How To Write A Poem

HOW  TO  WRITE  A  POEM – Chips Mackellar

The first task is to plan what you want to say.

For example, suppose you wanted to decide if your old uncle is too old to do something.  Would he be too old because he has grey hair? No, because lots of people have grey hair and can do things. What about if he has bad teeth? No, because lots of people have bad teeth but can still do things. So what would make him too old?  Well he would be too old if he thought he could do something then found that he was too old to do it.

So you could put your plan into verse, like this:

He’s not too old when his hair turns grey,

He’s not too old when his teeth decay.

But he’s well on his way to his last long sleep,

When his mind makes a date which his body can’t keep.

The essence of a good poem is if its end of lines rhyme, and the lines which rhyme have the same number of syllables. So, analyse the poem, to see if it rhymes, and count the number of syllables per line.



Per line


Line                      Number the  syllables per line


  1. He’s / not/ too/ old/ when / his / hair/ turns/ grey.
  • 2     3     4      5        6       7      8         9                                       total: 9


  1. He’s / not / too/ old / when / his/  teeth / de/
  • 2       3      4        5          6        7     8     9                                             total; 9


  1. But /  he’s /  well /  on  /  his  /  way  /  to  /  his / last /  long / sleep,

1      2       3         4        5        6        7       8      9       10       11                   total: 11


  1. When /  his /  mind /  makes / a /  date /  which /  his /  body/  can’t/  keep

1          2       3           4        5      6          7         8       9          10       11.    total: 11


So you can see that the end of lines 1 and 2 rhyme (grey with decay) and the end of lines 3 and 4 rhyme (sleep with keep) and the rhyming lines have the same number of syllables.

In this example each word has only one syllable except in Line 2 where “decay” has two syllables thus: “de / cay.”

Easy. Isn’t it?

                                                                                                                 Chips Mackellar enjoys writing poetry and has volunteered to help Papua New Guinean who wish to improve their poetry.

[ Note: The poem here is an old maxim of uncertain origin, used here as an example of how to turn prose into poetry]

Poems from Emily that Chips made some suggestions to and as requested by Emily. (Emily’s original unedited poems have been entered in Crocodile Prize 2016).


Wings so big and feathers so bright,

With plumes outstretched to my delight,

King of birds and colourful too,

Glamourous and bold, we all love you.

Papua New Guinea’s symbolic device,

Our beautiful Bird of Paradise.


Grant me my wish oh star so bright,

In peace and harmony tonight,

That I may not perish in thy sight,

But live and flourish with delight.


If our moon should ever fade away,

And the sun dies out and dark our day,

I wish our love be bold and grand,

And linger long in another land,

And never ever fail or stall,

Even if the stars should fall.

The Crocodile Prize Sponsors

The Crocodile Prize Competition is closed. Winners will be announced on November 24th, 2016.

The Crocodile Prize is a competition that creates space for many Papua New Guineans to write and express themselves. There are nine categories in the competition; Short Stories, Poetry, Essay and Journalism, Heritage Writing, Book of the Year, Illustration, Writing for children and Women in Writing. Emerging Young Writer is a new category that was introduced by the new Crocodile Prize Committee this year.

Our major sponsor is Kina Finance (Poetry), followed by PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (Essays & Journalism), Abt and Associates (Emerging Young Writer), Mineral Resources Development Company (Women in Writing), Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (Short Stories), South Pacific Brewery Limited (Illustrations), Cleland Family (Heritage Writing) and Paga Hill Development Company (Writing for Children).

The Crocodile Prize 2016 working committee wants to sincerely thank our sponsors for their generosity to development of literature in Papua New Guinea. Some of our continued sponsors are – Kina Finance, Cleland Family, SP Holdings, Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, South Pacific Brewery Limited, and Paga Hill Development Company. We are grateful for new sponsors – Abt and Associates, Mineral Resources Development Company and Kumul Holdings. Today, Global Technologies Limited, Papua New Guinea donated a laptop to the Crocodile Committee to use for the competition entries and administration.

The Crocodile Prize is a Literary Competition open to all PNG citizens of all ages. It provides a way for all citizens to express themselves in writing, whether it be in poetry, short stories or arts (illustrations) in their own voice, a voice unique and emerging from PNG’s rich culture and heritage. The competition provides an opportunity for those seeking recognition in the literary domain, and/or for those voicing their opinions in essays and journalism. Writing can be seen as a freedom of speech and expression where a few simple words can project a world of meaning and inspiration.

Crocodile Prize should not be seen only as an opportunity to win prize money. It should be a journey that includes the pride of seeing one’s writing being published in a book alongside many other aspiring and legitimate writers/authors in PNG. Crocodile Prize provides all these opportunities to many Papua New Guineans. The shared experience should inspire people to write more and publish. Writing is only “the tip of the iceberg”, because the world of literature is a universe itself.

On the 24th November, 2016, the Winners of the Crocodile Prize Competition will be announced on Thursday 8th of December 2016, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Australian High Commission office at Waigani along Godwit Road, Port Moresby. The event is expected to be attended by book critics, commentators, bloggers and eminent citizens. Prior to the reception, a Writer’s Workshop will convene from 9:00am to 2:00pm. This would be a great opportunity for people who want to explore their passion in writing. (The venue to be announced – but follow us on our webpage) or Crocodile Prize Google Plus or write to us at:

Congratulations to all those who have sent in their entries to the Crocodile Prize Competition since its launch in January. The 2016 working Committee members, supporters and sponsors wish you all the best in the Competition.

Crocodile Prize Entry Form




PLACE OF BIRTH (town/village):







BRIEF BIO (please write a few sentences to introduce yourself to the Crocodile Organising Committee 2016)



WRITING EXPERIENCE (how long have you been writing? have you written any published books, magazine articles, academic journal articles etc? do you have a Blog – if yes, title?)


Crocodile Prize Organising Group 2016|Chairman – Mr. Emmanuel Peni|E: |Entry Form|28 January, 2016. Website:

Crocodile Prize Committee Members Promote PNG National Book Week

Caption: EMTV footage showing children in the National Book Week activities.

The Crocodile Prize Association Inc committee members and authors Baka Bina, Emmanuel Peni and Marlene Dee Gray Potoura are taking part in and promoting reading and writing in the PNG National Book Week this week.

Author of “Sibona” Mr Peni yesterday visited and spoke to 600 Grade 8 students at Ward Strip Demonstration school. He will return tomorrow to address the whole school. Tomorrow, Committee executive and three-time PNG author Mr Bina will address the Tokarara High School tomorrow and Marlene Dee Gray Potoura will address the Book Week assembly in Salvation Army School in Lae. It is hoped that the committee members whilst promoting the importance of reading to PNG children, the authors can also share personal stories about how much writing is just as important as reading.

It is also an opportunity for the committee to promote the national literary competition, particularly the Young Writer’s Award in the Crocodile Prize and answer any queries from the future writers.

The committee this year has been particularly vocal about the importance to develop a strong PNG voice in stories written by national writers. The committee sees that the National Book Week is one avenue that voice can be developed through.


Crocodile Prize Inc – A New Association for Papua New Guinea Writers

The Crocodile Prize Committee 2016 is proud to announce that it is officially an association as of this week. The Competition Committee Vice Chairperson Joycelin Leahy said it is a dream come true for writers in PNG to finally have a proper organisation and a place where the voice of PNG can be developed through literature.

“Having a properly registered organisation means the association can run confidently and transparently and this will boost the government, private sector and donor support for Papua New Guinea writers and the Crocodile Prize competition, ” Ms Leahy said.

She also said becoming registered means the voluntary committee is serious about promoting literature in PNG. “Having an association is a milestone for PNG literature and we are also proud that despite the looming political and economic crisis in PNG, the Crocodile Prize has received immense support from the private sector. And with this small but strong working committee, we will keep the competition running,” Ms Leahy said.

A handful of PNG committee members (Emmanual Peni, Martyn Marorong, Ruth Moaim, Baka Bina and Joycelin Leahy) who had worked tirelessly to promote the competition and seek funding for prizes also contributed their own money to process and register the association. Another PNG author and recently joined committee member Marlene Dee Gray Poutora also contributed to the registration of the association. This is the first step to formalise Crocodile Prize Inc’s activities and the committee hopes that with support, the association will run smoothly, increase writer- participation and build up membership of national writers in PNG and overseas. The Crocodile Prize competition has been running for five years as a voluntary event.

Ms Leahy said the credit for achieving an association status was due to the hard-working committee but credit has to go to Emmanual Peni, an author and a very enthusiastic committee member who worked tirelessly to get all the paper-work processed for the association. “Manu is a writer himself and he knows how hard it is to get work published, how PNG’s own writers are hardly recognised and how little creative writing is appreciated. We are traditional storytellers and our stories and ways of telling them is one educational and cultural heritage we as Papua New Guineans must be proud of, she said.

Ms Leahy said she hopes that the new association can give the committee more power and zest to bring Crocodile Prize competition to every aspiring writer and PNG children who love stories and story-telling”; we want to read and promote your stories – send them in”, Ms Leahy said.

The Crocodile Prize 2016 competition was expected till the end of this month, but due to events in PNG and the process in getting the organisation registered, the competition deadline could be extended. The association is now open to Papua New Guineans to join for a small membership contribution. Please continue to check this blog for more details. Competition submissions can continue to be sent to: crocodile



Stories from Living…Marlene Dee Gray Potoura

“Every crater, hole, crevice, river…EVERTHING in the village has a story about how it came to be. I heard stories from my matrilineal grandmother who was from Eastern Highlands Province and my patrilineal grandfather, who was from Buin, South Bougainville. My grandmother’s stories were about our ancestors who came from the Solomon Islands. Tambuna stories were shared in front of  bonfires every evening and often continued onto the next night. My passion for storytelling came from living a life where storytelling was part of our daily activity” – Marlene Dee Gray Potoura

Where Marlene writes


A writer from Papua New Guinea, Bougainville Island, Marlene this week volunteered and joined the Crocodile Working Committee 2016. The Crocodile Committee 2016 Acting Chairperson Joycelin Leahy welcomed Marlene.

“Marlene is a serious writer and very passionate person about her craft, her stories and her heritage. Her skills and expertise as an educator would also tremendously assist this committee,” Ms Leahy said.

The Crocodile Blog speaks to Marlene about her passion for writing.

“My passion for writing stems from my love for words and sentences. Verbally, I am a great storyteller also. Commonwealth Writers Blog will be publishing a special feature on my personal experience in Bougainville in June, as titled ‘Fugitives.’

I am also writing a Bougainville Memoir as the memories that are imbed in my mind keeps sprouting like fresh flowers. I am a child of the 70s. I didn’t grow up watching TV, playing video games or spent time on cell phones. I sat beside village bonfires and listened to stories from my aunties, uncles and grandparents. Tambuna stories were shared in front of bonfires every evening and often continued on to the next night. My passion for storytelling came from living a life where storytelling was part of our daily activity.

I did written compositions with biros and did the morning talk standing in front of the class, trying my best to speak English among many other PNG dialects I was fluent in. I ritually sang hymns in our village church mornings and evenings; with these lungs, I blew the fire to cook and these hands, I chopped firewood and dug kaukaus to help feed my family.

I was shipped off to Kambubu high school on the outskirts between Pomio and Kokopo, to total isolation. I ate tapioca for lunch and dinner and worked in the farms where my fingers got blistered from pulling out karapa weeds. I was disciplined in Pathfinder Groups, marching in the scorching tropical sun which gave me a permanent double tan. Despite this way of growing up, I am thankful for my upbringing. It was a living story that has added depth to who I am and how I relate to what I write now.

My carefree days from childhood to high school composed of stories, dreams, happiness and freedom. My creativity and imagination was well and truly sown and cultivated from my childhood. I cannot live without storytelling and so when I was choosing a career – I had to choose one that would developed and enhance my passion. Being a teacher is a blessing in disguise and it provides the ultimate platform for teaching, listening, writing and reading stories.

Marlene holds a Bachelor in Education and runs a private school for young children, age 4 to 12 in Lae, Morobe Province.

She writes short stories and children’s stories. Most of Marlene’s stories have been published online on THE PNG ATTITUDE BLOG and in The Crocodile Prize Anthologies 2014 and 2015. Her book of 21 short stories was published in August last year, by PukPuk Publishing.


In the next post, Marlene will share a Tumbuna Stori.

“How flying foxes got their long intestines,’ is a favourite Tumbuna story told to me by my grandmother, Roandi Kauva. Her village was Nonambaro in Watabung, Eastern Highlands Province. (The Tumbuna Story will be posted in the next post)