A poem by an Auckland student that is "unashamedly in love with the idea of life" has won the National Schools Poetry Award.
Eileithyia, by Grace Lee from Auckland International College, was chosen from 10 finalists to take the $1000 prize after judges labelled the work "inevitably compelling".
Competition judge Cliff Fell said what drew him to the poem was the gusto and exuberant music of its lines and imagery.
"The title refers to the Greek goddess of childbirth and the poem renews the ancient rituals and rites relating to childbirth by seeing them through young, contemporary eyes," he said.
Miss Lee, 16, said she writes poetry to express herself.
"It's a way to get my thoughts down. It's good in a personal sense."
Her winning work grew from an interest in mythology and history, she said.
"I thought poetry would be a great medium through which I could look at the idea of femininity and how it has changed over time."
While it was daunting having people read her work, Miss Lee said it was also interesting hearing others' interpretations.
Entries for the competition, run by Victoria University of Wellington's International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), came from senior secondary school students all over New Zealand.
Miss Lee will receive $500 cash, a $500 book grant for her school library, and her poem will be displayed on posters across the country.
She and the other nine finalists attended a poetry masterclass at the IIML.
Miss Lee, who is due to finish secondary school this year, says she does not have firm plans for the future but she is considering studying English.
Her belly is effervescent-
explosive with life bursting forth,
the buttons on her blouse hanging on
by straining threads.
Dewy green fields run on for miles in her womb;
blood-roses bloom from veins, cords,
saltwater, and steam with life.
Passion breathes hotly into the greenhouse
and it grows - it grows.
She's a furnace. Snow melts at her feet,
the buried daisies stir,
stand close to her and feel the heat radiating
from the fire of her goddess-stomach.
Her swollen feet blossom from an old earth.
They sing to her, the stones,
to the serpents twining,
to the moon-rabbits kicking in the meadows,
and she glows.
She cruises by, a juggernaut,
parting the seas
her hips sway to the ghost of hymns
sung on the banks of the Euphrates.
She carries a dynasty with her;
her skin strains over a family -
three hearts, six kidneys.
Spring draws near, and the first cries with it.