Announcing the winning poems of the 2023 Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition


We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2023 Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook Student Poetry Competition in celebration of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Year 11

First Prize

Anushka Dissanayake: Just a teen

‘a teacher once told me i was bright,/ that night i dismembered the running grooves/ of the heavy thing inside my head,/ combusted the papers marked red/ 100s with singed edges/ into the waste’

Judge’s comments: Lyric intensity in voice & image, travelling shifting scenes of teen experience to moving effect.

Second Prize

Maia Hills: Typa Vibe

‘It's like when you're learning 'bout Maori incarceration rates and the class all turns to you, typa vibe….It's like how the media makes Maori parades look like a gang riot, typa vibe.’

Judge’s comments: Beat-driven voice, rippling with attitude, taking on racist ‘typa vibes’ with head-on attack.

Third Prize

Oliver Marsh: Bridges

‘An arterial mat,/ Spread out on a map,/ Blue tendrils of water/ Snake out from the mountain/ Pulled by gravity/, Following,/ Flowing,/ Under bridges.’

Judge’s comments: Beautifully focused ‘arterial’ line-breaking, with a strong eye for concrete image-precision.

Highly Commended: Tayla Francis, ‘untitled’; Joanne Kim, ‘Let us poets’; Genesta Hamm, ‘If you say I am free, then who am I to disagree’; Lisa Murata, ‘eyes wide or you might miss it’; Isabelle Nash, ‘Requiem for the Boy’

Year 12

First Prize

Charles Ross: Hikaroroa

‘bright citrus slices of light/ that create bold shadows on my wall because my friend’s father sold the curtains’

Judge’s comments: Strong, open, involving voice with relaxed, graceful tone & fresh contemporary feel, drawing the reader into a clearly lit scene.

Second Prize

Sascha Letica: Auckland Baby & You is Just Another Word:

‘You’re holding my school shirt against the bullet wound in my spine and telling me I can walk again’

Judge’s comments: A poet who is breathing gasoline, the voice is so charged, & the attack so fiery! I can’t wait to see the flame she spits out in the future.

Third Prize

Siti Nur Aina Binit Mohd Nazlee: No one will ever want to sleep with: love her but I’m sure I’ll like her

‘She is metal on your tongue and blood on your lips…/She is pig-tails at the end of the world. She’s a skirt and a gun.’

Judge’s comments: Striking energetic aura achieved by tight line control & sensory observation.

Highly commended:

Ivy Feng, ‘bruised’; Kathleen Mitchell, ‘Plums’; Adeeba Shaik, ‘reviving an industrialised heart’; Hannah Naidoo, ‘My culture’; Layla Hoskin, ‘Mature’

Year 13

First Prize

Tunmise Adebowale: A Little Grace

‘mornings are/ best spent holding wives by their waist,/ dying slow deaths,/ juicing life with our teeth/ at the breakfast table.’

Judge’s comments: All entries by this poet were strong, showcasing an electric gaze, a vibrant original tone & eye, with stunning line control & real hypnotic pull in imagery.

Second Prize

Emma Philips: NZ 673 to Dunedin: One Way

‘The clouds remind me of white fat lumps on a sheep's heart that I snicked off with small scissors in the gruesome quiet of a lab’

Judge’s comments: Striking physicality in central metaphor, & razor-sharp use of form, startles the reader & shows a vivid poet’s eye. Again, all pieces were strong!

Third Prize

Ruby Appleby: Coming of age

‘we are glittery pink keychains. We/ are chipped nail polish on intertwined fingers./ we are mini skirts & baby tees & goosebumps./ we are night drives, feeling alive & shout-singing/ to What’s My Age Again?’

Judge’s comments: Uses a form which lists & leaps for a rapid & vivid relay of imagery, sparkling with living energy.

Highly Commended: Jade Wilson, ‘Boy Racer’; Sydney Brandolino, ‘shallow end’; Sarah Smith, ‘An extended metaphor of the circulatory system’; River Mein, ‘railway lines, shattered lives’; Oshadha Perera, ‘Teardrops’; Oriana Ewens, ‘Ready, Set, Girl’

Thanks to Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day and Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato the University of Waikato for their support. 

Read the winning poems here.