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I’m excited, just posted back the leaf journal today, will hold back from posting a pic until HL gets it, so nice to be mucking around with glue and paper again. Also been updating the other blog and re-did the banner, what do you think?  I’m catching up on my reading this week, it involves a lot of sitting by the fire with cups of tea 🙂

Here’s some gratuitous eye candy to hold you over:

Cross posted to Show Your Workings.

Week one at Varsity, exciting to actually get started and meet everyone. Finally it’s real. Most of the first class was housekeeping: structure, expectations, and introductions.

We all read out a piece of writing (as a way of introducing ourselves) that Chris had pulled out of our submission portfolios. Mine was the Survival Sestina (scroll down heaps), which I have a love hate relationship with, however it did illustrate my re-occurring themes of suburban neuroses, science and magical thinking – ha!

Also it was good to introduce myself on a lighter, more humorous note than some scary “dead mother” poem!

The rest of the class seem genuine and interesting, actually what will be interesting is which ones turn out to be “my” readers, the ones who respond most helpfully and “get” my work.

I’m looking forward to discussing my reading list, I feel I need direction from someone smarter than me, I don’t feel very well read.

It’s a bit of a shame that Writers and Readers week isn’t on this year, which would have been a great kick start to our reading journals.

Our first class exercise was to write a one page biographical note written about ourselves in the voice of someone else. I was at a bit of a loss and cobbled together a school report using quotes from real old school reports, which I posted earlier this week. The piece was to have three truths and one lie, fun. We handed these out in the first class to read overnight and respond the following day. Some of the class had written a one page short story, Kay had written a one page poem, akk! I felt a bit intimidated! My piece wasn’t really crafted like their pieces had been, ah well, next time…

Speaking of which exercise two is to write a piece with three false starts. The text should be composed of three numbered fragments, yet still somehow seem complete. Length: 2-3 pages!!!!!!!!!!

I have to get over my anxiety about writing longer poems! I have an idea about old boyfriends, I could write a fragment about three different boyfriends and why they never made the grade. This seems a little simplistic but I guess the deeper motif is feminism or misogyny?

At the end of the presentation I talked about how public documents – forms – held some fascination for me. I like the form of the school report because it seemed to say so much about me but at the same time said nothing at all and needed to be read between the lines.

Forms / form. I guess this is why I wrote Show Your Workings in the form it took and my lost and found poem in the form of a form, also the attraction of sestinas etc.

Considering my motif of magical thinking it was funny to have a moment of serendipity today when I was reading. I’ve been so excited about getting access to the VUW library again, there are quite a few books on Elizabeth Bishop I’ve been wanting to get stuck into. I started with Elizabeth Bishop: the Geography of Gender and spent a few hours in the library taking notes, reading about Elizabeth and thinking about how restrained she was. She said publically on many occasions that her poems were totally literal but she lied! There was a close reading about “In the Waiting Room” which was quite interesting in this respect. Elizabeth used form, very strict form, everything was between the lines – in the absences. She censored herself. Her strict form use suited her style but she still had “Flickers of Impudence”, little bird droppings sprinkled through the poems. She was not as discrete as she was made out to be by many critics.

Why did she talk her self down in that way – saying that her poems were just accounts of real events? I guess many poets use real events as starting points, and embellish to illustrate a point. Why did she say that? Was she trying to add mystery, magic to her work? Like some poets claim that their poems come fully formed? *snort*. She, however, was the queen of revision, whittling and binding until sometimes original meanings were reversed and a tidy tight nugget remained.

I scribbled these notes on the way home:


  • Public
  • formal
  • strict
  • instructive
  • structured
  • say everything yet nothing
  • between the lines
  • restraint
  • censored
  • prescriptive
  • jargon
  • nonsensical
  • weird grammar

It might be quite fun to tease out a bit more from these ideas, I can imagine a series of fake forms.

(Cross-posted to Show your workings)

Please write a one-page biographical prose note on yourself observing the following rules:

– the narrator of the note should be someone other than yourself (i.e. a family member, partner, friend, enemy etc)

– the note should contain three facts that are true and one fact that is false.

Wellington Education Board


Dyer Street School


REPORT on Helen Heath

S.3 (age 10)

Language (including speaking, listening, writing and skills such as spelling and handwriting)

Oral: Speaks clearly and confidently. Always willing to offer ideas. Interesting.

Written: Writes original and enjoyable stories and poems. Some good ideas. Work shows promise of greater development.

Spelling: Is making good progress. Mistakes usually made through carelessness.

Reading: Shows maturity in selection of reading material. Enjoys reading for own enjoyment and to find information. Good comprehension. Continue wide and varied reading to improve standard.


Quick to comprehend; speed and accuracy are excellent. Good progress has been made. Understands most processes and tables work has greatly improved.

Social Studies, Nature Study and Science

Is becoming an independent worker, wide general knowledge, research and study skills are of a high standard, has produced some good work.

Cultural and Creative Activities (including music, drama, art and crafts, needlework, cookery, woodwork.)

Takes part enthusiastically in all activities, always keen to participate.

Physical Activities

Takes part enthusiastically. Enjoys P.E and is well co-ordinated.

Personal, Social and General

A conscientious and responsive pupil who has made good progress, has the ability to work well and has proved it this year.

Helen is a very pleasant class member. She is a very likeable girl who has ability in many areas. She is a quiet girl on the whole who gets on with her work.

Helen takes great pride in anything she does. She is extremely reliable. If she commits herself to something she will stick at it.

Two areas of the school programme Helen has become very involved in are music and cross country running, playing trumpet in the school orchestra and representing the school running.

Good luck for 1981!

Mrs Cook

I’ve been accepted into the the MA in creative writing at the IIML. That means a year to devote to writing. I’m so happy I’m shaking all over!

My partner often says “Put your own oxygen mask on first”. What he means of course is that you have to look after yourself so you can look after those who depend on you. That’s easier said than done when you are a mother. I just had a few days away from the family and almost immediately solved a problem poem that I couldn’t face at home. I often find I have to remove myself physically from the family / home before I can just focus on myself and my writing. Kids take as much as you’ll give them, which of course is natural and excellent for their survival but you have to learn how to take breaks and replenish for your own survival.

I admire and respect mother/writers who have produced books while bringing up small children. Mother/writers must be driven, compelled to write and to snatch time for themselves to do so. I guess we are lucky that we are not made to feel guilty about it to the same extent as mother/writers of previous decades. Often we are all to happy to put guilt on ourselves. I like to think that my children benefit from my writing in that the satisfaction I get from following my dreams makes me a nicer person to be around and hopefully a good caring feminist role model.

Here are the latest pages from the leaf journal:

I’ve just printed off my application to study for an MA in creative writing at the IIML. The MA has a high rate of applications and only 20 people get in each year (poets and prose writers combined). I feel a bit like a woman who is only a couple of weeks pregnant and isn’t supposed to tell anyone until its well and truly stuck in case she has a miscarriage.

Well I think that its better to tell everyone and if you loose the baby then they can all grieve with you and understand why you are hiding under the covers crying. I know a miscarriage is much worse than not getting into a writing course but hopefully you’ll all understand :). I wont find out until Christmas either way. And no I’m not pregnant or trying to be!

Page by Helen L, response from Helen H.

Do I have spare strength and certainty? Well, some days I have plenty to spare other days I have a negative balance. These fleeting things, yes, they slip through our fingers and letting yourself surrender to that is so hard. I guess it’s connected to trying to live in the present. Each moment passes and instantly becomes the past. The light of stars reach us in the present but is light years old.

What we perceive as present is the vivid fringe of memory tinged with anticipation.

Alfred North Whitehead,

But of course Buddha would say

You shouldn’t chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there.

I guess the problem is that these are such big concepts for us to get our heads around: time; mortality; our place in the world. We are so tiny in the big picture, yet we still atempt to make our mark on the universe, on a piece of paper, in the genes of our children.

How wonderful that we have the ability to have these thoughts, even if they do make our brains feel like exploding! Sometimes I feel like humankind is all a big computer/connected brain trying to figure out the answer to “Life the universe and everything”, maybe the answer is “42”. In the meantime we are alive, we are self-aware, conscious, struggling for understanding, learning, growing. Life is precious yet precarious. I think that this was not the case it might not be worth living. Certainty is just us soothing ourselves, perhaps it is better to be uncertain, on the edge, alive.

I’ve seen a couple of books lately that have really inspired me

My friend Carmen lent this to me to have a look at, she got it from Amazon. It is amazing.

I got this one out from my library but you can also get it from Amazon or of course even better would be a local independent bookseller aye? This one is an on-going project, they also have a blog. I love being voyeuristic.

No we haven’t forgotten about our blog ;).

Life is busy, this page from Helen Lehndorf in the Leaf Journal.

Have a guess what I’ll be journalling about on the opposite page.