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Poetry on the Hutt River wins national award

Poetry on the Hutt River wins national award

A touch of escapism is how Poppy Haynes, winner of the 2004 Bell Gully National Schools Poetry Award, describes her winning poem, Had I an intelligent dolphin… set on the Hutt River.

Poppy Haynes, 17, from Chilton St James School in Lower Hutt, is the second young poet to receive the annual national prize, judged this year by Glenn Colquhoun with the award presented by Margaret Mahy at tonight’s prize ceremony (27 August).

The announcement kicks off this year’s Bell Gully National Schools Writing Festival, which has attracted more than 200 students, teachers and writers from around the country to take part in the weekend’s workshops. Both the festival and competition have been organised by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters and law firm Bell Gully.

Poppy, who is in her final year of secondary school, has always written poetry for fun, and took part in the Bell Gully National Schools Poetry Festival in 2003, where she received some helpful tips and advice from James Brown, Victoria University’s Poet in Residence.

“Poetry is a bit of fun; a chance to escape and fantasise about mad moments, crazy ideas and really let your imagination run away with you,” says Poppy.

“I wrote the poem on a Sunday afternoon while I was supposed to be doing my calculus homework.”

Judge Glenn Colquhoun agrees. “It is always important to look at the world in a different light. Poetry is one of the oldest ways of doing that. It is worth preserving and promoting,” he says.

“Poppy’s poem was a small tunnel of words to escape through and not out of place among the best poems I have read this year. Every time I read it, it stood out for its simplicity, imagination, precision and joy.”

Despite a wealth of extra-curricular activities – soccer, choir, running the school newspaper and taking part in the National Youth Drama School, Poppy still finds time for her poetry. She plans to go to university next year and will probably undertake a double degree so that she can continue to study her favourite subjects, which range from Biochemistry to English.

Poppy will receive a $500 cash prize; a $500 book grant for her school’s library; a year’s membership to the New Zealand Book Council; and subscriptions to leading literary journals Landfall and Sport.

This year’s runners-up are Helen Lyttelton and Meg Ryburn, Year 12, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Christchurch and Melissa Chen, Shezani Nasoordeen and Arielle Tai, Year 13, Epsom Girls Grammar School, Auckland.

Media are welcome to attend the announcement of the Bell Gully National Schools Poetry Award on 27 August at 6pm on L28 of the Majestic Centre, 100 Willis Street, Wellington.

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