Winter’s on the way

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In this winter NZ poets’ edition we’re featuring the winning poems from our 2016 poetry competition. Frankie McMillan’s My mother and great aunt laughing like trees, Gill Ward’s What I forgot to steal, Jillian Sullivan’s June and Sarah Manning’s Barefoot walking. There is also a haiku, a poem for children and more…….

The winter cards will be posted or hand delivered to medical centres, rest homes, hospices and prisons this week. Look out for them – they’d love to be read!

Introducing our winter poets

Felicity Cutten


Felicity Cutten was born in Australia but has lived in Canterbury for over thirty years. She is a published science writer and illustrator and a member of the South Island Writers Association.

Mrs Cherry Hill


Cherry Hill is a retired teacher of Chinese and Japanese languages. She is a partner on a sheep and deer farm on the edge of Lake Ellesmere/TeWaihora.

Jan Hutchison


Jan Hutchison lives in Christchurch and has published three collections of poetry, the latest being – The Happiness of Rain.  She is published in Australia, England, and New Zealand.

Greg Judkins


Greg Judkins has been practising as a GP in a low socio-economic suburb of South Auckland for a very long time.  For most of that time he has also been involved in post graduate medical education for GPs.  He has one wife, three children and six grandchildren, is a keen cyclist, and enjoys dabbling in a little creative writing in the form of poetry and short fiction.

Sarah Manning


Sarah Manning – writes from her house overlooking Dunedin harbour and she draws on nature for her inspiration.

Frankie McMillan


Frankie McMillan is a New Zealand short story writer and poet. She is the author of ‘The Bag Lady’s Picnic and other stories’ ( Shoal Bay Press)  and two poetry collections: ‘Dressing for the Cannibals’ and ‘There are no horses in heaven’. (Canterbury University Press). In 2005 she was awarded the Creative New Todd Bursary. In 2008 and 2009 her work was selected for Best NZ Fiction anthologies. In 2013 and 2015 her poems were selected for Best New Zealand Poems (online, Victoria University).  In 2014 she held the Ursula Bethell writing residency at Canterbury University. Other awards include winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition in 2009 and winner of the New Zealand Flash Fiction Competition in 2013 and 2015. Her latest book, ‘My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions’ (Canterbury University Press) will be launched in August, 2016.  Frankie currently teaches at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.

Jillian Sullivan


Jillian Sullivan grew up in the Wairarapa, and now lives in Central Otago, NZ. She is published in a wide variety of genres and teaches writing in NZ, and in America each year for the Highlights Foundation.  Her awards include the Highlights Fiction Award in America for short stories, the Tom Fitzgibbon Award, and the Kathleen Grattan Prize for poetry. A mother of five and grandmother of eight, she recently spent six months full time building her strawbale house in the Ida Valley. Her forthcoming book, a memoir of building the house, and a new life down south, is due out with Potton and Burton, Spring 2016.


Brian Turner


Brian Turner – see


Gill Ward


Gill Ward lives on the Kapiti Coast. Her poetry, scripts and short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines, literary publications and on National Radio.  Now retired from teaching, Gill writes an online poetry column for the Kapiti Independent News and leads a U3A course on contemporary New Zealand Poetry. For the last seven years she has organised the Kapiti poetry café monthly event ‘Poets to the People.’ Her collection Poetic explanations (Kupu Press) was published in 2011.She won second prize in the 2013 Takahe Short Story Competition and was one of three joint prize winners in the 2013 Print Reality poetry competition, highly commended in 2015 Flash Fiction awards.

If you’ve enjoyed reading the Poems in the Waiting Room cards please consider making a donation here. All money goes towards our printing and postage costs.  Thank you -Ruth.




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Winter is approaching

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The winter poetry cards are all lined up ready for posting. The winter card is our NZ poets’ edition and features the winning poems from our 2016 poetry competition. Watch out for a bundle appearing in a waiting room near you from June 1.

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Standing Room Only, Radio NZ National

Poems in the Waiting Room featured on Radio NZ National’s Sunday afternoon programme Standing Room Only this week. The four poets who won our 2016 poetry competition read their winning poems throughout the show. From Kapiti, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin they all made their way to a recording studio – thank you Frankie, Gill, Jillian and Sarah.

Their poems will appear in the winter PitWR card which is at the printers now.

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Poems and flu jabs

Hanging around for 20 minutes after a flu jab is no problem when you’ve got a Poems in the Waiting Room poetry card to read!


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2016 Poetry Competition Results

Time to announce the winners

of  the

2016 Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ) poetry competition

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The 2016 competition winners have all been notified, and I’ve emailed everyone, who provided me with an email address, to let them know the results are out. Many thanks to: Otago University Press, Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ), Southern Community Laboratories, and Otago University Bookshop for providing monetary prizes and book vouchers for our 2016 competition.

The winning poems will appear in the winter edition of the Poems in the Waiting Room poetry card. I intend spending some time going through all submissions and selecting any which might be suitable for a future PitWR edition. I’ll be in touch with those poets early next week.

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition. Your support will help Poems in the Waiting Room continue to provide free seasonal poetry cards to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices.

Regards,  Ruth

The results with Pat White’s comments below:

Otago University Press First Prize:  “My mother and great aunt laughing like trees” by Frankie McMillan –  Christchurch

Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ)  Second Prize:  “What I forgot to steal” by Gill Ward –  Kapiti

Southern Community Laboratories Third Prize:  “June” by Jillian Sullivan – Oturehua

Otago University Bookshop Best unplaced Dunedin poet: “Barefoot walking” by Sarah Manning.



Judge’s comments for PITWR Competition 2016

The first part of judging a poetry competition is objective. Matters of form, use of language and context are considered. I read each poem twice to ensure time is taken with every entry. This year there were all but 350 poems.

After that initial reading stage, judging is a process of elimination. There is a certain point after the first readings when the work that will not be shortlisted is put aside, and those works are left behind. I worked from 350, to 100 entries, then to 40 and finally settled for a shortlist of 16 poems. I then returned to the smaller selection a number of times – these were the works that lingered in my mind.

Over a period of time the poems take on their own characters, for they all have different qualities. In the end a particular judge relates to specific poems more closely than another judge may, and those poems become the winners.

I would like to thank those poets who entered this competition. There were a number of potentially good poems that did not make the prize list, for one reason or another, including  ‘float or dance’, ‘spy’, ‘beyond the mango trees’, ‘ stalked in the supermarket’ ‘we watch Mum run a half-marathon’, ‘the slip’.  In the end my choices are as follows:

Otago University Press First Place: – My mother and great aunt laughing like trees

This poem wins for its sheer exuberance. It is very difficult to read it out loud without getting involved in the moment of laughter. At the same time the poem laughs and rolls through to its conclusion so quickly that one takes a moment to realize the final two lines are absolutely loaded with lives full of hardship and longing, already hinted at in the third line.

Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ)  Second Place – What I forgot to steal

The idea of loss and regret is seldom dealt to with humour in this fashion. An almost brash self-knowledge is opened up at the end of the poem with a surprising vulnerability. Direct language and attention to specific details set the reader up for the admission at the end – a sort of country and western ‘laughing at your tears’

Southern Community Laboratories Third Place – June

The idea of beginning each day with thanks is strong, and the poem is compiled with language which in its simplicity is a thanksgiving of its own. Almost a painting in its brushstrokes, by including the bird at the end it moves beyond mere depiction, to add another world in the poet’s thoughts.

Otago University Bookshop Best unplaced Dunedin poet –  Barefoot Walking

 This is a quiet poem that makes a play on the idea of ‘dark pathways’ and our need to connect with the earth, because if we walk on, there is light and by implication, hope.

Pat White

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Here comes Autumn

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This autumn card is our 30th edition of Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ) so we’re chuffed with this quiet achievement. Our 2016 poetry competition closes today ( February 29) and all the poems will be bundled up and sent off to this year’s judge Pat White. We had a record number of entries so we’ll have to give Pat some time to work his way through all the poems and come to a decision. I’ll post the results here in due course.

Sit back and read about our 9 contributors to this 2016 autumn edition.


Barbara Strang

Barbara Strang

Barbara Strang was born in Invercargill. She lives near the Estuary, Christchurch, an area badly damaged in the quakes. She has had two books of poetry published; and haiku, children’s stories, fiction and other prose published and awarded here and overseas. She is looking for a publisher for her third collection, a book of haiku. She has acted as a judge in various competitions and is also an experienced editor, having produced two anthologies for the New Zealand Poetry Society, and other poetry collections. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University.


Ed Werstein

Ed Werstein

Ed Werstein, spent 22 years in manufacturing and union activity before his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. He advocates for peace and against corporate power. His poetry has appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat, Gyroscope Review, SteamTicket, and other publications. His chapbook, Who Are We Then? was published in 2013 by Partisan Press.

Gill Learner

Gill Learner

Gill Learner was born near Birmingham (UK) but now lives in Reading. She began writing after retirement from teaching Printing Studies at Berkshire School of Art & Design and her poems often reflect her continued interest in technologies old and new as well as her love of music and the visual arts. They also touch on her concern for what is happening in the world both politically and environmentally. Her work has been read on BBC radio & TV, translated into Romanian, widely published in journals (Acumen, Agenda, ARTEMISpoetry, Mslexia, Poetry News, The Interpreter’s House, The North and South) and in a range of anthologies. Gill has also won a several awards including the Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize, the Buxton Poetry Competition 2011 & 2012, and the English Association’s Fellows’ Poetry Prize 2012.

She very much enjoys reading her poetry to an audience and can be heard regularly at Reading’s Poets’ Café. Her first collection, The Agister’s Experiment, was published in 2011 by Reading’s own Two Rivers Press and a second, Chill Factor, will appear from the same publisher in Spring 2016. Her web pages are at


J. Allyn Rosser

J Allyn Rosser

J Allyn Rosser’s fourth book, Mimi’s Trapeze, appeared in 2014 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her previous collection of poems, Foiled Again, won the New Criterion Poetry Prize in 2007. Her first collection, Bright Moves, was selected by Charles Simic for the Morse Poetry Prize, and her second, Misery Prefigured, won the Crab Orchard Award and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2001.

She has received numerous awards for her work, among them the Peter I.B. Lavan Award for Younger Poets from the Academy of American Poets, a Pushcart Prize, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize and the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio State Arts Council.  Her poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry, Paris Review, The Georgia Review, The Atlantic, The Smithsonian Magazine, Slate, and in four editions of Best American Poetry.  Rosser teaches at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.

John Parker

John Parker

Twenty-five years ago, after being at various times a teacher of piano, a postie, a truck driver, an opera singer in Europe, and a lecturer in English at the former Auckland College of Education, John Parker decided to chance his arm at writing.

Since then he has written over 130 titles for children, ranging from picture-books to teen novels to an award-winning 4-volume history of New Zealand in conjunction with the Frontier of Dreams TV series.

More than 70 of his poems, plays and stories have appeared in the New Zealand School Journal and Radio New Zealand, TVNZ and BBC School Radio have broadcast a number of his children’s and adult stories and radio plays.

Over 400 of his articles – especially on golf, tramping, skiing and travel – have been published in magazines and newspapers and he also writes and edits for businesses and educational organisations.

John has also made some 300 visits to schools all over New Zealand for the NZ Book Council.

John Parker lives beside a golf-course on Auckland’s North Shore, sharing the house with his wife, and occasional errant golf-balls.

Nick Williamson

Nick Williamson

Nick Williamson lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. His work has been published in numerous literary journals. His first book of poems, The Whole Forest, was published by Sudden Valley Press in 2001. Broken Light, a poem from that book was selected for Best Poems New Zealand in that year. In 2005 his poem, Learning a Language’, won the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition.

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Paula Harris

Paula Harris is a Palmerston North-based poet. She won the Whitireia Poetry Award in 1995 and has attended Victoria University’s Poetry Workshop and Iowa Poetry Workshop. Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies.

Along with writing, Paula is a Pilates instructor, massage therapist, Argentine tango dancer and a terrible gardener but a good cook.

Paula is currently working on a collection, titled “Love Poems for Pessimists”.


Sophia Frentz

Sophia Frentz is from Tauranga, completed a degree at the University of Otago in Dunedin, and then jumped across the ditch to Melbourne where she is currently working on a PhD in Genetics at the University of Melbourne. She enjoys poetry (particularly haiku) as she finds it’s a nice change from the thinking style required by her academic pursuits.

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

Poet, novelist, and environmentalist Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace, where he has maintained a farm for over 40 years. Mistrustful of technology, he holds deep reverence for the land and is a staunch defender of agrarian values. He is the author of over 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays. His poetry celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted.


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Poetry competition

DSC05979.JPGIF you’ve had enough of weeding, watering or wilting why not look for a shady spot, settle yourself down and start work on a poem or two for our 2016 poetry competition. Full details here

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