What Defines Me?

Tuesday, 8th June, 2010


I decided to join in Bindu's challange to spend the next 21 days writing 800 words a day (#215800) and doing some yoga everyday (Join me if you like!).

Today I worked on an idea I have to help people kick-start their creativity, then I wrote this short piece:

What defines me?

I guess most of us have some big things that happened in our lives that go towards defining us. One of the things that has shaped me most as a person is the death of my mother when I was 19. Like most teenagers I had a complex relationship with my mother, we were often arguing and I frequently said things to her that in hindsight must have been hurtful.

She was a complicated woman who found it hard to demonstrate affection or talk about emotional matters. So many things were left unsaid when she passed away. Even now, 20 years after she died there are moments when my grief is still raw, she never met my partner or children, she never saw me graduate or achieve any of my significant adult milestones.

When she was ill I waited for her to start talking about things, open up like in the movies, but she never did. This made me very angry, she was so stubbornly in denial and denying me any closure (I hate that word but there you have it). She wasn't how I thought a mother should be.

How has this shaped me? I tell my children and partner I love them everyday. I try to name things for what they are. I try to forgive her and see her as a woman doing her best just like I am. I try and be the best I can be for her and for me.


My mother is a poem

I'll never be able to write,

though everything I write

is a poem to my mother.

~Sharon Doubiago


 Did you have a complicated relationship with your mother?

I'm off to do some yoga...

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Tuesday Poem: Foolscap by Lynn Davidson

Monday, 7th June, 2010

How to Live by the Sea


I am strangely deaf

to the scuttles and shifting of the classroom.

The hat, Dunce, black on white

pulls in the tips of my ears.


It crushes my hair.

Cardboard brackets my temples

rubs and hisses when I move.


Light comes through the window in waves

like pages.

Page after page.

My still self,

the one strange letter.


I don’t know how to act,

how to pull this off.




I jump away.

A collection of bone-hard legs

the flint of iron hooves.




My name is now the measure of paper

the fool’s head and cap

the floppy points, the bells -

a watermark.


I dip my name in ancient ink.

A well, a shade.


I fold a page five times

and hide it in my sleeve.


I am delivered by carriage

to a desperate lover


I flap in the hand

of the girl outside the café


I rest in a lap lapped by snow


I sit inside a prayerbook

between chapters


I am in the jacket pocket

of the best man


I am eaten by the liar


My name is the measure of paper.


I wear it.

Believe me.


This is where I set the bar

and this is how I rise.


Foolscap comes from Lynn's second book of poetry - How to Live by the Sea (VUP, 2009).

fools·cap (ˈfuːlzˌkæp)


1. Chiefly British. A sheet of writing or printing paper measuring approximately 13 by 16 inches.

2. A fool's cap.

[From the watermark of a fool's cap with bells originally used for this paper.]

I like the way this poem plays with language and meaning, then  trips off on a "Thirteen Ways" journey. Most all I love the last sentence, how uplifting it is literally and figuratively.

Lynn says:

Interesting that you chose Foolscap. That wasn’t a particularly easy poem to write – just in terms of knowing how to approach it or something – it went through many drafts before I felt it rang true.

Lynn Davidson is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Tender, and Mary Shelley’s Window, and a novel, Ghost Net. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Sport, Landfall, Turbine and The Red Wheelbarrow. In 2003 she was awarded the Louis Johnson Writer’s Bursary. Lynn teaches creative writing and lives in Nelson.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the Tuesday Poem blog.

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Uppercase Magazine

Wednesday, 2nd June, 2010

I'm chuffed that one of my photos has been selected for the Shoegazing article in the forthcoming issue of UPPERCASE magazine.

Uppercase is a gorgeous magazine for the creative and curious put together by Janine in Calgary.

Have a look here:

UPPERCASE magazine, issue 5 from UPPERCASE gallery on Vimeo.


Oh, and the picture that's going in? My crazy dress sense revealed below!

Funky feet


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Tuesday Poem: Lucky Lucky Life by Jo Aitchison

Monday, 31st May, 2010

Luck lucky life




Johanna lives in Palmerston North with her partner and 13-month-old son, Lennox. She has published two books, A long girl ago (VUP) (Shortlisted for the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards) and Oh My God I'm Flying (Pemmican Press). She teaches creative writing at Massey University and College Street Normal School.

Jo says:

This poem was written a long time ago--perhaps a year and a half ago--and I resurrected it as a result

of the wonderful Tuesday Night Poetry Club at Barista Cafe on George Street founded by current Massey

Writer-In-Residence, Jennifer Compton. Jen suggested that I "go hard out" and play around with fonts,

and just have a whole lot of fun with the poem. She also psychoanalised the poem (me?), and this is what

what she said (in brief): "You lacerate yourself. You want to compete, but you beat yourself up about it."

Joan Fleming from the LUMIERE READER:

The deliberate disorientations in this collection are reined in by its emotional earnestness. Aitchison’s lively experimentations step outside the parameters set up by much contemporary, lyric New Zealand poetry – and that’s a breath of sea air.

Fore more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem site.

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A Free Lunch

Monday, 31st May, 2010

Free Store

Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch!
FREE STORE, at 38 Ghuznee Street, (Wellington, NZ) is a Letting Space Project by Kim Paton and is planned to run for a fortnight. Shop hours are 10-6pm, Monday- Saturday until June 5th. 


Paton says her store will be a collection point for those who want to provide any excess stock to key social agencies, and will be working with existing food banks to clear anything that is left at the end of the day.


“Free Store is making public the point in the supply chain that is usually unseen. I hope to raise discussion around how we define the value of a product and what we do with our waste,” says Paton.


Some of the comments from the visitor's book:

Very civilized, feel like I’m in a quaint French grocery


Mean chur best idea since TV


Finally: a place for Samoans


Crazy cool idea ‘guys’. Much appreciated by the studenty-people


Thanks food for my dog


Awesome banana


Great initiative – this is good supply and demand – real free market – wondering about a sustainable option – rent cost? Other costs? Possible voluntary or sponsored option?


Wonderfully good idea – got the town talking


My friend is battling cancer and can’t work so great for her


Packet of chips just what my 10 year old feels like.


Best idea ever.


Creative, socially aware and well marketed


great psychological experiment - like it - the whole taking without paying is somewhat uncomfortable - feels like stealing... is the bread still good?


Will donate consistently if this continues


Much easier than dumpster diving!

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Tuesday Poem: Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – Emily Dickinson

Monday, 24th May, 2010

Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth's superb surprise


As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —




Confession – I didn’t organise a poem early enough so I had to use an out of copyright one. However I do really love this poem. I quote it in the preface of my manuscript and if you have a look on Harvey Molloy’s blog today there is a poem by me that is, in some ways, a response to this poem (well you could say that about my whole manuscript really!). Dickinson is so spare and precise and yet manages to capture the big human issues while rhyming and not sounding like a Hallmark card. Big ups Emily.

 Go here for more Tuesday Poems.


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Sunday, 23rd May, 2010

Vida Textiles cushion

A little return to some homely making today.

I recently helped a friend set her business up with social media and in exchange she gave me some gorgeous organic cotton fabric (don’t you love the green dollar?). I made some cushions out of it this weekend. Love, love, love them! Have a look at the Vida textiles shop, blog and Facebook page or tweet her – she’s new and could do with some online buddies!

Speaking of Twitter - twittering about my Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry brought on some requests for the recipe. It’s one of those dishes I just chuck together so I had to sit down and think about it first. Here we go:


Helen’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Coconut Curry


1 small butternut pumpkin or about 700 gms of any kind of pumpkin

Put pumpkin in oven whole and roast until you can easily poke a knife into it then take out. Cut off the skin (which should now come off easily) and scoop out the seeds. Chop into cubes (about golf ball size) and put aside.


2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tbl spoon of either good curry powder or paste

1 Tbl spoon of coconut oil or sesame oil

Fry together in a large casserole dish (I would use a le creuset if I could afford to buy one) until the onion is soft then add the chopped pumpkin and:

1 x 400gm tin of coconut cream/milk

then fill the tin up with water and put that in too (the water not the tin silly)

add any stray veges you have in the fridge that need using up.

I quite like to put in cauliflower – say a couple of good handfuls (chopped),

spinach, carrots, kumara (sweet potatoes), zucchinis, what-ever.


Then stir in a good 2 cups of pre-soaked chickpeas or a large tin (800gms?).

Cover and simmer, stir occasionally until the pumpkin has gotten so soft it is practically soup then stir in a couple of handfuls of chopped fresh coriander – yum!

If you can’t find fresh then a couple of teaspoons of that slop in a jar would do at a pinch.


Serve with rice and garnish with more coriander. If you really like coconut then you can cook your rice with half a tin of coconut cream in with the water to make it extra yummo.


I think that’s it – enjoy!


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Tuesday Poem: One Art - Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday, 18th May, 2010

This Tuesday poem is an often quoted one but for good reason. I was given a copy of these revisions stages of the poem at a workshop I did years ago and they really brought home what the art of revision was all about.

Here is an early draft

One Art




And then a revision

One Art




and then the final version

One Art




You can see other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

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Tuesday Poem: How He Found Her - Helen Heath

Monday, 3rd May, 2010

How he found her



He tells the legend

again, how they met

over the varsity

dissection table.

Did their hands touch?

Did he admire her

frown of concentration?

Did she call him

a buffoon, even then?

When did he know?


As he watched intently

her small fingers

peeled back the skin

and pinned it down,

exposing the muscle layer

then deeper to the organs,

pulling them out –

laying them on the table.


Go here for more Tuesday Poems.

(cross posted to Helen Squared)

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Writers & Readers Week 2010 - final instalment

Thursday, 29th April, 2010

Ilija Trojanow

Here's the wrap up post for W&R. We have a couple of months before Writers on Mondays start back up again (July 12th, programme announced in May) so you can look forward to regular posts on the sessions I get to. In the meantime these will have to hold you over. I've distilled the sessions to their most essential part of the conversation.


Charlotte Grimshaw

Grimshaw says she is most interested in didactic morals in her work, that she wants it to be more subtle. Looking at all sections of our society she doesn't see any of them as necessarily good or bad - there is no point in writing cardboard villains. Readers, she says need to have empathy for all characters to some extent, an author has to paint a portrait not write a lesson. Writers need to put the question correctly then let the readers come to their own conclusions.


Margo Lanagan & Neil Gaiman

What whooping when Neil Gaiman walked on the stage - he certainly has a devoted following. Poor Margo did well holding her own. They are both entertaining readers. I prefer Lanagan, I loved her Tender Morsels. The main assertion of the session was that there is no such thing as "Children's fiction" or "Young Adult fiction", there are only books that would be too boring for them and / or go over their heads. Both the authors and chair Kate De Goldi argued that there is no reason you can't deal with dark issues in kids books, in fact they usually like it.

Gil Adamson

I was disapointed with chairperson Jenny Pattrick's questions, most of which were quite lame. Gil's novel The Outlander began life as a poem, which never worked until it grew into a novel. I would have been interested to learn more about her poetry. She did talk about the dark themes in her poetry and using a somewhat surrealist method to access the subconscious, using games to break down barriers.


Simon Schama & Margo Lanagan

Poor Margo, Simon is such a diva he took over the session. Interesting quotes:

The future is a version of history and writing the past is perhaps always a fiction.

(I think perhaps Lydia Wevers the Chair said that?)

Historical certainty is first cousin to boredom.


Historians are always stabbing the horse they're riding.

(James Belich via Lydia Wevers)


Elija Trojanow

A very charming and educated man. In fact I was so busy being charmed I hardly took any notes. There's an image above to distract me further. I'm a sad case.


Kevin Connolly

Kevin takes delight in language - a poem is an event for the reader. There's an excuse for the use of multi-media if ever I heard one! The narrator of this video cracks me up but the poetry is good:


I'll close on that although I have skipped a few sessions.

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