Covid crashed the Phantom National Poetry Day celebrations for the second year running. But Kiwi poets are a resourceful bunch, and nothing was going to stop poetry from being the focus on Friday 27 August.
There were online showcases, Zoom events, virtual poetry books, haiku competitions and winner announcements. And in a joyous countrywide celebration of poetry, a virtual open mic hosted on the NPD and Phantom Billstickers Facebook pages generated so much traffic that it saw #nzpoetryday trending in the top 3 on social media for most of the day.
Celebrations kicked off on the eve of Phantom National Poetry Day, with the finalists and winner of the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, as well as the winner of the 2021 MitoQ Best First Book of Poetry, participating in an Australia-New Zealand online showcase. The widely-viewed collaboration with Red Room Poetry as part of Australia’s inaugural Poetry Month also featured a reading by Poet Laureate David Eggleton.
Numerous poetry competitions took to the airwaves and social media on the 27th. Several announced their winners, including E Tū Whānau’s Spoken Word competition (highlighted on Māori Television), RNZ's Short Poem Competition, the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook schools’ competition and the Hagley Writers’ Poetry Mentorship. Others ran haiku competitions throughout the day, and many closed for entries on the 27th, and will announce their winners soon.
Award-winning poet Tusiata Avia wrote a series of Dawn Raid poems that were released for National Poetry Day, and which Phantom Billstickers started pasting up around the motu as soon as alert levels permitted.
NPD coordinator Erica Stretton, who tirelessly managed the virtual open mic late into the evening, says: “It was a testament to the agility, creativity and sheer love of poetry that exists in Aotearoa, to see such a vibrant and joyous online sharing of words.”
Some events chose to postpone rather than go virtual. A Poetry Path, AJ Bell and the Poets, Poetry on the Beach and the Dunedin Poetry Cabaret all plan to hold their NPD events later in the year, and there are others, too, so keep an eye on the Calendar of Events so you don’t miss out. Let’s make the poetry magic last all year!