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Year 13 student wins national poetry award

Head shot of Queen Margaret College. Ilena has won a poetry prize.
Ilena Shadbolt

Year 13 student Ilena Shadbolt has won first place in the 2018 International Institute of Modern Letters’ (IIML) National Schools Poetry Award, with her poem ‘Vignettes’.

Ilena wrote ‘Vignettes’ after walking to the dairy with a friend one night to get ice-cream.

“It was a strangely liberating walk; it felt like we were floating between all these glowing fish tanks dotted on the hills, pointing out to each other the little instances playing out in people’s living rooms and kitchens,”

She says she was flattered to win the National award.

“I’m really flattered and empowered to have won the award,” Ilena says.

As part of her win Ilena received $500 and the opportunity to attend a poetry masterclass with poets James Brown and Hera Lindsay Bird at the IIML, home of Victoria University of Wellington’s prestigious creative writing programme.

“I’m very excited to attend the masterclass with James Brown and Hera Lindsay Bird. I’m already a fan of Hera Lindsay Bird’s poetry,” Ilena says.

The Queen Margaret College Library has also received a $500 book grant.

Judge Louise Wallace, editor of Starling journal for young New Zealand writers and author of three collections of poetry, called Ilena’s poem “beautiful and observational”.

“Ilena’s subtly crafted ‘Vignettes’, as the title suggests, captures small glimpses of life. It is presented in the author’s natural voice, nothing feels forced, and as much is conveyed in what the poem doesn’t say, as in what it does. There is a nervous tension in this relationship, yet there is also a distance present between the speaker and the city—they are an outsider, looking in.”

Ilena read her winning poem alongside leading Wellington poets at Unity Books Wellington on Friday 24 August, to celebrate Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Click here to read Ilena’s poem.