Margaret Mahy Writing Competition Winner

2 October 2013


Being a winner of a Margaret Mahy writing competition has led one St Cuthbert’s College student to a meeting with an astronaut.


Year 13 student Ramali Madagammana was selected as one of 10 nationwide winners of the Margaret Mahy Starlight Poetry and Essay Competition for her poem Pleiades.


She has won a trip to Tekapo Village, where she will meet NASA Astronaut Marsha Ivins, who is presenting prize certificates to the winners. Ramali will also receive a Galileoscope refracting telescope.


Throughout the poem Ramali uses certain kinds of stars as metaphors for aspects of a parent-child relationship. She references the Rigel, a star 40,000 times hotter than the sun to show the parents sharing their knowledge and the Betelgeuse star, a red dwarf, to illustrate the idea of parents being angry and needing to calm down when talking to their children. Pointer stars also feature, which Ramali says represents the parents telling children which direction to go.


The title of the poem, Pleiades, is the Greek name of Matariki – a cluster of 7 very bright stars. Ramali used this to depict parents as being like the light at the end of the tunnel: “Parents are the people that tell you it is going to be okay.”


The Margaret Mahy Starlight Poetry and Essay Competition asked students from all over New Zealand to submit prose or poetry that showed knowledge of the southern stars and either good research or imaginative use of astronomy. It is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival which is being held on October 11-13 in Tekapo.



Ramali’s winning poem:




you always wanted

me to look



I  can’t see your eyes



you were no babe

of the Coal Sack:

rising like life


from the ash of gas clouds and hot dust;


you liked to pretend

you knew about our

summer Rigel;

it’s so hot,

you insisted,

so hot and it is;

burning forty

thousand suns,

edging nova



and your temper’s

more tempered than

a sub-rigel Betelgeuse

pulsing every red

from chestnut to rust

to alizarin crimson


but you cannot

play Alpha Beta

Proxima Centauri;

to point me the way to

way home.



Yet you know;

you tell me:


in the sunflower

sky field of

seven sisters


darkness abates.


-Ramali Madagammana