About the poetry award

The 2018 National Schools Poetry Award masterclass participants and convenors.
2018 Schools Poetry masterclass participants (left to right): Cerys Fletcher, Cybella Maffitt, Isabel Ayora, Hera Lindsay-Bird (convenor), Catherine Davidson, Patricia Alcartado, Ruby Rae Macomber, Harriet Carter, Ruby Hooper, Kushla Siemonek, James Brown (convenor), and Ilena Shadbolt, in the workshop room at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). Absent: Anna Doak and Stella Stevens.

The 2018 winner and finalists have been announced.  

The National Schools Poetry Award is held annually, subject to funding. It is free to enter and open to Year 12 and 13 students across New Zealand. Posters and entry forms are sent to all eligible schools by March in each year that the Award is held. Students can also enter online before the entry deadline, via our dedicated Schools Poetry Award website, where you can also read previous winning and finalist poems.

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

Thanks to Creative New Zealand, Ogilvy and Mather and our loyal Schools Poetry Award supporters: the New Zealand Book Council, 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.

.Image of poet and 2018 Schools Poetry Award judge Louise Wallace. (Photo credit: Grant Maiden)

Our 2018 judge

Louise Wallace's poems have been published in literary journals in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., translated into German and Spanish, and anthologised in Best of Best New Zealand Poems, Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page, and Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 Political Poems. In 2015 she was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, Dunedin. In 2016 she represented New Zealand at the Mexico City Poetry Festival. She is the author of three collections of poetry, all published by Victoria University Press, the most recent being Bad Things (2017). She is the founder and editor of Starling, an online journal publishing the work of young New Zealand writers.

Our 2018 masterclass leaders

We are delighted this year to have James Brown and Hera Lindsay Bird as this year's masterclass convenors.

Image of poet and masterclass convenor James Brown. (Photo credit: Robert Cross)

James Brown is the author of six poetry collections - most recently Floods Another Chamber (Victoria University Press, 2017). His poems have been widely published in NZ and overseas, and included in numerous anthologies. A former editor of the literary magazine Sport, James is also the author behind the non-fiction booklet Instructions for Poetry Readings, editor of The Nature of Things: Poems from the New Zealand Landscape (Craig Potton Publishing, 2005), and of Best New Zealand Poems 2008.

In 2014, he wrote three early reader books (My New Zealand ABC BookMy New Zealand Colours Book, and My New Zealand 123 Book) for Te Papa Press. This trio was among the children's books selected by author Kate De Goldi in 2018 as a gift to the newborn Prince Louis of Cambridge from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

James has held the Writer in Residence Fellowships at Canterbury University and Victoria University, and been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards three times.

He convenes the CREW 253 Poetry Workshop | He Rotarota at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML).

Image of poet and masterclass convenor Hera Lindsay Bird. (Photo credit: Vivian Lindsay)

Hera Lindsay Bird completed the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria's IIML in 2011 and won that year's Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. Her work has been published by The ToastThe HairpinSportHue & CryThe SpinoffThe New Zealand Listener and Best New Zealand Poems.

Her first collection of poetry, Hera Lindsay Bird was published by VUP in 2016 and won the 2017 Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry 2017 and was also an Arts Foundation new Generation Laureate in the same year. To date, hers  has been the fastest selling, most popular book of poetry VUP has ever published.

Hera Lindsay Bird was also published in the UK by Penguin and Hera herself has just returned from her launch trip to the UK.

Carol Ann Duffy (the current Scottish Poet Laureate) selected her poem 'Pamper Me To Hell & Back' as the Laureate's Choice. It was subsequently published by the Poetry Society in a pamphlet collection, in 2018.

'Without doubt the most arresting and original new young poet, on the page and in performance' - Carol Ann Duffy.

Media releases

2018 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 with poets James Brown and Hera Lindsay Bird at the IIML on Saturday 25 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 the New Zealand Book Council
  • 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 with poets James Brown and Hera Lindsay Bird at the IIML on Saturday 25 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 the New Zealand Book Council
  • a year’s subscription to Sport, one of New Zealand’s leading literary journals.
  • The Exercise Book, donated by Victoria University Press.

The poetry kit

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.


cnz-artsboardThe National Schools Poetry Award receives funding from Creative NZ.

With additional support from Ogilvy and Mather.

Prize partners

New Zealand Book CouncilNew Zealand Society of AuthorsVictoria University PressLandfall literary journal University of OtagoSPORT Victoria University

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, we successfully sought funding from Creative New Zealand to support the Award from 2015 to 2017.

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 & Mather 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.

We would like to acknowledge the generous and ongoing support of our prize partners: The New Zealand Book Council, 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.

Read previous winning and shortlisted poems.

Find out how to enter.