How a CGA Student Got a Letter from an Award-Winning Poet


“We are the architects, we are the designers” are words taken from Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem ‘Young and dyslexic? You’ve got it going on’, a poem featured in Katie-Rose Pemberton’s IGCSE English class. 


Katie-Rose is a part time CGA student with interests in music, drama, theatre, drawing, musical theatre, performing, and “cracking corny dad jokes”. She is half Samoan and half NZ European and currently resides in Auckland. 


When she came across Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem, she felt inspired by the way he shared his struggles with Dyslexia with the intention of making his readers not feel alone. She shares “I am a big fan of honest emotive language in texts and extracts, and the way his poem was written really moved me.” 


When her teacher, Mr. Brady, set a task to write a formal letter to the famous poet, Katie-Rose had a lot to write. Her letter expressed her appreciation for not just his message but also  the way he conveyed it. 


The piece you wrote so raw and honestly, moved me so much and deeply inspired me. It breaks my heart how you were treated, but the way you wrote about your experiences, and how you overcame them really gave me hope and empowerment in myself.” 


Despite her hard work on the assignment, Katie-Rose was left in shock when she received a reply from Benjamin Zephiah, thanking her for the letter. He then shared his experience observing racism at a Football game when the Black  players faced booing when they took the knee. He then ends the letter with a beautiful message to Katie-Rose: “There will be times when you feel like giving up. You might even need a rest, we all do sometimes, and we all must sometimes, but please don’t give up.” 


Reading the letter Katie-Rose says she still “feels pangs of guilt when he speaks with such honesty.” 


Not everyone gets a reply from a poet featured in their textbook. Katie-Rose gives CGA students a tip:  “I am unsure what made my letter impactful, maybe because it sounds passionate? But you have to put the passion into your text, write about something that your passionate about, or write to the author of your favourite book and if you love what you’re writing about, it will take your writing to the next level.”