Solipsism day.

I’m publishing one of my own, to celebrate my latest rejection letters. Hoorah! I rock because I keep on trying when the world says no.

It is a fairly fresh poem, so consider this an online workshop and tell me what you think.


by Helen Lehndorf

I was thirty-three before I learned
people stuck in snow
can die from dehydration
I would melt icicles
on my tongue for you, resist
the drinking down, drip it
into you. Then repeat, repeat
until my lips were raw.

Deep snow squeaks. We
stop on the Desert Road
because of the snow. You
throw snowballs at the
‘Warning: Army Training Area’ sign.
I take macro-photographs of
icicles on tussock.

When we drive up the Desert Road
we lose National Radio, we lose
cellphone reception, we lose
all hope. I was thirty-seven before
I considered not trying to always fix
things. I read an article in the New Yorker
about Wabi-Sabi – the beauty in the
broken and the worn. The integrity
of the much-used utilitarian object.

But then there was an
interview on National Radio
about a woman flying
to Mexico to be put in a coma
so she can wake up mended. “It is
like rebooting a computer,” said the doctor.

Despite Wabi-Sabi, I want that.
To live in snow and not be thirsty.
I want good reception all the way
up the country. I want a shiny, clean
version of myself. Closedown,
hibernate, restart.

This Saturday you’re behind the counter

in the work coat you want to shed

like an unwanted skin at the end of your shift.

There’s the 5 o’clock rush to get through

and you don’t want to hear how Michael on bags

got an extra shift at Subway to save for his car.

Your white name tag lets the customers think

they can call you by your name;

the logo on your chest promises a New World

but little was gained from the shelvers’ lockout.

What’s left after the prepaid’s paid for

you’ll put to a silver Playboy necklace

with an imitation diamond eye, or

a pair of Nike trainers, each whoosh

a tick for a Vietnamese child’s

fourteen hour day. Last week Tala

gave you Resurrection and you copied

Tupac Shakur’s name into your senior

social studies notebook in the style

of a typeface owned by the Sony corporation.

You hand back the man’s Flybuy card, try

not to frown as he fumes when the EFTPOS

doesn’t take his pin. On your inside

left thigh there’s a tattoo of the Vietnamese

character for love you let no-one but Tala

see. You got the idea from Angelina Jolie

now it has become your own and beneath black

polyester pants the sigil warms you;

keeps you real.

Harvey says:

I wrote this in 2006 feeling frustrated by the dispute between Progressive Enterprises ( a massive company) and supermarket workers. The claims of the workers seemed to me to be so reasonable and yet it resulted in a strike and lock-out. It was published in the USA in Richard Smyth’s journal Albatross. I spent a while on this one—I was aiming for a rough or punky edge to the poem which hopefully adds to the music rather than lessens it. Earlier this year I was using Webcrawler for a week—breaking the Google habit—and being self-engrossed (and wondering which libraries had bought our Asperger book) I ’web-crawled’ myself and found that the poem had been copied and attributed to me on Three Quarks Daily. I was pleased that they had liked the poem enough to copy it but felt that it would have been nice for them to let me know!


Harvey Molloy was born in Oldham, England and emigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He studied English at Victoria University, Massey University, and the University of Florida where he completed a doctorate. He worked as a writer/information architect during the ’90s before taking a teaching position at the National University of Singapore. He now lives in Wellington where he teaches English and Drama at Porirua College. Harvey is a rising star in Wellington’s poetry firmament. His poems have appeared in NZ Listener, JAAM and Takahe, and he is a previous winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international poetry award. This poem comes from his first book Moonshot, published by Steele Roberts.

I love the way Harvey isn’t afraid to get a little nasty and downbeat, it shows off his inner punk. The supermarket workers don’t get off lightly either, everyone’s material obsessions pale against “each whoosh / a tick for a Vietnamese child’s / fourteen hour day”.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

I admire the almost mystic writing of American poet Gary Snyder, and especially this one which I think conjures beautifully the other-worldliness of having a baby, the domestic cave new parents dwell in for a while, and the sense of the world made anew. I also love the 60s-hippy detail of the pot of yoghurt…

Not Leaving the House

by Gary Snyder

When Kai is born
I quit going out

Hang around the kitchen – make cornbread
Let nobody in.
Mail is flat.
Masa lies on her side, Kai sighs,
Non washes and sweeps
We sit and watch
Masa nurse, and drink green tea.

Navajo turquoise beads over the bed
A peacock tail feather at the head
A badger pelt from Nagano-ken
For a mattress; under the sheet;
A pot of yogurt setting
Under the blankets, at his feet.

Masa, Kai,
And Non, our friend
In the garden light reflected in
Not leaving the house.
From dawn till late at night
making a new world of ourselves
around this life.

Celebrating Selina’s recent win with my first multimedia Tuesday Poem! From her first book Fast Talking PI, published by AUP.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

An extended metaphor of a potato growing shoots in the dark.

A poem about tenacity, effort, will and endurance.

This is one of my favourites. I almost didn’t share it here, because I didn’t want to risk anyone speaking ill of it. I love the idiosyncratic syntax and punctuation, which I think adds a lot and is not mere affectation. It doesn’t always make literal sense, but does make metaphysical sense – at least to me.

I often chant the first line to myself in times of challenge.


by May Swenson

Deciding to go on digging doing it
what they said outside wasn’t any use
Inside hiding it made it get ambitious
Like a potato in a dark bin
it grew white grabbers for light
out of its navel eyes not priding
itself much just deciding
it wasn’t true what they said
outside those bumps were

All humped. alike dumped inside
slumped in burlap said
roots are no good out of ground
a fruit’s crazy to want to be a flower
Besides it’s sin changing the given shape
Bursting the old brown skin is suicide
wishing to taste like a tulip
sip coloured light
outside thumps said isn’t right

Deciding to keep on striding
from inside bursting the bin-side
poking out wishes for delicious opposites
turning blind eyes to strong fingers
touching meaning more than sight
the naval scars of weaning
used for something finally
Deciding to go on digging doing it.

Ever since the self-defence lessons,

when I was twelve, when we were told

always to appear as big as possible

so from a distance we seemed male,

I’ve drawn myself up in the dark.


Last night,

at the end of the alley,

a silhouette walked,

short and broad

with a male gait.


My Philosophy of Aesthetics lecturer once said

she found androgynous people sublime.

Because of the double-take you must make,

the awe of not knowing.

We’d been talking about sunsets until then.


I wasn’t afraid of the figure —

light bulbs glowed through

the pittosporum hedges.

But it walked so slowly I couldn’t say

if it was coming towards me or going away.


Propaganda Poster Girl

From The Propaganda Poster Girl, published by VUP.

This is the opening poem of Amy’s first book. There are re-occuring images throughout the whole collection that are disturbing, the threat of danger, which this poem illustrates. I really like the way this poem ends. We never find out the gender of the figure or if anything happened or even which direction he/she was walking in. There is just the menace and the illusion.

Amy Brown was born in 1984 and grew up in Hastings before moving to Wellington to study English literature and philosophy at Victoria University. She taught English and travelled for six months in South East Asia in 2005, and has subsequently completed an MA in creative writing, for which she won the Biggs Prize for Poetry, and a first class honours degree in English literature. She is books and creative writing editor of online arts journal The Lumière Reader, and occasional book reviewer for the NZ Listener. Her poetry has published in Sport, Turbine, Snorkel, the Listener, Landfall and Hue & Cry.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

I’ve written before that I like poems with an imperative voice, urging me to listen, to do this, try that. In such uncertain times, I am always interested in a poet who has the courage to write “Do this and you will be ok…” It doesn’t matter if I agree or not, I always enjoy the gesture.

I just read Sarah Broom’s recently published book ‘Tigers at Awhitu’ and can recommend it most heartily. It contains meditations on our vulnerability, the disasters that follow allowing ourselves to love, and the very-human drive to live…to stay alive. It is a terrific book.

Well-known Northern Irish poet Medbh McGuckian said of this book (quote borrowed from Booksellers website):

“A book for our times; specifically a woman’s, and more specifically, a mother’s book, it is ‘about time that wears / as ragged as storm-blown wings’. Poems of deep poignancy and unflinching tenderness are presented against a backdrop of encroaching tidescape in which a fierce beauty burns all the more brightly, the more it is threatened.”

Indeed. I especially liked this one, with its reassuringly confident first line:

Not yet, not now

by Sarah Broom

Hush now, I know what to do.
Find the place that always waits.
Is there sand there? Bury yourself deep
in its sun-stores. Lie there as long
as it takes. Are there waves?
Let them dump you. Is there a creek?
Sit and listen. Smell its closeness
to your body, the intimate trickle
of water through leaf-rot. Is there snow?
Fall into it, face down. Feel its aristocratic slap,
the clarity of its sting. Are there mountains?
Climb them, press your body against
the rock’s indifference. Is there a river?
Stand in it. Wrestle for your footing.
Feel its urgency, its desire for you.
Are there hills? Walk your feet
all over them, smell the brawny reek
of sheep dung, lock your ear to the whirr
of the wire fence in the wind.
Now – are you here? Are you here?

This week’s poem needs to be displayed as a pdf, which won’t fit on this page. I’m dashing off to work and don’t have time to fix it up, eek! But you can read it over at Show Your Workings.

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.

I have loved Brian Patten since I was a teenager when my hip seventh form English teacher taught us about the Liverpool Poets (Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri).

Patten was my favourite of the three…and I still have an soft spot for his work, all these years later. I know the Liverpool poets are often derided for how ‘accessible’ they are…(is there ever a more ‘damn me with faint praise’ word for a poet than to be called ‘accessible’? Code word for simplistic, easy, populist…) Nonetheless, I enjoy Patten’s take on the world, the way he examines relationships and pokes gentle fun at neuroses.

When I lived in England I saw a poster advertising that Roger McGough and Brian Patten would be reading at my local South Bank Centre so swiftly approached the ticket office, thinking to myself that although I couldn’t really afford it…I HAD to see Patten read….I had to! At the ticket office, I was pleasantly shocked to be told my ticket cost three pounds fifity, about NZ $7. Heh.

Patten was brilliant live, generous and soulful and lugubrious and dour and funny. He finished with a poem about sitting at his mother’s death bed and I cried my sentimental wee eyes out. Here is a recentish poem from him – you can find more on his poetry blog here.

That Dress, This Shirt
by Brian Patten

That dress will not stop you growing older,
No matter how you wear it-
Nor will this baggy shirt I wear disguise anymore
A stomach growing fatter by the hour.
Now that we no longer have time’s currency to squander
Lets get used to the raw material we are,
Lets celebrate this far harder adventure
And stop carrying about the dead weight of Ago.
That dress, this shirt-
We place them over chairs in rooms
Besides beds that sets sail each night without expectation,
With us the crew, held together by time and by the faith
That we are buoyant enough to see any darkness through.

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

And then a revision

and then the final version

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

(cross posted to Show Your Workings)