Archives for category: Workshop

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!

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!