Winning poet Yvette Thomas stoked she returned to university

Master of Creative Writing student Yvette Thomas got exactly what she wanted in a recent poetry competition.

Poet Yvette Thomas
Poet Yvette Thomas did the Master of Creative Writing programme in 2022.

Master of Creative Writing student Yvette Thomas recently won first place in the 2022 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize.

In selecting Yvette’s poem 'Not what you wanted' from 130 others, judge Glenn Colquhoun said he chose it because, “It sang. It hurt. And it made me recognise the hurt in all of us.”

Alumnus Glenn, a notable poet and children’s author himself, also admired the poem’s use of language and the way it “juxtaposed words in combinations that made me think and feel the freshness of rejection all over again – no matter how old a friend it has been. And because it rose up and fought back and was beautiful. It spoke with a single uninterrupted voice.”

Returning to the University this year after a 30-year absence, Yvette says she has always enjoyed creative writing and started to write poems in high school, then “on and off through the decades”.

“I really only came back to poetry during those Covid lockdown weeks spent at home. I found it a wonderful creative outlet during that time.”

Then "on a whim" she decided to apply for the masters course and figured she could make it work with her job if she switched to part time.

“I have loved the course, it’s incredibly well run,” says Yvette, who would eventually like to put out a book of poems. “I’m also enjoying being back at university after such a long absence and actually doing something I’ve always wanted to do properly. Life always got in the way until now.

I’m enjoying being back at university after such a long absence and actually
doing something I’ve always wanted to do properly.

Yvette Thomas, poet, masters of creative writing student University of Auckland

Yvette has previously worked in television and film and written a short story, The Lost One, which was published in Takahe (NZ) and in Pendulum (Australia). She subsequently adapted it into a short film and directed it herself. It was selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival (2007) and has been shown in numerous other international festivals.

As part of her prize, she will receive $500 and a week’s stay at Caselberg House in Dunedin. Her poem, and the judge’s report, was published in November in Landfall 244 – Spring 2022.

Now in its 12th year, the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize attracted poems from across Aotearoa, Australia and the UK. Glenn says it was the most difficult poetry competition he’d ever had to judge.

“The long list stretched out behind me for miles. I had to cast my eye back over it again and again to whittle it down.”

By Julianne Evans

This story first appeared in the December 2022 edition of UniNews