a retreat into writing and resting

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Recently I took occupation of the Beatson’s Foxton house, which is generously rented out to writers at an inexpensive rate so that even people on a poet’s wage (cough cough) can afford a retreat, for a weekend with three writer friends.

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It’s a beautiful house overlooking the Manawatu Estuary, it has all the things you need for a retreat – a nice view, hundreds of books, a fire…(I don’t have a fire at my place. I do miss having a fire!)

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While I’ve been working away at my writing when I can, the year began with the daunting task of helping to run a Yoga Studio for ten weeks while our head teacher was away in India, plus my freelance work has been good and busy….so this retreat weekend fell just after the studio-sit finished (whew! we kept the place afloat with no major mishaps) so was a lovely opportunity to celebrate that work and to sink into my writing.

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I took a bundle of new poems to share with my retreat-mates, and they most generously workshopped ALL OF THEM which was very helpful indeed.  I also printed out (for the first time!) my manuscript which I began during last year’s Massey Visiting Artist residency. I have been working away at that, without looking too much over what has come before – just focussing on generating new work. It printed out to be a solid bundle of pages, but I have to admit…I didn’t end up cracking open the blue folder I took it along in. I thought I was ready and that the weekend would be a good space to read over what I have so far, but nope. It’s still sitting on my desk, un-peeked at. I take that to mean I’m not ready and so I will just keep writing for now, but I have given myself the deadline of the end of June and THEN I have to print everything out, read it in one go and start the bit of the writing process where the real work begins….editing. All I know at the moment, is that I have written a big pile of material. Whether any of it is any good – well, I’ll let you know in July.

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Even though I didn’t do that, it was great to have some new poems workshopped and I did some new writing and lots of yummy reading – Louise Erdrich poetry, Gary Snyder prose and lots of incidental reading of poetry books on the shelves in the Foxton house.

((We cracked ourselves up reading aloud and miming a poem from the 1980s by a NZ poet in which he described doing a ‘naked plie’ and admiring in the bathroom mirror the plum line of his penis. I know, super-mature, right? (Maybe you had to be there…))

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We also walked along the estuary, ate several very good meals, took one jaunt into Foxton to cruise the junk-shops and generally had a great, restful time. I do love going away with evolved, fully-realised women – there is an organic, seamless way in meals occurring, fires being lit, cups of tea being made, outings suggested…somehow everyone contributed enough and yet everyone was looked after by the others enough. Very lovely. I also like going away with people who aren’t afraid of silence.

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This year has been PACKED with good, rich stuff. Feeling very blessed, right now.

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