Thursday 17 January 2019

Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize Winners 2019

Cover design: Jo Bailey

Third Annual Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize:
Winners 2019

First prize:Wes Lee,
for ‘The Things She Remembers #1’

... Standing looking in the mirror saying:
No, No / The cold orange lipstick of the
Big Nurse / The patient who screamed like
a bird / her mouth wide as the abyss /
The patient who jumped on my back, kicked
in her heels, tried to gee me up like a
donkey / The painful embarrassment of being
thirteen / The laughter of the nurses / At
a terrible time I believed / At terrible times
I still believe / There are still things left to
sell / On the bus a wasp and a homeless man.


Wes Lee lives in Wellington. Her poetry has appeared in The Stinging Fly, New Writing Scotland, Westerly, Landfall, The London Magazine, Cordite, The London Reader, Irises: The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize Anthology 2017, and many other journals and anthologies. She was a finalist in the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018. The url to her website is

Second prize:Brett Gartrell,
for ‘After the principal calls’

... The dogs broke into the hen house
stringing two birds out in bloody feathered scraps.
My son cornered the panting terriers
washed the blood from their lips
as they licked the tears from his eyes.


Brett Gartrell lives and works in the Manawatū, caring for small broken things. He wrote these poems as part of the Master’s of Creative Writing degree at Massey University. His Massey staff profile can be found here.

Natalie Modrich

Third prize:Natalie Modrich,
for ‘Retail’

... I have had a headache for three days
I’ve forgotten what it feels like
to wear my own clothes
I don’t care
how your day has been
or if you have a nice rest of your day
you have no idea
how much I don’t fucking care
but is there anything else I can help you with?
have a nice day rest of your day.


Natalie Modrich has recently returned to studying a Bachelor of Arts in English at Massey University. She took a semester off in 2017 to travel Europe after working in a soul-crushing retail job. The poem featuring in this yearbook is a very therapeutic poem.

You can find the complete texts of all three poems printed on pp. 206-13 of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019.

Further remarks on each poem are included in my editorial for the issue, available on the Poetry New Zealand index site.

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