A Forager’s Life (Harper Collins, 2023) Creative Nonfiction
A spellbinding debut memoir about plants, motherhood and belonging. told through the author’s lifelong passion for wild food.
‘Wonderful. A story that will have you looking at your neighbourhood with new intent.’ -Wendyl Nissen
WRITE TO THE CENTRE (Haunui Press, 2016) Non-fiction
A non-fiction book about the practice of keeping a journal featuring both writing exercises and many excerpts and pages from the author’s own journals.
‘There is a delicious vitality at work here – a sumptuous engagement with words and images and scraps of living that boost the writing craft.’
Anne Kerslake Hendricks for Booksellers New Zealand:
‘It takes a certain amount of bravery to share innermost thoughts so publicly, and I admire Lehndorf for her willingness to let us read a broad and somewhat random selection of entries from her own journals. It’s reassuring to see the words crossed out, the scrawls and scribbles, the shortcuts and abbreviations, notes spread hurriedly down and across pages, the self-doubt amidst the celebrations. Perfection is not the goal. It’s all about the process, not the product.’
Pip Adam interviews Helen Lehndorf about Write to the Centre on the Better Off Read podcast, episode 39.
Sarah Laing writes about the book.
Write to the Centre’s designer, Anthony Behrens, on the book.
Write to the Centre on Goodreads.
*Write to the Centre is now SOLD OUT however, many New Zealand public libraries have copies.*
THE COMFORTER (Seraph Press, 2011) Poetry
In The Comforter, Helen Lehndorf explores the joys, pains, beauty and ugliness of life. These are poems that don’t shy away from grit, know that real love isn’t sentimental but fierce, and like to get elbow-deep in rich garden soil.
Ranging around in time and place, Lehndorf examines an authentic provincial New Zealand, and the lives of those who live there, with her sharp images, sometimes shocking honesty and a wicked sense of humour. These poems are not always comfortable, but rather are beautiful, bold and arresting.
‘The Comforter’ made the 100 Best Books of 2012 list in The Listener
‘If you’re thinking snuggle-up, warm milk, there-there – don’t. This book burns with the pressures of what it’s like to be she who comforts. Honest about the way domestic responsibilities deflect adult fears and longings, it excels at capturing suburban claustrophobia, the enraging tedium of chores, the comedy of clashes between adult’s and child’s eye view. There is a clinched energy here; the poetry fizzes with ironies.’
–Emma Neale, in The Listener:
‘Lehndorf’s work exploits the differing emotional registers of alternate rhythms to strong effect; often The Comforter zips and zings, scooping up the transient moment, yet it also documents, with a fond and satirical slant, a gritty real-world catalogue of goat shit, beer crates, freezing works, creeks and freshwater crabs: the bright and concrete memories of a childhood of physical and imaginative freedoms.’
Jack Ross, in the Landfall Review:
‘It’s true to say that she’s found in me the right audience for this kind of thing. I know it’s a bit over-the-top, a bit exaggerated — I would say intentionally — but I love the Audenesque, 1930s quality of that ‘last dinner on the dehydrated lawn’ (Compare: ‘It is time for the destruction of error / … and the loud madman / sinks now into a more terrible calm’, as W.H. Auden puts it in ‘1929’). There’s a haunted quality to all of Lehndorf’s poetry.’
Natasha Dennerstein review, for the New Zealand Poetry Society:
‘Each poem is effective and poignant, but as a collection, the over-arching tone is of emotional maturity and the quest for spiritual balance. What one is left with is the feeling that the poet appears to accept her past without regret and remain free of fear for the future. She is living in The Now: her life is what it is. The poet has come to various forks in the road and the poetry rejoices in the selections of the paths taken.’
Hamesh Wyatt, in the Otago Daily Times:
‘She serves up poems that are bitingly funny and warmly sympathetic. Away from soft love poems, Lehndorf pens poems with a raw edge. She knows how to be vivid and disturbing.’
Sienna Latham, for Scoop Review of Books:
‘Most of all, I love the way these poems find the universal in the particular. Though they could only have been penned by their author, a characteristic of so much good writing, they contain truths that will resonate with each reader. We all know “how just one pulled thread / can undo a day,” just as the downy descent into sleep often offers all the respite we need to find what Lehndorf describes as “a new way.” The Comforter is a slender, handsome volume that I hope the poetry-readers and poetry-reluctant alike will pick up and learn from and return to as each season gives way to the next. Highly recommended.’
Sarah Jane Barnett, on The Red Room blog:
‘The collection is heartfelt, relatable, and authentic. This may be due to Lehndorf’s lack of pretension. That is not to say the work is not serious: Lehndorf’s words are chosen carefully. Sound and rhythm are strengths of the collection, and it’s one to read out loud. There is an easiness to the way Lehndorf’s words flow: “Sparrow head, blackbird beak, thrush face / threaded on leather, fastened with wood” she chants in ‘Latest Project’. To steal jargon from wine tasters, the book has great mouth-feel.’
Patricia Prime, in Takahe:
‘The poems in Helen Lehndorf’s collection, The Comforter, are multi-faceted, gentle explorations of the experiences and concerns of a modern woman.’
To buy it direct from Seraph Press.