About the poetry award

The 2020 winner and shortlisted poets have been announced. Details of the 2021 Award will be available early next year.

Finalists to the 2020 award
From left to right, the nine finalists of the 2020 award: Arwyn Cranston, Xavia Hayward, Marijke Hinton, Abraham Hix, Robin Kunwar, Isabella Lane, Victoria Sun, Allegra Wilson, Campbell Wilson, and the winner, E Wen Wong.

The National Schools Poetry Award is held annually by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), subject to funding. It is free to enter and open to Year 12 and 13 students across New Zealand. Posters and information are sent to all eligible schools by March in each year that the Award is held and students can enter online on our dedicated Schools Poetry Award website, during the entry period.

This year, for the first time, students could choose to submit a poem in either English or te reo Māori.

The winner and nine finalists win cash and prizes for their poems, plus an invitation to attend an exclusive masterclass with leading New Zealand poets at the IIML on Victoria University of Wellington's campus. (Full prize details below.) Finalists and their teachers are contacted in August, prior to the public announcement of and the winner and shortlisted poets.

You can read the winning and shortlisted poems from 2020 and all previous Awards on our Schools Poetry Award website. You can also read previous judges' reports or download media releases below.

Thanks to Creative New Zealand, Ogilvy, Wonderlab and our loyal Schools Poetry Award supporters: Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, New Zealand Society of Authors, Victoria University Press, Landfall and Sport for continuing to make this annual event possible.

The National Schools Writing Festival, which previously accompanied the Poetry Award, was suspended in 2010 due to lack of ongoing funding support.

Our 2020 judges - Airini Beautrais and Anahera Gildea

Image of poet and 2020 National Schools Poetry Award judge Airini Beautrais

Airini Beautrais is a writer and teacher based in Whanganui. She writes poetry, short fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in NZ and elsewhere. She is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Her first collection, Secret Heart (VUP 2006) was written when she was a 22 year old Master’s student at the IIML. It won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the NZ Book Awards in 2007. In 2018 Airini was one of the judges for the Ockham NZ Books Awards.

Image of writer and 2020 National Schools Poetry Award judge Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe). Photo by Sadie Coe

Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe) is an essayist, poet, and short story writer. She has been widely published in multiple journals and anthologies, and her first book 'Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa' was published by Seraph Press in 2016. She holds a BA in Art Theory, Graduate Diplomas in Psychology, Teaching, and Performing Arts, and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. She is currently taking a hiatus for her doctoral research focusing on Māori literature at Victoria University of Wellington in Aotearoa, to convene the MA poetry and nonfiction workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters. (Photo by Sadie Coe.)

Media releases

2020 prizes

First prize

  • a $500 cash prize for the winner
  • a $500 book grant for the winner’s school library
  • an invitation to attend a one-day poetry masterclass at the IIML on Saturday 24 August 2019, including flights and one night’s accommodation at the Bolton Hotel for students outside the Greater Wellington region*
  • a year’s membership of Read NZ Te Pou Muramura
  • a year's membership of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA)
  • a year’s subscription to two leading New Zealand literary journals; Sport and Landfall
  • The Exercise Book, donated by Victoria University Press.

Runners-up prizes

  • a $100 cash prize
  • an invitation to attend a one-day poetry masterclass  at the IIML on Saturday 24 August 2018, including flights and one night’s accommodation at the Bolton Hotel for students outside the Greater Wellington region*
  • a year’s membership of Read NZ Te Pou Muramura
  • a year’s subscription to Sport, one of New Zealand’s leading literary journals.
  • The Exercise Book, donated by Victoria University Press.

*Due to pandemic and travel restrictions, the decision was made to hold an online masterclass in 2020; ensuring all finalists have the chance to participate.

The Poetry Kit is a free, downloadable resource produced by the IIML for students and their teachers to use in the lead up to the Award and beyond.

Download pdf537KBThe Poetry Kit.

The Kit includes writing exercises, links to useful and inspiring creative writing websites and tips on writing from internationally acclaimed poets, and is updated and modified from time to time.

Writing poetry is about allowing the unexpected in so the word magic can happen. One way to invite the unexpected is to use a writing exercise that will open you up to the surprises and potential of language. We hope the exercises may spark a poem or an idea for an Award entry. They will, at the very least, get the pen moving across the page.

Supporters

cnz-artsboardThe National Schools Poetry Award receives funding from Creative New Zealand


With additional support from Ogilvy

and promotional support from Wonderlab.


Prize partners

Victoria University Press

History of the award

The National Schools Poetry Award was first awarded in 2003, with the law firm Bell Gully as major sponsor. This inaugural award was judged by Gregory O'Brien and won by Mia Gaudin from Epsom Girls Grammar School. The 2004 award, judged by Glenn Colquhoun, was won by Poppy Haynes from Chilton St James School. The 2005 award, judged by Bernadette Hall, was won by Kirsti Whalen from Epsom Girls Grammar School. The 2006 award, judged by James Brown, was won by Alisha Vara from Rangi Ruru Girls' School.

In 2006 the shortlist was increased from six to ten students, with an expanded package of prizes, including a one-day poetry masterclass at the IIML in Wellington for all finalists. For the first time the judge, James Brown, was invited to recognise a small number of additional poems with a special commendation.

In 2007 we said goodbye to Bell Gully and welcomed New Zealand Post as the Award's new major sponsor.

The 2007 New Zealand Post National Schools Poetry Awards, judged by Andrew Johnston, saw the introduction of a new Recording Prize category.

Chloë Nannestad of Epsom Girls Grammar School was the overall winner, while the recording prize was won by Shannyn Boyd of Hutt Valley High School.

In 2008 the Best Poem category, judged by Paula Green, was won by Manon Revuelta of Epsom Girls Grammar School. The Best Lyric category, judged by Samuel Flynn Scott, was won by Sonya Clark of Karamu High School.

In 2009 the Best Poem category, judged by Jenny Bornholdt, was won by Charlotte Trevella of Rangi Ruru Girls' School. The Best Lyric category, judged by Jason Kerrison, was won by Sam Hickson of Middleton Grange School.

In 2009 we also said goodbye to New Zealand Post as our major sponsor and the 2010 Award was suspended, along with the National Schools Writing Festival which had been run alongside the Award since 2004. The support of Creative New Zealand enabled us to reinstate the Award in 2011. In that year, the design company Neogine (now Wonderlab) also offered its support by building a dedicated Schools Poetry website to showcase our winning and finalist poems.

The 2011 Award was judged by New Zealand's 2009-2011 Poet Laureate Cilla McQueen. The overall winner was Eden Tautali of Auckland's St Cuthbert's College.

The 2012 Award was judged by New Zealand's current Poet Laureate Ian Wedde. The overall winner was Haro Lee of Auckland's St Cuthbert's College.

The 2013 Award was judged by Anna Jackson. The overall winner was Emma Shi of Auckland's Pakuranga College.

In 2013, the New Zealand Association for the Teaching of English (NZATE) generously funded the poetry masterclass for our ten finalists.

The Award was suspended in 2014, as we were unable to secure sufficient sponsorship. However, since then we have successfully sought funding from Creative New Zealand to support the Award.

The 2015 Award was judged by Cliff Fell. The generosity of donors to our successful Boosted campaign allowed us to hold the Award in full, including a masterclass for the winner and finalists. Particular thanks are owed to Ogilvy and to Weta Digital.

The 2016 Award was judged by Anne Kennedy. The overall winner was Ioana Yule Manoa, Yr 12, Northcote College, Auckland.

The 2017 Award was judged by Ashleigh Young. The overall winner was Zora Patrick, Yr 12, Wellington High School.

The 2018 Award was judged by Louise Wallace. The overall winner was Ilena Shadbolt, Yr 13, Queen Margaret College.

The 2019 Award was judged by Chris Tse. The overall winner was Xiaole Zhan, Yr 13, Westlake Girls High.

The 2020 Award was judged by Airini Beautrais and Anahera Gildea. The overall winner was E Wen Wong, Yr 13, Burnside High.

We are grateful for the ongoing sponsorship and promotional support of Wonderlab, who have a long relationship with the Award. We would also like to acknowledge the generous and ongoing support of our prize partners: Read NZ Te Pou Muramural, the New Zealand Society of Authors, Victoria University Press, and the literary journals Landfall and Sport. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment to young New Zealand writers.