Archives for category: Journaling

Sometimes you might wonder things about the people behind these blogs you read…but you feel a bit weird about asking them random questions in the comments, or via email. It can feel too confrontational, too odd. Or maybe you have a slightly THORNY question?


Well, now thanks to the postmodern madness of the internet, you can ask us anything anonymously via a little platform called formspring. The questions just arrive in our formspring in-boxes with no clue as to where they came from.

HH’s formspring is here

HL’s formspring is here.

I joined for a bit of a laugh about three weeks ago, not really thinking anyone would ask me anything much after the first couple of days, but so far I have answered 73 questions! Some of them have been pretty raw/deep/bold questions! Answering them has been very thought-provoking…at times even a little bit uncomfortable, and yet…I am enjoying it in some strange way…I don’t entirely understand why…

Latest in the leaf journal – fox page by HL, lady writer by HH.

It’s funny, I didn’t notice the fur connection until after it was done. Ideas have been racing around like a skulk of foxes lately and words are getting bashed out on the keyboard. Happily.


I was thinking the other day how readers of our very erratic, but hopefully interesting blog, might assume that Helen and I are close friends.

Well, we are certainly friends – there is a genuine affection between us, we regularly send each other thoughtful and generous gifts, supportive emails and we share thoughts and ideas on our writing…

…but we have only met once, for about five minutes. We were both stall-holding at a Craft 2.0 market, so although excited to finally meet one another – the day was so chaotic and busy that we met, hugged and fizzed over one another for a few minutes…then later there were quick visits to one another’s stalls and that was it.

There is so much I don’t know about Helen, nor she about me. I don’t know stuff that friends know about one another, like where she met her husband, how long they’ve been together, what she studied at university. I don’t know her favourite colour or what she is likely to order at a cafe. I don’t know if she likes sushi or coloured stockings, like I do.

Yet, I do know her – I know what she thinks about motherhood, I know her tastes in poetry, I know a little of what she loves.

Ours is a very 21st century friendship, I think. We ‘met’ online – I actually forget how or where exactly now (can you remember, Helen?) We quickly became friends via email and blog comments, quite soon after meeting we had engaged in this project together.

I love the internet for how these connections can be made – I have made many friends through the internet now – some have been brief flirtations, others have evolved into deep and lasting ‘in real life’ friendships.

I know Helen and I will continue to get to know each other over time, and one day I hope to know her well enough to be able to give her order to the barista if I’m waiting for her at a cafe – in the meantime, her ongoing presence in my email in box and letter box is a wonderful addition to my life.

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.

“Sister Mary Mackillop”, said the little bird, “Jesus says to go directly to Sunbeam Cakes and purchase a jelly finger, I can say this with great certainty. The Neenish Tarts are also excellent.”



Helen H records in pictures, her cake-focussed trip to Melbourne in October ’08.


Here are the latest pages from the leaf journal:

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.

Hey Helen-

It was great to see you pushing through your fears to make these journal pages – you are a natural, I think!

I have always journaled. I have a cupboard of journals dating back to the 1980s. This project, though, is a great way forward for me with journaling. It’s more public, more exposing and I love to collaborate. I find collaboration energising and motivating.

The things getting in the way of my creativity lately are king-sized feelings of inadequacy, a lack of confidence and self-belief and fears that I don’t actually possess the talent needed to get somewhere as a writer. I worry that I am more of a follower than an innovator…that I’m not clever enough, new enough or exciting enough.

How is that for a big old pile of angst?

I love the first page you did in the leaf journal – that image of the little girl playing house is often how I feel as a mother/wife/house-owner! Like, “Oh wow – this is it! This is my adult life. Crazy!” and also, “How did I get here?”

Do you think our blog readers will get confused with all the ‘dear Helen’, ‘love, Helen’ stuff?

Not so weird, though, because in a way we are writing to ourselves, right?

Love, Helen