the Corner), Eliana Gibbons from Fendalton Open Air (Swirls of Rainbows), and Lincey Jiang from West Park School with her clever limerick. Poems by Rose-Lynn Wen and Claytin Su, both from Epsom Normal Primary, Natalia from St Joseph’s Catholic School in Takapuna, Reka Lipoth and Clare Hourigan (with another limerick) both from Carmel College, and Vicki Murdoch from Point Chevalier Primary. And William Kelly of Brooklyn Primary, and Violetta Dacre, Lillie Walsh, Anika Makle, Hazel Hall, Lily Fowler (with a great environmental message) and Alice McDonald (The Feathered Saviour) all from Selwyn House School also impressed me with their poems.

My runner up was Amadeia from Kaurilands Primary with her poem ‘The Beach.’ I particularly liked the ending:

And the shells that washed ashore,
Are pulled back into the sea
Like a mother taking care of her babies.

My junior winner, with her poem ‘The Hedgehog in My Basket,’ is Holly Delilah Brown, 8, from Westmere Primary. This poem shows good control of the rhythm and rhyme, humour, and a well-structured idea. There is some lovely language, and technique shown. Great work Holly.

The Hedgehog In My Basket

On one Sunday morning,
I heard the rooster shout,
I was lying in my bed when I thought
I might as well get out!

I slipped my fluffy slippers on
And went to check the time,
My finger lifted my peeper lid
But slipped and poked my eye!

I went to do my washing
But the machine was already full,
I put the clothes in a basket
Then out I saw it crawl!

That little snout was the first thing out
Then the spiky ball,
It paused when it saw me and then before me,
It positioned against the wall!

But a leg was lagging, the tiny foot dragging
So I took him to the vet,
And never has anyone in the world
Had such a lovely pet!

And my senior winner is Sam Smith, 13 from Awakeri Primary School. I love the repeating yet varying refrain of ‘the clouds began to cry’. I love the language – ‘tussock twisted sharp as bone’ … ‘The horizon burnt with autumn’ and ‘The moon disappeared with a sigh’. This poem feels epic and yet also personal – well done Sam.

The sea withered below me,
I fell as far as the sky,
The tussock twisted sharp as bone,
And the clouds began to cry,

The horizon burnt with autumn,
A treasure to the eye,
A landscape picturesque,
Til’ the clouds began to cry,

The trees rose tall and mighty,
The moon disappeared with a sigh,
Awakened was our silent sun,
Then the clouds began to cry,

Opened were the heavens,
And forever your peace may fly,
Tears were rolling down my cheeks,
As my clouds began to cry.

Elena de Roo’s Report and Winner

I read the last 93 poems to come in and I too was blown away by the wide range of imaginative and accomplished poems you entered. Some made me laugh, some made me cry and some transported me with their beautiful imagery. Others rolled off the tongue or delighted me with their perfect simplicity.

Also in no particular order, here are some of the poems that stood out for various reasons:

Best last line from Puffin in the Storm by Trelise McEwan (Selwyn House School) “I catch my lunch from the lulling sea.”

Other noteworthy last lines: Saskia Fitzgerald (St Andrew’s Preparatory) “Tick tock tick tock, the hedgehog runs up the grandfather clock!” and from Aneel Bartlett (St Andrew’s College) “Hedgehog, Oh hedgehog, don’t get squashed!”

Best titles:

Lingering Lollipop Lines – Maddy (Paparangi School). I love the way your whole poem skips along with alliterative energy. You use some great metaphors to describe the lollipops in your poem too, like “twisty serpents” and “eye popping snails”

A Place to Sleep – Juliet Grey (Selwyn House School). I like the way the title adds to the poem , also that you never tell us directly the what the subject of your poem is, leaving us to guess from clues – “sand dune sized blanket,” “spiky barricade” and “wrinkles of light pink flesh.”

Best structured poems: Chelsea Brown (Carmel School) who wrote a reverse poem with a thought provoking environmental message. Also Grace Plummer (St Mary’s College) and Lachie Hackston (Fendalton school) who both used a repeated structure, slightly changing it each time, to build up to some excellent last lines.

Best similes: Cy Finnemore (Epsom Normal Primary School) Up in the tree tops – reading your poem I can really picture the sights, smells and sounds of the jungle – “Emerald treetops like bunches of parsley” “Muddy rivers looping around the forest like jungle vines” “Leaves sway side to side like a hip hop dancer”

Best beginning: Maanvir Chawla (Papatoetoe Central) – “I swallowed a cloud, When I wasn’t allowed”

Excellent Rhythm and rhyme:
Hannah Howis (Fendalton Open Air School) Puffin Lunch – great opening lines where rhythm and rhyme come together to create a sense of movement, “Swooping and swerving come puffins in twos, screeching and squawking out of the blue”

Sam Smith (Awakeri Primary School) Up in the treetops – near perfect rhythm and rhyme create a musical poem that sings.

Ariana Kralicek (Balmoral School) – I like the way you’ve taken the alliteration of the prompt and run with it, especially the line “Now, nicely nick a nit from your cousin’s scalp,” and also the way you’ve played around with the shape of your poem to match the words.

Mia Douglas (Selwyn House School) – “Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Frail rocks crumble under my feet”

Emma Van Schalkwyk (Selwyn House School) – The Song of the Moon – “I swallowed a cloud as I was lifted gently through the setting sky.”

There were so many excellent poems it was very hard to choose a winner. I read them all and then left it for a few days to see which ones lingered in my mind.

Special Mentions:

Maddix Smith (St Clair) – for a clever poem that made me laugh out loud.

Sivakami S (Selwyn College) – the magical images in your poem spirited me away to another world.

Trelise McEwan (Selwyn House School) – Puffin’s Lunch paints a beautifully vivid picture of a seabird diving for a fish.

Runner Up:

Lillie Walsh (Selwyn House School) – your powerful poem about home sickness spoke from the heart and really touched me.


Hedgehog by Vitek Mencl (Ilam School) – was a tiny but perfectly formed poem. It had a lovely flow and rhythm to the words, an unexpected last line, and the image it made in my mind stayed with me. Congratulations Vitek!


Around the corner
in my bedroom
a hedgehog
is sleeping
so hard
he dreams
of being on the beach.