many moons

moons_1Hello! Its been a few moons since I posted…I took an unintended break there for a bit!

What have I been up to? (I’m going to assume the fact you are reading my website means you are interested…ha ha.) Last year I received a grant from the Earle Creativity Trust to write a book about my life-long practice of keeping a journal. It was so wonderful to get the grant and I’ve been busy working on this time-bound project, which has to be completed in 2016 (a condition of the grant.) It will be coming out SOON and I will write some more about it later this week.

Here’s a bare bones catch-up of the rest of my working/writing life since I wrote my last blog post: I finished year one of a permaculture design course last year, but took this year off the course to work on the journal book. I also had a go at making yoga teaching my main source of income, really didn’t like it and am back to teaching just two classes a week, which is just the right amount for me. I had a year’s contract working for an environmental trust, doing communications and events work, and now I’m back at Massey, teaching writing.

Working with the Palmerston North City Library, I edited this anthology – you can download a .pdf version here. I gave a talk about nature writing at the Massey University-based symposium, ‘Working With Nature: understanding entanglements of humans and nonhumans in the Anthropocene’.  I have a lot to say about nature and writing and nature writing, so I really enjoyed being a part of this great event.

I taught at the 2016 Kahini Retreat – it was terrific, a whole weekend of being steeped in writing and writing conversation. There will be another one in March next year, in case you like the sound of it! Kirsten from Kahini interviewed me for the last one. 

Me and my dear friend, Nga Taonga Puoro artist Rob Thorne  collaborated on a performance combining poetry with music, called ‘Tohu’. Huge satisfying fun, and we hope to do it again soon.

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I was part of Massey University’s ‘writing in / writing of’ talk series, in a panel about Manawatu writers.

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In May, I read with Janet Charman, Belinda Diepenheim and Johanna Aitchison at the Palmerston North City Library. I’ve loved Janet’s writing for a long time, so it was a real privilege to read with her when she visited Palmerston North from Auckland.

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Last Friday was National Poetry Day and I read with other Seraph Poets and friends at Vic Books in Wellington, Paula Green took some great photographs. 

I also started (with my friend Marolyn Krasner) a writing group we call the Manawatu Sunday Writers Group. We meet, you guessed it, one Sunday per month. There is always tea and cake, it is very casual, very supportive and we don’t intensively workshop stuff (unlike other groups I’ve been part of in the past). We read our work out loud to each other, share writing-life news and opportunities, and have a lot of fun!

Whew! I think that is all the major stuff I’ve been up to over the last year…I’ll probably think of a bunch of stuff I forgot as I drift off to sleep later tonight – that’s usually how it works, right?

My most recent creative act, though, has been painting moons. My friend is opening a shop in town with a theme of earth-based and earth-friendly hand made things. So I’ve been making moon gift tags, wall strings and cards for the shop. It is so much more enjoyable than writing poetry, which is always kind of masochistic and gnarly for me.

I promise it won’t be many moons before I write again!

 

 

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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send me your heart

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I am excited and pleased and honoured to be the judge of the 2014 Poetry in the Waiting Room Poetry Competition.

The competition is open for entries now and closes at the end of February 2014.

If you don’t know what Poetry In The Waiting room is, read all about it HERE. It’s a wonderful project organised by the fabulous, energetic and passionate poet Ruth Arnison.

Full details of the competition HERE.

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Ruth has pointed out that in the past the competition attracted submissions ABOUT waiting rooms, or medical conditions, or doctors….but the point of the leaflets is to DISTRACT and cheer or uplift people, rather than to dwell on the circumstances of their being in the waiting room!

Ruth says:

‘We’re not looking for poems about medical issues/scenarios. We’re more likely to choose poems which are upbeat, aren’t  complicated and leave the reader feeling happier about themselves and the world.

Our aim, with every card, is to select poems which will take readers away from the sometimes quite stressful or anxious wait they may be experiencing.’

Indeed.

As I’m judging, you might want to know what is likely to catch my eye.

One way to do this would be to read my book, The Comforter.

+ here is a little bit of information about my tastes in poetry.

I like writing that aims to connect (rather than to befuddle, to show off, to parade the poet’s intellect). Poetry which has emotion in it which is expressed in an original way, which displays a love of words through explorative, playful, deft, startling, unpredictable language and precise, transporting imagery. I like to be surprised, to be delighted and I like poetry which veers off in different directions, emotionally. Poems which end up somewhere different from where they began. I like poems which are funny and dark all at once. Or just funny. Or just dark.

Does that help? Maybe that is just confusing.

Either way, I am so excited to read the all the entries early next year. (This is not my first time judging poetry competitions – I have judged competitions for children, teenagers and adults before so have had some experience. I don’t know why I felt I had to mention that – I guess I am suddenly conscious that hopeful poets might be reading this, so I need plead my experience. Ha ha!)

Send me your heart! Your plastic heart. Or your fresh and bloody one. Or maybe just send me your poems. I am so lucky, so honoured to get to read them. I can’t wait!

 

 

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):

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

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‘KUPU’ – a poetry installation at the Palmerston North City Library

Happy National Poetry Day! I have done something (read poems, handed out poems, chalked poems on the street, pot-luck poetry lunches, megaphone poetry on Cuba Street etc etc…) every year since Poetry Day began in the 1990s. Of course, every day is poetry day when you are a poet, but it’s lovely to have a day dedicated to celebrating poetry.

This year, the Palmerston North City Library invited Leonel Alvarado and I to work together on ‘installing’ six of our poems (three each) somewhere around the library. Inside or outside – it was up to us.

I had a wonderful time walking around the library with Leonel, looking for potential interesting sites.

The installation was ‘launched’ at a gathering last night, where I read with Leonel and Glenn Colquhoun. (Glenn was there to unveil an artwork he had donated to the library.) Unfortunately I only have photographs of one of the poems, because it was the only one installed when I was in the library during the day yesterday, and last night I forgot to take my camera. But below is my piece ‘Poem Without the L Word’ going up a staircase, so you begin reading at the bottom. (You can read the whole poem here.) 

Leonel is originally from Honduras but now lives here in Palmerston North. He recently came second in a very prestigious Latin American poetry prize, the Casa De La Americas Prize. (Read more about it here.) I love to hear Leonel read with his thick Latin American accent, and sometimes he reads in Spanish, too. If you’d like to hear his voice, he was recently on ‘Playing Favourites’ with Kim Hill. (You can hear it here.)

Anyway, here is one of the installed poems….it was tricky to photograph, but hopefully you get something of an idea…I’ll get some photographs of the other poems soon.

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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….)

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(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.

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

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(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.)

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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.

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

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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:

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

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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!

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celebrating a long apprenticeship

Next Wednesday, 12.30pm, Theatre Lab 5D14, Massey University Wellington my dear friend Maria McMillan and I are giving a talk/poetry reading. It’s my first duty as visiting artist at Massey. We’ll be repeating it the following Wednesday 24 April, 6pm, at the Palmerston North City Library.

I invited Maria to share the reading with me because we have been friends for almost twenty years and it has been a friendship with our shared love of writing at the core. Indulge me while I tell you a little bit about our history.

We met just after finishing university, and quicky bonded over our love for poetry. We both took it very seriously, sharing books, discussing poetry, sharing our own writing with each other, even sitting and writing together. Our relationship was intense at it’s beginning and we were soon devoted friends.

A couple of years into our friendship, Maria left for her OE and a year later, I followed (with my husband Fraser) and we lived with Maria in Brixton, London.

Our time in London was wonderful – we called ourselves ‘Girl Germs’ and we wrote a lot, went on geeky literary pilgrimages (I actually cried when I sat in Virginia Woolf’s writing shed in Rodmell, Sussex), joined the Poetry Library on the South Bank, went to poetry readings (most notably Carol Ann Duffy and (for me) two of the ‘Liverpool Poets’: Brian Patten and Roger McGough who I adored as a teenager) and read at Open Mike Nights – all over London, but the best ones were always at The Poetry Place in Covent Garden. You were limited to read just one poem (always a good idea for Open Mike nights!) and the famous read with alongside the newbies. You never knew who might appear. Once John Cooper Clark popped up! For a while Maria interned with Michael Horowitz. Exciting times for poetry nerds.

Here is Maria outside the Poetry Cafe with our friend, American poet Debbie Urbanski. (These days Debbie owns a Letter Press Studio – the Box Car Press.) 

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Anyway – like most friendships in your twenties (when you have no kids or mortgage) we had many great nights out together…

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We danced together…

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We played a lot of hacky sack together…(in London we lived in overcrowded flats where people were sleeping in the living room or sharing bedrooms, so we made trips to nearby parks for hacky-sack compulsory for all flatmates. Hacky sack is both great for letting off steam and for discussions about stuff going on in the flat that cannot get tense because…dude, you are playing hacky-sack – it’s a collaborative game! Hacky sack stopped us all killing each other many a time.)

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We went on adventures together….

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Maria was a very patient model for my try-hard arty photo shoots:

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We wore each other’s clothes. (Particular old men’s jerseys from op-shops were in hot demand. The kind that was old and worn enough to have lost all stretch around the bands. Holes were desirable, too, for scruffy street-cred.)

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But the thing that means the most to me, looking back, is how we shared writing. We both had an unassailable passion for writing, we were doing it by ourselves – outside of any academic institutions – we learned a lot together. The bed-rock of peer support we gave each other was a great ground for growth and experimentation. 

Anyway, neither of us found particular success (in terms of traditional writing institutions and publications) during our twenties and it wasn’t until we hit our thirties+ that we moved from underground to the more expected terrain (publication in literary journals, anthologies and finally, publication of our own books.) We were not wunderkinds. But I am really grateful for our long apprenticeship and for the opportunity we had in our twenties to be zealots for poetry! To be poetry fundamentalists! To be so passionate and nerdy without the self-consciousness and self-doubt that academic creative writing programmes often breed. We were not cool or understated or moderate or measured or even particularly talented but we were passionate and dedicated and optimistic and eager to teach ourselves and each other. I love that about us-as-we-were.

Anyway, when we were ready, we DID study creative writing – I did the Writing Programme at Whitireia Polytechnic and it was invaluable beyond words. Maria did courses at the International Institute of Modern Letters which I know she feels really helped her develop her work.

This winter Maria has her first book coming out with Seraph Press (who are my wonderful publisher also) ‘The Rope Walk’, and next year she has a book coming out with Victoria University Press, ‘Tree Space’. As you may know, my first book ‘The Comforter’ came out in December 2011.

So, yes, this talk is something of a celebration for me of our long apprenticeship, and a long and wonderful friendship, too. Girl Germs Forever!

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