Poetry

An engaging display of poetry books.
Find out about poetry and how to use it to engage children with reading. With wordplay, humour and fresh insights into the ordinary and extraordinary, children’s poetry captures emotions and confronts serious issues.

About poetry

Poetry is a broad genre without boundaries. If rhyme, rhythm, shape, form, and imagery are combined with a desire to communicate, a poem is born. Poems have the ability to communicate with immediacy and deceptive simplicity. Ralph Fletcher, children's author, compares a poem to an x-ray allowing you to see the bare bones of something you might have taken for granted. Poetry introduces children to language, entertains, and offers subversive delights.

In 2017, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), with funding from the UK’s Arts Council Grants for the Arts, ran a project for teachers to highlight the importance of poetry as a vehicle for improving children’s engagement with reading and writing.

Teachers found that allowing children to ‘bask’ in poems as a regular part of the school day, without any need to give a concrete response, increased their enjoyment of poetry. Other key findings included the importance of giving children time and opportunity to hear poetry read aloud, and to practise and perform poetry.

The Power of Poetry Research Summary — a summary of key findings.

  • Performance and slam poetry

    Performance poetry is composed to be performed before an audience. As New Zealand's own ‘word witch’ Margaret Mahy said, poems are for the ear, the simplest introduction to the physical quality of words.

    Slam poetry is a high-energy form of spoken word poetry performed at competitions — poetry slams — and is becoming increasingly popular among young people in New Zealand and overseas.

    Button Poetry — promotes slam poetry.

    New Zealand Slam Poetry — home of the yearly National Poetry Slam, which aims to further awareness and appreciation of poetry and live performance, and find New Zealand's top performance poet.

  • Performance and slam poetry

    Performance poetry is composed to be performed before an audience. As New Zealand's own ‘word witch’ Margaret Mahy said, poems are for the ear, the simplest introduction to the physical quality of words.

    Slam poetry is a high-energy form of spoken word poetry performed at competitions — poetry slams — and is becoming increasingly popular among young people in New Zealand and overseas.

    Button Poetry — promotes slam poetry.

    New Zealand Slam Poetry — home of the yearly National Poetry Slam, which aims to further awareness and appreciation of poetry and live performance, and find New Zealand's top performance poet.

  • Humorous poetry for children

    Laughter and humour are core elements of a large number of children’s poems. Many poets write purposely to entertain but hope children will see parallels in their own lives. There are many popular performance poets who transform daily life into hilarious chaos, including:

    • Jack Prelutsky
    • Paul Cookson
    • Roger McGough
    • Colin McNaughton.

    Jack Prelutsky

    Paul Cookson

    Roger McGough

  • Humorous poetry for children

    Laughter and humour are core elements of a large number of children’s poems. Many poets write purposely to entertain but hope children will see parallels in their own lives. There are many popular performance poets who transform daily life into hilarious chaos, including:

    • Jack Prelutsky
    • Paul Cookson
    • Roger McGough
    • Colin McNaughton.

    Jack Prelutsky

    Paul Cookson

    Roger McGough

  • Poetry that explores issues or changes the world

    A more serious sub-genre of thematic poems deals with topical, contentious issues such as the damage that bullying causes. Poets who explore issues and produce poetry that is emotive, unsettling and thought-provoking for all ages include:

    • John Foster
    • Gareth Owen
    • John Agard
    • Andrew Fusek Peters.

    Just as hip hop and rap have moved into the music mainstream as a voice for the disenfranchised, poetry that celebrates rhythm, beat and story carries strong messages. Rastafarian rap poet, Benjamin Zephaniah says that he wants to change the world with his poetry.

    Benjamin Zephaniah

    Changing the world with poetry

    Historically poetry has done this. The war poetry of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen was instrumental in presenting the unpalatable truth of World War I. While there are contemporary poets who offer insight and hope rather than bitterness about racism such as:

    • Maya Angelou
    • John Agard, and
    • Glyne Walrond.

    By paying tribute to the men and women whose only instrument is free speech, who imagine and act, UNESCO recognizes in poetry its value as a symbol of the human spirit’s creativity. By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.
    — Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

    Diversity in poetry

    Michael Rosen has pleaded for more diversity, originality and new material from all cultures. Among the poetic voices for Pasifika and Asian New Zealand communities are:

    • Selina Tusitala Marsh
    • Robert Sullivan
    • Yang Lian.
  • Poetry that explores issues or changes the world

    A more serious sub-genre of thematic poems deals with topical, contentious issues such as the damage that bullying causes. Poets who explore issues and produce poetry that is emotive, unsettling and thought-provoking for all ages include:

    • John Foster
    • Gareth Owen
    • John Agard
    • Andrew Fusek Peters.

    Just as hip hop and rap have moved into the music mainstream as a voice for the disenfranchised, poetry that celebrates rhythm, beat and story carries strong messages. Rastafarian rap poet, Benjamin Zephaniah says that he wants to change the world with his poetry.

    Benjamin Zephaniah

    Changing the world with poetry

    Historically poetry has done this. The war poetry of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen was instrumental in presenting the unpalatable truth of World War I. While there are contemporary poets who offer insight and hope rather than bitterness about racism such as:

    • Maya Angelou
    • John Agard, and
    • Glyne Walrond.

    By paying tribute to the men and women whose only instrument is free speech, who imagine and act, UNESCO recognizes in poetry its value as a symbol of the human spirit’s creativity. By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.
    — Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

    Diversity in poetry

    Michael Rosen has pleaded for more diversity, originality and new material from all cultures. Among the poetic voices for Pasifika and Asian New Zealand communities are:

    • Selina Tusitala Marsh
    • Robert Sullivan
    • Yang Lian.
  • Verse novels

    Shorter than novels, verse novels are an increasingly popular sub-genre of poetry. Offering thought-provoking stories they are often autobiographical and flexible in format and an attractive introduction for reluctant readers.

    On writer Helen Frost's website a 10-year-old boy has said, 'If I had known there were books like this I would have started reading a long time ago'.

    Michael Rosen

    Helen Frost

    Genres for young adult and young readers — has more information about verse novels.

  • Verse novels

    Shorter than novels, verse novels are an increasingly popular sub-genre of poetry. Offering thought-provoking stories they are often autobiographical and flexible in format and an attractive introduction for reluctant readers.

    On writer Helen Frost's website a 10-year-old boy has said, 'If I had known there were books like this I would have started reading a long time ago'.

    Michael Rosen

    Helen Frost

    Genres for young adult and young readers — has more information about verse novels.

  • Poetry in the classroom and school library

    Poems are ideal for sharing. Start by making your classroom a poetry-friendly place where children can discover the curiosity, wonder and fun of poetry and find their own voice.

    How can a positive interaction with poetry fulfill curriculum expectations that students enjoy and engage with poetry and also think critically and write poems themselves? Rachel McAlpine, a New Zealand poet says ‘a teacher’s role is pivotal.’

    Ideas for using poetry with students

    Here are some ideas for sharing poetry with students.

    • Read poetry aloud to students every day.
    • Request a poetry selection from National Library Lending Services on a theme or centre of interest.
    • Display poetry around the classroom, along corridors, on doors and windows.
    • Create an A to Z poetry anthology for your class with a poem for every letter of the alphabet.
    • Display poems on large sheets of paper and illustrate them.
    • Write poems on the playground with large pieces of chalk, create poem trails all over the pathways. By doing this your students become pavement artists.
    • Print a short poem on a blown-up balloon and hang it in the classroom.
    • Place copies of poems on school buses — a project called 'poetry in motion'.

    In the house of history, you would shiver
    and shake at such a sight.
    Cold hard steel poles surround you as you try to flee
    Thoughtless faces staring blank.
    — David Deng, Takapuna Grammar

    Poetry in the school library

    Consider your poetry collection's:

    • range and appeal
    • condition
    • location and signage
    • promotion
    • use.

    Making space for poetry (pdf, 758KB) — a feature article by Wendy DeGroat for the American Library Association's Knowledge Quest (2014)

  • Poetry in the classroom and school library

    Poems are ideal for sharing. Start by making your classroom a poetry-friendly place where children can discover the curiosity, wonder and fun of poetry and find their own voice.

    How can a positive interaction with poetry fulfill curriculum expectations that students enjoy and engage with poetry and also think critically and write poems themselves? Rachel McAlpine, a New Zealand poet says ‘a teacher’s role is pivotal.’

    Ideas for using poetry with students

    Here are some ideas for sharing poetry with students.

    • Read poetry aloud to students every day.
    • Request a poetry selection from National Library Lending Services on a theme or centre of interest.
    • Display poetry around the classroom, along corridors, on doors and windows.
    • Create an A to Z poetry anthology for your class with a poem for every letter of the alphabet.
    • Display poems on large sheets of paper and illustrate them.
    • Write poems on the playground with large pieces of chalk, create poem trails all over the pathways. By doing this your students become pavement artists.
    • Print a short poem on a blown-up balloon and hang it in the classroom.
    • Place copies of poems on school buses — a project called 'poetry in motion'.

    In the house of history, you would shiver
    and shake at such a sight.
    Cold hard steel poles surround you as you try to flee
    Thoughtless faces staring blank.
    — David Deng, Takapuna Grammar

    Poetry in the school library

    Consider your poetry collection's:

    • range and appeal
    • condition
    • location and signage
    • promotion
    • use.

    Making space for poetry (pdf, 758KB) — a feature article by Wendy DeGroat for the American Library Association's Knowledge Quest (2014)

  • Poetry resources

    New Zealand poetry resources

    Best New Zealand poems — published by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection

    EPIC — databases where you can search for poetry ideas

    National Library of New Zealand catalogue — search for poetry and poetry teaching resources in the Schools Collection

    New Zealand Book Council — provides information on a wide range of New Zealand writers, including poets

    New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre — hosted by the University of Auckland, a rich source of literary and biographical material from New Zealand and Pasifika poets with photos of each poet and access to their body of work

    NZ Poetry Shelf — Paula Green's page with news, reviews and more

    NZ Poetry Box — Paula Green's poetry blog for children

    Pasifika Poetry — accessed through the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre, this site presents profiles and the work of Pasifika poets, some of whom live in New Zealand and others who live in various Pacific Islands — includes examples of each poet's work as text, and in many cases also as audio files, video clips and radio interviews

    Poetry — in English Online — access to a range of teaching resources

    Poetry Kit — Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters updates its poetry kit each year — it's full of exercises, tips and links to websites, and can be downloaded by students and their teachers in the lead up to the National Schools Poetry Award

    Ralph Fletcher — writer and poet Ralph Fletcher offers inspiration for young writers and their teachers

    The New Zealand Poet Laureate blog — thoughts from poets laureate

    The Poetry Society New Zealand — an extensive range of links to poetry sites, journals, courses and resources

    Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) English Online — a site for all teachers of English

    Other resources

    30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month — National Academy of Poets, includes a poetry promotion poster you can download

    Favourite poem — an American project where people read their favourite poem and say why it 's special to them

    Poetry 180 — is aimed at US high schools with a poem for each day of a high school year from former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins

    Poetry class — learning resources from The Poetry Society (UK) including lesson plans

    Poetry Foundation — for teachers and students of all ages to immerse themselves in poetry

    Poetry Learning Lab — the Poetry Foundation has lots of resources, including interviews with poets and poetry read-alouds

    Poetryline — Centre for Literacy in Primary Education's (CLPE) National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools has teaching resources, poems and award-winning poets performing their poems

    Poets.org — from National Academy of Poets has lots of resources, including Poem in your pocket and Poem a day

    ReadWriteThink — online reading and writing activities for students, and lesson plan ideas for teachers. They have several interactive resources and an app kids can use to wax poetic.

    The Children's Poetry Archive — is the Poetry Archive's lively site for younger children with links to thematic poems, and poets and their work

    The Poetry Archive — UK-based site providing an online collection of English-language poets, including some from New Zealand, reading their own work. Includes educational resources for teachers such as background material on poets, filmed interviews and links for students.

    The Poetry Society — founded in the UK in 1909 enjoys a worldwide membership of over 4,000 and champions poetry for all ages

    World Poetry Day — a date adopted by UNESCO in 1999, has articles and recommendations for teaching poetry in secondary school

    Young Poets' Network — provides workshop challenges, competitions and support for poets in the 11-17 age range, and educational resources for teachers

  • Poetry resources

    New Zealand poetry resources

    Best New Zealand poems — published by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection

    EPIC — databases where you can search for poetry ideas

    National Library of New Zealand catalogue — search for poetry and poetry teaching resources in the Schools Collection

    New Zealand Book Council — provides information on a wide range of New Zealand writers, including poets

    New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre — hosted by the University of Auckland, a rich source of literary and biographical material from New Zealand and Pasifika poets with photos of each poet and access to their body of work

    NZ Poetry Shelf — Paula Green's page with news, reviews and more

    NZ Poetry Box — Paula Green's poetry blog for children

    Pasifika Poetry — accessed through the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre, this site presents profiles and the work of Pasifika poets, some of whom live in New Zealand and others who live in various Pacific Islands — includes examples of each poet's work as text, and in many cases also as audio files, video clips and radio interviews

    Poetry — in English Online — access to a range of teaching resources

    Poetry Kit — Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters updates its poetry kit each year — it's full of exercises, tips and links to websites, and can be downloaded by students and their teachers in the lead up to the National Schools Poetry Award

    Ralph Fletcher — writer and poet Ralph Fletcher offers inspiration for young writers and their teachers

    The New Zealand Poet Laureate blog — thoughts from poets laureate

    The Poetry Society New Zealand — an extensive range of links to poetry sites, journals, courses and resources

    Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) English Online — a site for all teachers of English

    Other resources

    30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month — National Academy of Poets, includes a poetry promotion poster you can download

    Favourite poem — an American project where people read their favourite poem and say why it 's special to them

    Poetry 180 — is aimed at US high schools with a poem for each day of a high school year from former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins

    Poetry class — learning resources from The Poetry Society (UK) including lesson plans

    Poetry Foundation — for teachers and students of all ages to immerse themselves in poetry

    Poetry Learning Lab — the Poetry Foundation has lots of resources, including interviews with poets and poetry read-alouds

    Poetryline — Centre for Literacy in Primary Education's (CLPE) National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools has teaching resources, poems and award-winning poets performing their poems

    Poets.org — from National Academy of Poets has lots of resources, including Poem in your pocket and Poem a day

    ReadWriteThink — online reading and writing activities for students, and lesson plan ideas for teachers. They have several interactive resources and an app kids can use to wax poetic.

    The Children's Poetry Archive — is the Poetry Archive's lively site for younger children with links to thematic poems, and poets and their work

    The Poetry Archive — UK-based site providing an online collection of English-language poets, including some from New Zealand, reading their own work. Includes educational resources for teachers such as background material on poets, filmed interviews and links for students.

    The Poetry Society — founded in the UK in 1909 enjoys a worldwide membership of over 4,000 and champions poetry for all ages

    World Poetry Day — a date adopted by UNESCO in 1999, has articles and recommendations for teaching poetry in secondary school

    Young Poets' Network — provides workshop challenges, competitions and support for poets in the 11-17 age range, and educational resources for teachers

  • Find out more

    Dear Library — Jackie Kay’s love letter poem to libraries and all they offer us, from childhood to old age

    Laura Candler's — poetry page has useful teaching resources and lesson plan for using Photostory with poetry

    Marilyn Singer — author's website

    Alexander, Joy. (2005). Children's literature in education.

    Burg, Ann. (2009). All the broken pieces. Scholastic.

    Fletcher, Ralph. (2002). Poetry matters: Writing a poem from the inside out. HarperCollins.

    Lindsay, Karen. (2004). Making your poetry come alive. School libraries in Canada.

    Rochman, Hazel. (2003). Booklist.

    Singer, Marilyn (2010). Knock poetry off the pedestal: It’s time to make poems a part of children’s everyday lives. School Library Journal.

    Sullivan, Ed.(2003). It’s fiction or poetry.

  • Find out more

    Dear Library — Jackie Kay’s love letter poem to libraries and all they offer us, from childhood to old age

    Laura Candler's — poetry page has useful teaching resources and lesson plan for using Photostory with poetry

    Marilyn Singer — author's website

    Alexander, Joy. (2005). Children's literature in education.

    Burg, Ann. (2009). All the broken pieces. Scholastic.

    Fletcher, Ralph. (2002). Poetry matters: Writing a poem from the inside out. HarperCollins.

    Lindsay, Karen. (2004). Making your poetry come alive. School libraries in Canada.

    Rochman, Hazel. (2003). Booklist.

    Singer, Marilyn (2010). Knock poetry off the pedestal: It’s time to make poems a part of children’s everyday lives. School Library Journal.

    Sullivan, Ed.(2003). It’s fiction or poetry.