In conjunction with the Wild Dunedin Festival of Nature, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature and Dunedin Public Libraries ran a short writing competition earlier this year, inviting the people of the world to be inspired by the wildness of nature. The competition required entrants to write a single great sentence that observed or described something in nature that had moved them to put pen to paper. We received entries from as far afield as Ethiopia, Nigeria (7 entries!), Ukraine, Philippines, Spain, Berlin, Rarotonga, Sydney and other parts of Australia, Czech Republic, USA, India, Lagos, London (UK), Canada, South Africa, Russia and Saffron Walden in Essex, UK. There were many, many entries from all over the North and South Island of NZ, and lots from Dunedin too.
The following 10 are the very best sentences, selected by our judges to turned into beautifully-designed postcards for the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Wild Cards series. The overall winner was H.E. Crampton who received a cash prize of NZ$1,000 generously sponsored by the Wild Dunedin New Zealand Festival of Nature.
Rays by H.E. Crampton, Golden Bay
Wavering shadows in the sea, the stingrays huddle near the shore, wings churning the shallows, tail spines swirling up galaxies of sand – orca are on the chase, tuxedoed hunters snapping and gorging on the fins, flinging the ray wrecks aside to die limbless on the beach.
Across all paths by David McDade, Dunedin
Across all paths of the moonglow night, in your own backyard or in mine, snail trails are the language of lunar light.
Descent into Being by Jillian Sullivan, Ida Valley
In the upper reaches of the river, it is the river’s voice I feel with my skin, my cheeks, my ribs, my heart, for the water knows nothing of what is to come, only from where it has come: waterfall, spring, stream, cleft, into this – a ripple/tumble so vociferous and glassy and light- filled, so clattery and fresh, that to step into its wild push is to feel as if I too have come from gleam of snow and will end in the wide surge of sea.
Doubtful Sound by Himali McInnes, Three Kings, Auckland
Stroke by stroke you row; pinpoints of sleet beat on your shoulders and your lips are caked with salt; your tiny craft is a prickle in the cool ocean, you lean into white-capped squalls that swirl over ice-melt waters; around you the curved walls of the fiord rise upwards, scarred with scree and tree avalanches that gash the earth, the coruscated skin of her, of Papatūānuku, healing under the sun or softened by rain; there are dolphins here in this blue valley, calling to each other with their wild wise tongue, and seals sunning themselves on rocks, and the lux of algal bloom eddying the waters by night, an inverted constellation of tiny stars that can be scooped up in your hand and sifted for gold; you crawl ashore and fall asleep on mossed earth, drunk with tiredness; there is day and there is night and it shifts between each with a multiplicity of moods, fierce or languid or wintry, and you must be ready for each mood, you are in complete solitude, there is no-one else to be seen for days, only the wild vast beauty of this ancient place.
The Flight of Night by Bruce Kellman,Annapolis, USA
As the nightly ritual revealed itself, a quintet of Snowy Egrets flew over, low and slow, as they sought out their nocturnal rousts, Bald Eagles traversed the air space with majestic grace, declaring their position in the natural order and Ospreys glided inches above the surface of the water with the ease that can only be born of evolutionary perfection, while in the distance, a gaggle of Canada Geese serenaded all within ear shot with their raucous calls of conformity and common purpose.
Forest Dwellers by Raven Cretney, Leamington, Cambridge
The forest dwellers are back, a gleeful noisy ruckus, making our homes their home, feeding from decorative borders of jewel toned Harakeke and golden Kōwhai, soaring between skyscrapers they announce their return with a primordial screech, the Kākā are back and they are reclaiming what is theirs.
Hoiho by Gay Buckingham,Dunedin
The wave crests, crescendos, collapses – and the maybe-shadow becomes a grey torpedo surging out of the foam, through the limpid, cockle-shell-turning ripple to land upright, in soldier stance, looking left, right, left, before commencing a deliberate march over the hard sand, over the high tide line, over the silky loose laxity of high-and-dry-sand to a line of driftwood thrust hard against the striated rock of the cliff base with its line of tattered flax bunting, which it sashays under to start a twenty minute trudge to its nest and 60 metres above, lumbering, pausing, surveying, heaving, onwards and upwards – until five stops later it ducks down and under some lupins and stinging nettles where it greets its mate, and they stand,nodding, calling, yodelling as they place their beaks on the other’s shoulder in familiar domestic embrace.
The Sinbad Kakapo by Roger Lavers, Hokitika
It was over fifty years ago when the elusive Kakapo appeared in front of me, raising its sleepy head above the moss-covered fallen log and, after months of frustration for wildlife officers, with numerous searches of the unforgiving Milford Sound wilds for the last of the species in Fiordland, with only tantalising traces of sign such as chew balls on cutty grass, the odd feather and the tell-tale ‘track and bowl’ systems for us to find, there was the actual bird, right before my eyes.
MacKinnon Pass, Fiordland by Sonya Ritchie, Mt Eden, Auckland
You get to the top of the pass, where grave rocky faces still tower over you and the wind tries to punch you back down the valley where you belong, raining blows on your cheeks, whipping your hair into your eyes, and you realise: this is where life is, this is where it happens, here, out amongst the weather and the wild; and you stand there, wild-eyed, while the mountain daisies nod their heads and the tussocks rush to agree.
Swallow Hunting by Joe Potter Butler, Christchurch
It is a warm February evening in a suburban park and a swallow is at hunt, low over the grass, moving with a rhythm of long smooth curves and short darting turns - she makes a great, hooping calligraphy.
Copies of the Wild Writing ‘Wild Cards’ will be appearing at cafés and other venues around the City shortly for you to enjoy – a gift from Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature.