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’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:

Late last year Helen Show Your Workings did some hand printing of cloth and she sent me a wonderful sampler of what she’d been up to. I’ve used every last scrap in different projects – brooches, bunny ears, but here is one that I wear most days – a brown floral tunic I sewed recently – Helen’s contribution to this collaboration in cloth is the wonderful right hand pocket.

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There is more than one way for long-distance artist friends to work together.

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I’ve kept journals faithfully since I was about 20. When I finish one, I toss it into a huge box ‘with the others’.

Recently, I decided to embark on what I call ‘The Journal Project’. I’m working on a poetry book and wanted to generate a whole lot of new material, so that only my very best stuff will end up in the book. I see a lot of poetry books published with what I call ‘filler’ poems – the poems that are ‘meh’, that are ‘ok’, that have one or two nice lines but aren’t that great as a whole. Because I’m a virgo, a control freak, a perfectionist…I want to produce a book full of the very best poems I am capable of writing. I have plenty of ‘filler’ poems – but I don’t want to use them in the manuscript.

I know – pretty high standards for myself…and it means a couple of things – firstly, I can keep stringing out this book writing thing because ‘it’s not there yet, not yet’ and secondly, probably my very best writing is some amazingly talented poet’s ‘filler’.

Anyway, I thought a good way to generate some new material might be to read through my old journals – see if there are the seeds of poems there, or if just revisiting my younger selves triggers memories etc. So I got the journals out (there are 32) put them in chronological order and started at the beginning – the university years.

It’s kinda painful really. Not dark painful, but squirmy and embarrased painful. There is all that insecure, angsty stuff of one’s early 20s. But it’s good, illuminating – and it is resulting in new poems and other writings, not to mention a whole lot of reflection on my life – which can’t be a bad thing, right?

I’ve gotten as far as my OE to England. I’m looking forward to getting into my child-having years, because then I might actually recognize the person writing as myself. At the moment the breathless young thing scrawling excitedly about music and boys and feminism seems like someone I vaguely knew once, very long ago.

One things for sure – I’ve come a long way, baby. And I can say with some certainty that apart from perhaps my flawless, unwrinkly skin and thinner butt, I would not go back to those early 20-something years for anything.

I like the ‘me’ of today much more.

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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.

New in the Leaf Journal:

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Inspired by HH’s cake tour of Melbourne – I made this image.

The text (from a vintage childrens’ book) says: ‘She bought some honey and rose leaf meringues and two loaves of violet petal bread.’

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HH responded with the above collage. (We are big on the cake theme!)

The text says:
Atomic Housewife – so easily satisfied.

‘The year 2000 used to seem so far ahead into the future – we would all be eating pills for dinner and driving spaceships – but already it is slipping into the past.’

New in the Daler Journal:

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I made this one, last year. The text says:

‘If you can raise your eyes up from time to time and take in the horizon you will remember that there is and wild and lovely world beyond the parametres of your small and dusty brain, your stale thoughts.

Look into this.’

To which HH responded with her experiences playing around with Keri Smith’slatest art exploration books:

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‘Poking holes into this page using a pencil – frees me up!’

and

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on Keri Smith’s manifesto ‘How To Be An Explorer of the World’ Helen says:

‘(a colour photocopied page) from my new personal journal. Addicted. Doodles are good & idea 23 ‘Document shapes made by water’. Try this!

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It’s been rather a long time since I updated the journal project on here. Sorry about that! These pages were actually made late last year, early this year….somehow now it is March.

I have been very busy back inside that aforementioned dusty brain. However, it’s bright and fresh out here in the world – & it’s nice to be back.

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:

Form/forms

  • 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

1980

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.

Arithmetic

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!

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“I suppose I ought to tell a story, but I don’t know anymore,” said the old man.
“You can make one up, I know,” said the boy. “Mother says that you can turn anything you look at into a story, and everything even that you touch.”
“Ah, but that kind of tale and story is worth nothing. The real ones come of themselves. They knock at the forehead and say ‘Here we are!'”
“Won’t there be a knock soon?” said the boy. And his mother laughed, while she put elder flowers in the teapot and poured boiling water over them. “Please tell me a story.”
“Yes – if a story comes of itself. But tales and stories are very grand – they only come when it pleases them.”

-from Elder Tree Mother by Hans Christian Andersen