A local poet and ecologist has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award and will be doing a reading from her collection at the annual Auckland Writers' Festival.

Rotorua's Amanda Hunt was shortlisted from more than 200 entries for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize.

It is New Zealand's most valuable poetry prize and aims to recognise and financially support new work from emerging or established national poets. The winner gets a $12,000 award.

Ms Hunt's work has appeared in anthologies of the New Zealand Poetry Society,
online and in newspapers. She entered a collection of poems about New Zealand's native birds and will be reading three at the Auckland festival tomorrow.

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"I'm a little nervous so I've been practising, I've done readings before but I do get
quite nervous so once I get over that I think I'll be good."

The collection, For the Birds, contains some poems primarily about individual species, while others use their characteristics as metaphors for aspects of life. Ms Hunt said she thought there had been a mistake when she was told her collection had been shortlisted.

"I just couldn't believe it, I nearly fell off the phone when they told me. When I found out who the other two shortlisted candidates were I was even more stunned," she said.

New Plymouth's Elizabeth Smither, the author of 18 poetry collections, and Whanganui's
Airini Beautrais, author of three collections, have also
been shortlisted.

Ms Hunt said she had been writing poetry since she was 6. She said writing and New Zealand's native birds were her biggest passions.

"I write poems about a whole range of topics and experiences but I decided to enter a collection about birds so I was not only promoting my own work but profiling some of New Zealand's most endangered species."

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The winner will be announced by judge and leading contemporary poet Paul
Muldoon tomorrow after the three finalists' readings.