A Clear Dawn shines for budding poets

Students at Cobham intermediate, Christchurch, turned their hands/minds to the art of the ode thanks to a Foundation-arranged visit by poet Neema Singh. Singh was a contributing poet to A Clear Dawn – an anthology of writing by Asian New Zealanders published in 2021. The Foundation provided a grant that supported the launch of A Clear Dawn during the Auckland Writers Festival and launch events in the South Island. In this article, Year 8 students Livia Adams, Paige Layton and May Fudakowska describe what they took away from Neema's visit.
Three students smiling with the middle stutent holding a copy of the anthology of Asian New Zealand poetry A Clear Dawn

Miranda Yuan, Paige Layton and Livia Adams with a copy of A Clear Dawn

When Neema Singh came in and talked to us about writing, we knew, the moment she started speaking, that the lesson would be enriching.

We learned a number of things, and the lesson has really stuck with our class. One of the first things she introduced us to was a beautiful poem of her own creation, The Proper Way to Make Tea.

The poem followed the story of a young Neema Singh travelling to her grandmother's house, where the older woman brewed homemade tea in a pot on the stove. 

It was interesting to hear her talk about her grandmother in a way that melted our hearts. She very simply taught us how her grandmother made cups of tea, yet she made it incredibly poetic and full of love.

Neema talked to us about the action point of the poem and had us indicate what it was. She also asked us inferencing questions - “Who was the old woman to the main character?”, for instance. The obvious answer was grandmother, but Neema wrote her poem in such a well-constructed manner that any reader could have taken it a different way. This was clever because that way it made the question more personal to the reader. They could have read it as any loved, special older woman in their lives. 

The concept of the book A Clear Dawn is very interesting. The anthology of new stories and poems by emerging Asian authors living in Aotearoa is full of beautiful writing that really made us think. It resonated with our class because we have a lot of students from different backgrounds.

Following the sharing of her poem and other poems in the anthology, Neema ran a workshop on poetic writing. We sat at our tables and wrote about the people we loved. The experience was truly heart-warming.

We really enjoyed the experience of being taught how to write poems in a new and interesting way. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Neema Singh. 

By Livia Adams, Paige Layton and May Fudakowska

Students' poems

An Ode,  by Livia Adams

grey eyes flecked with green

dainty features

a light complexion dotted by light brown flecks 

of pure beauty


hair like the golden rays of 

the sun

spilling down her back in 

luscious waves 


comfort in the way she smiles 

comfort in her warm embrace 

comfort in her eyes

comfort, simply, in her

she, and she alone,


pure beauty, and pure beauty alone

none can hold a candle 

to my one and only love


An Ode, by Miranda Yuan 

Her steps were graceful - light and dainty

as if a sprightly dance.

Her head of golden hair flared out behind her

as if gossamer wings.

Titania my love;

For I am a donkey-headed servant,

and you are the fey queen who captured my heart.


An Ode, by Paige Layton 

The shine of the mirror

Gleamed over my features


My pale skin lightly dotted 

With brown sugar flecks


My multi colored eyes 

Glinting flashes of the most enriching hues

Blue, green, grey and a hint of brown  

The Foundation’s project officer (Education) Dara Choo says New Zealand students can benefit a lot from learning about Asia from various sources and various media.

 “The expansive, limitless nature of learning allows for varied and relevant ways to bring Asia-related learning into classrooms," she says.

 “It’s great that through a poetry workshop, Neema brings an awareness of the Asian culture to students in a way that is intimate, subtle, yet familiar; as though being invited to Neema’s grandmother's house and visualising the older woman brewing homemade tea.”