POETry for POET competition

This group has concluded its research and projects. This content remains available for reference purposes.

Winning and commended entries have been published in a special Starting School edition of Studio.

As there were so many entries for our competition, a special edition of Studio has been published. Showcasing poems of all genres and from a wide range of perspectives about starting school, this series of 40 poems can be used as a resource to prompt discussion about experiences or expectations of starting school.

The winning poem in the competition is: 'First day 1955' by Louise Nicholas

The highly commended poems are: 'Jerry-built' by Bill Cotter and 'Too small' by Josephine Clarke

See below for full poems

Please note that the copyright for these poems belongs to the authors. If you would like to use these poems in any way, please contact the author via email to Paul Grover at studio00@bigpond.net.au.

If you would like to obtain a copy of the special Starting School edition of Studio or would like to know more about the publication, please contact Paul Grover (editor) at studio00@bigpond.net.au. The journal is available for $10 with free postage within Australia. Please send an enquiry via email for international postage rates.

Copyright Louise Nicholas, Author

I stand in a forest of tall winter coats.
I am hiding behind one of them.
It is checked black and white.
It reaches down with a red-gloved hand.
I take a tight hold.

On top of each tall coat is a head.
On top of each head is a hat.
The heads and hats bob about
like boats at the beach.
They talk and laugh.

The talking heads and hats have gone.
The red-gloved hand has gone.
We sit in a circle.
We sit on squares of green felt.
My square makes me itch and scratch.

We sit with legs crossed, fingers in jail.
We must not talk or laugh. Or scratch.
One boy talks and laughs.
His fingers are not in jail.
He must sit in the corner and hide his face.

Some children have a silver triangle.
Some children have a tambourine.
One boy has a drum.
We bang and clatter and ping and sing:
Yankee doodle went to town.

We must walk in a circle.
When the music stops we sit down.
Now we have something new.
I have a silver triangle. She has a tambourine.
A different boy has the drum. Only boys play drums.

We sit on little brown chairs.
We must sit up straight, like soldiers.
The soldier letters are a e i o u.
The chair in front is dripping. Splish. Splosh.
It is Julie's chair. Julie is crying.

We point to the black bits and read.
Here is Dick. Here is Dora.
Here is Nip. Here is Fluff.
Here is Jane. Jane is Dora's doll.
Jane is in the mud. Run, Dick, run.

It is playtime. I run races with Julie.
She wins. Her dress is dry now.
We make a sand castle and dig a tunnel
from one side to the other. We touch fingers
in the middle. We are best friends.

The bell rings. We must line up at the toilets.
A big girl gives us a square of paper each.
I drop mine in and pull the chain. I didn't need to go.
Julie drops hers in and pulls the chain.
She's already been.

We must make a nest and ten eggs.
I have the blue plasticine.
Julie has the green plasticine.
Cynthia has the pink plasticine.
Cynthia has yellow curls. Pink is for pretty girls.

We stand behind easels to paint.
We paint a blue sky and a yellow sun.
We paint a red house and green grass.
We will learn a dog another day.
My yellow sun dribbles onto my green grass.

It is home time. The talking heads and hats are back.
My mother is back.
She smiles and reaches out her hand.
I take a tight hold. Her hand is cold.
She left her red gloves at home.

Copyright Bill Cotter, Author

Sixty years ago!
And yet, within the brain,
Some fixative keeps the images intact.

First the sky,
Blue as that cube of "Reckitts's Blue"
My mother used to create an aqua sea in her wash trough,

That cunning blue
Conning young thoughts away from school
To play
And climb the candle smooth boobiallas
That grew in our yard.

Next the wind,
The one that skimmed above our heads as we stood now,
Row upon row of us,
Listening to the headmaster;
The same companionable wind
That sheared through the grass we played in
On the weekends
And ran ahead of us up the steep sided bluff
We climbed with our friends after school.

And, of course,
The white weatherboard wall of the school itself,
Holding on to its brick chimney,
The one that echoed to the soft thud of tennis balls
And funnelled away smoke through the winter.

And that grey asphalt beach fringing every school in the State -
The quadrangle,
The one we skimmed our marbles across during playtimes.

But clearest of all is the scene of rebellion,
The revolt of wind, sky and stone,
Bricks lying like broken teeth,
Bricks crushing,
Bricks killing two of our friends

And the acid blue sky
Sluicing through the gap where the chimney had stood.

Copyright Josephine Clarke, Author

I am too small
for the big      bus      seat.
The leather is split
and the hairy stuffing is      
like      wire.
I am too small
for the big      un – i - form:
the brown skirt that smells like a sheep
and has pleats like my sister's piano accordion.
I am too small
for the Windsor knot my brother tied for me—
it pokes up under my chin
and the new shirt scratches my neck.

I am too small
for the big      jarrah      desk
but down here, close to the lid,
I can smell my new crayons,
the plasticine, the lead of my pencil,
the varnish of my brother's old ruler.
I can smell Snowy French's Brylcreemed hair,
Melanie O'Connor's wee as it trickles onto the floor
during silent reading after lunch
this      hot      day.

By afternoon bell I know the smell
of sweaty hands on sticky desktops
and I know too well
who did not bring a hanky to school.

I am too small
to ring the bell.
I am too small
to sit at the back of the bus with my brother
but I am small enough
for him to carry me
on his shoulders
down the gravel drive
and I shoo the march flies away
with my new
card   -   board      case.

We wish to thank Nina for her permission to publish
'Friends at School' on the cover of this special edition.

Studio cover image