Changing Minds: Memories lost and found

Changing minds

"This foggy brain, like vegetable soup
Blow on spoon, cool my heated brain
And clear headed words line up
And at last make me walk in the right direction
Stride into that space with a taste of honey
I wrap my arms around my beautiful, beautiful Kit."

[An excerpt from Des O'Brien's poem 'Body and Soul Electric'.]

This competition was inspired by the work of Des O’Brien and his book of poetry How Art, published by Alzheimer’s Otago (copies available by emailing

Memories lost and found

Many people have been affected by dementia, brain injury or degenerative conditions which affect the memory and thought process, either directly or by supporting a family member or friend. These conditions change us, but they also give us access to memories in a different way, that can often inspire us to record our thoughts. Much research has been done in the neurological field evidencing the positive impact of writing and reading poetry on the brain.

Inspired by this, and the poems of Des O’Brien, featured in his collection How Art* we invite you to write a poem about memory or the mind, in response to your experience of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

This competition is presented by Dunedin Public Libraries in partnership with the Neurological Foundation, and with the support of Phantom Bill Stickers National Poetry Day, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, Alzheimer’s Otago, poet Sue Wootton and Dr Yoram Barak, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago. Thanks also to Des O’Brien and the O’Brien Family.

*copies of How Art are available to purchase from Alzheimer’s Otago

The Neurological Foundation

The Neurological Foundation is an independent body and charitable trust that raises funds to ensure this country’s top neuroscientists can continue leading-edge research into neurological disorders.Their vision is to progress research so that significant advances can be made in the prevention and treatment of neurological disorders, greatly reducing the level of suffering and premature death from diseases of the brain and nervous system. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and motor neurone diseases, stroke, multiple sclerosis, migraine, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury are just a few of the wide spectrum of disorders that are the focus of the research they fund.

The Competition

Entry is open to adults, aged 18 and over. Copies of this entry form will be available from 1st July 2019 when the competition opens.  You can pick up an entry form from any Dunedin Public Library or download the entry form . You can complete a paper entry form and post your entry with a typed, printed copy of your original poem to:

Changing Minds Poetry Competition 
c/o Kay Mercer 
Dunedin Public Libraries
PO Box 5542
Dunedin 9054

Or submit your entry online.

Poems must be no longer than 500 words.

Closing date 23rd August 2019 – National Poetry Day

The competition will be judged by a panel of judges, including Dunedin writer Sue Wootton and Dr Yoram Barak, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago.

What if I win?

In addition to a winner’s certificate and publication in NB magazine, winner’s will receive prizes (sponsored by Phantom Billstickers, the Neurological Foundation and Dunedin Public Libraries). The first place place winner's poem will also be published in the Neurological Foundations national publication Headlines.

Each of the five finalists selected by our panel of judges will be invited to attend a tour of the University of Otago Anatomy Museum & tea at St Margarets, University of Otago, on 19th November, sponsored by the Neurological Foundation.

In addition to the finalists’ prizes above, a cash prize of $150, sponspored by Phantom Bill Stickers National Poetry Day, & a copy of Des O’Brien’s book How Art will be awarded to the overall winner of the competition.

All finalists will be invited to read their poems during a public talk presented by the Neurological Foundation at Chatsford, Mosgiel on 19th November 2019.

Conditions of Entry

  • The 2019 Changing Minds Poetry Competition runs from Monday 1st July 2019 to Friday 23rd August 2019 inclusive.
  • Entries close at 12noon (NZT) on New Zealand National Poetry Day, Friday 23rd August 2019.
  • Late entries will not be accepted into the competition.
  • All entries must be typed. No handwritten entries can be accepted.
  • A strict word count of 500 words maximum will be imposed.
  • All poems must be original to the person on the entry form and unpublished. Only one entry per person.
  • Entries will be judged anonymously by the selected panel.
  • The decision of the judges is final.
  • Finalists will be notified, and winners announced by Monday 16th September 2019.
  • Entry is open to adults only. Poets must be 18 or above at the time of entry.
  • Five finalists will be invited to tour the University of Otago’s anatomy museum, followed by tea at St Margarets, University of Otago, and each will receive a certificate.
  • First prizewinner will receive a cash prize of $150 and a copy of Des O’Brien’s book of poetry How Art.
  • Finalists will be invited to read their poems during a public talk at Chatsford, Mosgiel on 19th November 2019.
  • Finalists’ poems will be published in the Dunedin Public Libraries publication, NB, and on the Dunedin Public Libraries’ website, and will be shared by the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Facebook page. In addition, the overall winner's poem will be published in the October 2019 issue of the Neurological Foundation's national publication Headlines.
  • A copy of all entries will be retained by the Dunedin Public Libraries, unless an entrant requests otherwise.
  • Please submit a copy of your original poem as entries will not be returned.