black river / peoples’ river

Last Friday the public collaboration phase of BLACK RIVER was launched…with a haka, a song and some morning tea.

In this phase, people are invited to contribute writing (there are two typewriters in the space, plus lots of pens and paper) or visual art and they can immediately hang it, becoming part of the exhibition.

Also, all of the involved poets and artists have their drafts/sketches on display in a cabinet. The idea of this was to share creative process with the public.

It is a little bit exposing/embarrassing/weird to have my scrawling, messy poem draft on public display, however I believe in the reason behind it (sharing creative process). (It doesn’t help that the other poets seem to have basically ‘cheated’ (I say this jokingly) and submitted fairly polished, finished poems for display so mine looks all the more deranged. Ha ha!) Oh well, all I can say is I STUCK TO THE BRIEF.

The pollution of the Manawatu river is quite a political ‘hot button’ in my region, so I am looking forward to seeing the public’s take on it.

Here is the cabinet with the sketches and poetry ‘drafts’. My mess is on bottom left – notice how much longer it is than the other ‘drafts’? Ahem.


On Friday, there were already quite a few public responses. Here are some of my favourites:

Whoever this person is, they have great handwriting…


River as hair + a great sentiment….


River is DEEP.


LOL, indeed.










KUPU, part two

Looking through my photographs from recent times I realised I forgot to post more photographs of KUPU, the ‘poetry off the page’ installation which I did in the Palmerston North City Library with fellow local poet, Leonel Alvarado.

First installment was back HERE, when they had only installed one poem.

Here are some photographs of the other poems. The poems are still up and will be left up until the vinyl letter starts deteriorating. (Or kids work out they can pick them off, lol!)

Glimpses of Leonel’s poems (his were harder to photograph in their entirety than mine):

kupu_9 kupu_8 kupu_7 kupu_6

And the other two of mine which I hadn’t shared with you yet:

kupu_5 kupu_3 kupu_2 KUPU_1

The Rope Walk is launched!

Before I blather on about the launch of this fine, artisanally-produced book THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN ORDER ONE. GO ON. SUPPORT NZ POETRY AND INDIE-PUBLISHING. 

On the weekend, I attended my darling friend Maria McMillan’s (I wrote a bit about Maria HERE) book launch at the Aro Community Hall. This is her first book and it’s with Seraph Press. It was a wonderfully warm-hearted event. The large turn-out and delightful people who attended were testament to Maria’s standing in the community.

This is my favourite photo of the event, because it wouldn’t have been a Maria event without a lot of tea & Maria’s favourite colour is blue – the lovely Crown Lynn colour glaze cups belong to the hall – a lucky coincidence! I associate Maria with tea and then another round of tea and then maybe some more tea but perhaps some toast this time, too….more butter please! I think I would like a giant ‘community-hall’ teapot for one-fill afternoon teas with all my mates. (Having said that – I’d probably have to boil the kettle five times to fill one. This is a teapot designed to go with a Zip boiler. Anyway, I digress….)


(by the way….two cups of tea were drunk in the writing of this blog post.)

Maria’s partner Joe Buchanan designed and letter-pressed the cover of the book, including the drawing of the ship on the cover. It is indeed a beautiful artifact with great attention played to paper, card, pressing, stitching. Book as objects d’art. But it is not all style over substance….the poems, an invented family history across multiple generations, starting with the first settlers are rich, detailed and poignant. For a chapbook, this collection is dense and satisfying. It has the heft of a full collection in a chapbook size.


Here writer Pip Adam (right) pulls her characteristic making-a-joke face and Maria displays her new shaved undercut…


(At the launch, a man called Ian (who I am told used to work at Aro Street Video) came up to me and (gently) accosted me for writing this blog only for my friends and not including enough context and links. If you are reading this, Ian, thanks for the feedback and I have resolved to take more care with both from here on in! Leave a comment if I’ve failed to do so in this post.)

Given our long writing history together, I felt all puffed up with pride during the launch…getting misty-of-eye during Maria’s speech, and feeling outright joy to see her signing books at the sale-table. This is the moment every writer longs for! (I remember how wonderful and weird it felt for me at my launch.)


There were flowers everywhere – gifts from her friends. These ones on the piano were just a few of the gorgeous bouquets everywhere. Here is Maria giving her speech.


Here is Maria with Kirsten McDougall who launched the book and gave a thoughtful and celebratory speech.


Here is Maria talking while Seraph Press Editor Helen Rickerby looks on…I liked this shot because you can see HR’s trademark stripey tights:


Here is Helen Rickerby again with writer Helen Heath who is doing a bit of unsubtle product placement:


Congratulations, Maria and Helen, on a wonderful book and a delightful launch. x

(Maria blogs HERE. )

Finally, writer Janis Freegard bidding me (and now you!) farewell in her fantastic panda-with-paws hat/mitten ensemble. Janis always has the best accessories!


Review of ‘A Forager’s Treasury’ by Johanna Knox



A Forager’s Treasury

By Johanna Knox

Allen & Unwin, $36.95

I’m late in writing this review – I’ve had the book for some weeks now and I was supposed to post a review last week, but it’s taken me a long time to gather my thoughts about it because, quite simply, I’m completely overwhelmed by how much I love this book and I couldn’t write the review sooner because it would have just been GUSH GUSH RAVE RAVE MAD WOMAN SPLUTTERINGS…

I can’t promise much better today, but I will try! This book is a must for anyone interested in foraging (obviously), but also herbal healing, Rongoa, bushcraft, nutrition, ecological principles of sustainability and conservation, folk wisdom and so much more! The book is rich in it’s content, it’s so much more than a mere guidebook, the author is a terrific writer and her sparkling prose and dry wit infuse the text with life. She is funny, self-effacing, humble and also extremely intelligent – it’s a beguiling combination.

The book is thoroughly researched and wonderfully New Zealand-specific (although there is plenty in here for overseas readers, also!) The writer brings her own direct experiences (and experiments!) into the text, which makes giving foraging a go seem so much more appealing. She is honest about her failures, her predilections and her biases, too. The book is not impartial and is all the richer for it! All through the text are small boxes of ‘extra for experts’ style gems of historical information and interesting stories relating to the text.

As well as all the botanical and culinary details necessary for foraging, Johanna goes beyond the basics to provide a feast of recipe ideas, she covers cooking, tisanes, syrups,  oils, freezing, pickling and so much more. The most special thing about the book for me, though, is that Johanna’s enthusiasm for plants and foraging makes it seem exciting, vital and fun. I have no doubt that the book will turn many foraging-newbies in to keen plant spotters and pickers. I also love the way Johanna captures the romantic aspect of foraging, the sheer joy of knowing a wild plant’s name and what it’s good for – the final section of the book ‘Wild Ways’ celebrates the foraging ‘lifestyle’ with ideas for bodycare, medicine, picnics and a look at the language of flowers. In case you are worried the recipes will all be for green weedy salads, fear not – there are recipes for all kinds of desserts, cakes, rich sauces – the gourmand will be satisfied as much as the health nut.


My favourite recipe (again, appealing to the romantic part of me) is for ‘Lady Lindsay’s Feral Tea Sandwiches’ (I love the word ‘feral’ – it makes me want to dance around a blazing bonfire on a winter’s night!). I have copied Johanna’s description of these sandwiches for your entertainment:

Tea sandwiches are dainty…..I named this collection of ideas for Joan, Lady Lindsay who is best known for her haunting novel ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ …an evocative and primal exploration of Antipodean settler unease and awe for the land. With her highly privileged background, creative eccentricity and fascination for the land’s dangers and mysteries, I think Joan Lindsay would have liked these sandwiches. I fancy they are like her, with their refined exteriors and wild insides.” 

There follows a long recipe full of endless possibilities for a truly wild picnic!


My only criticism of the book is the lack of an index, which makes looking up plants tricky if you aren’t sure of their parent plant family….but I anticipate somewhere in the next dozen reprints of this book, sure to become a bible of plant lore in New Zealand, the publishers will eventually put an index in.

I have already bought copies of this book for my father (keen bushman who likes to extend his bush-craft skills) and friends who love to garden and forage. It makes a wonderful gift for the green-minded, but first, buy a copy for yourself – even if you are new to foraging you are sure to catch the bug, and you will be amazed at what you can ‘forage’ even in your own backyard! (The chickweed and dandelion in the photographs came from my backyard, I chopped both finely and added to a pasta sauce.)

Thank you, Johanna for your gift of this very special book.

Don’t forget there is a website which accompanies the book HERE. I will share a foraging recipe which Johanna sent me with you sometime soon (I just need to cook it first so I can report on it’s flavour!)



this week

I had the best cafe breakfast EVER – avocado mashed with feta and mint on sourdough toast with a poached egg on top, at Tomato Cafe:

I DIDN’T buy these things from the op-shop:

Horse fire-guard. I love these gothy horses…but I don’t have a fire that needs guarding…

Gorgeous Magnolia plate….but $25?? C’mon, op-shops, please stop that grandiose pricing:

I’m loving taking photographs of stuff in op-shops, instead of buying them! I get to ‘keep’ the discovery…without the loss of cash or the clutter. I think a big part of the joy of op-shopping for me is just spotting cool old stuff, so snapping a picture is often thrill enough.

I did buy this wonderful handknitted deer jersey, though:

I pulled all my Penguin Classics from their various hiding places and put them in a pile. Just because. Some are originals and some are recent reproductions.

I worked a lot on my journal project – I have a (self-imposed) deadline for this because I want to enter it into a competition, so the pace is picking up a bit:

& just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean salads can’t be pretty – winter greens, parsley, radish and calendula petal salad from my garden:

As well as that, my oldest son turned 12, which feels like one of those significant ages because next birthday means the teenage stage begins…causing me all kinds of nostalgia/melancholia/emotional-wrenching…..and also some cake-making and happy birthday party throwing.

Hope you have a good, warm, inspiring week. X


The Red Cross hold an annual book sale here. It is amazing – two giant halls filled with books, magazines, music. It is so big and so busy it can be more than a little overwhelming! I go every year and always find incredible things.

This year I decided to focus just on vintage children’s books (one of my passions) and I found plenty….but then I couldn’t help myself having a stroll past the poetry table on the way out and I am SO GLAD I did.

Firstly I found these beauties – the Plath is a recent edition and looks in mint condition – like no one ever read it (shame on you, previous owner). I love the mushrooms on the cover. I was excited to find this early James K Baxter (pre-beard!) and someone had sellotaped a cutting out of the newspaper about his death in the back cover with a rather depressing photograph of him dead in his coffin.

Then I found the Lowell and Ashberry and was very happy. I had nothing by either poet in my collection so they fill a substantial gap.

But then…..THEN…>>>>>>

I found a copy of Turtle Island by Gary Snyder! A book I’ve been hunting for for years. 

I was so excited I yelped ‘OH MY GOD!’ out very loud and clutched it to my chest in a possessive manner.

A man standing next to me looked at me with some amusement and said ‘What? WHAT??’

so I held up the book so he could see the cover.

He pulled a face conveying how unimpressed he was and shrugged….proving that one person’s poetry-nerd-gasm is another’s ‘whatevs’.

I love Gary Snyder is an irrational, gushing kind of way. His books are hard to find. (If anyone has any Snyder they feel ambivalent about….contact me, maybe we could swap or I can buy them off you!)

There is a wonderful photograph on the back of the book of him with his wee son Kai. I guess he was in his 30s here:

In my studio, I have a photograph of him in his late 70s, with Alan Ginsberg which I snipped out of a New Yorker and framed. I love how happy he looks and how typically lugubrious Ginsberg looks. When I’m feeling blah about poetry, I just need to look at this picture and it makes me feel a bit better. It reminds me that a) poetry is for life and therefore I (hopefully!) have a long time to write, to improve, to grow in my work…and b) friendship, especially friendship with other writers is how you keep going through the poetry life:

Here it is in all it’s beauty:

Best Red Cross book sale find EVER.


art will eat itself

I am working on two writing projects at the moment (around the day job, the kids, the endless house-keeping and cooking)…..(‘oh to be a writer, a real writer!’ to quote Katherine Mansfield.)

One is my next collection of poems and the other is less simple – a project involving over a decade of journals. I am scanning a whole lot of journal pages from 1999-2012…it will be a very visual book. This project is tricky – I haven’t quite found my way with it yet. It’s like it isn’t sure what it wants to be….I don’t want it to be a ‘how to’ about journaling, because I don’t find those books especially helpful myself…plus I don’t think I have much to add to that canon….however it may have elements of that. I am writing some prose pieces to sit amongst the scanned journal pages, but I’m not sure they are right in tone. It’s like I am putting together a book that is almost devouring itself – like the OUROBOROS. I’m both sharing parts of my journals and yet critiquing them and journaling and the creative process all at once.  It’s all very messy and more than a little scary, however I’m going to keep chipping away at it and trust that as I work the shape of the book will become clear. Basically, I am trying to write the sort of book I would be excited to find in a bookshop….full of images, honesty, ruminations on creative process, thoughtful mess.

In the meantime, I take comfort from writers who have gone before me.

‘Any writer who knows what he is doing isn’t doing very much.’

-Nelson Algren


‘The furtherest out you can go is the best place to be.’

-Stanley Elkin’