Thursday, December 29, 2011

Surf training

I found a great way to avoid the sales.
The sand was full of weeny iron bits (iron filings? - a science lesson gone astray?). They stuck to the magnets on my son's train when he buried it. When I dug it up I thought it was a bizarrely similar yet much older abandoned train with anemones clinging to it (...always the most ludicrous explanation is the most obvious seeming one....).

We found the most beautiful dainty shells in bone white and indigo fading to lilac....
...before our attention was caught by a flash of electric blue (photo credit Mike, currently photographer in residence at Muriwai Surf School - my surf pics were tripe).

The beach seems the most appropriate place to end one year and bring in the next; something about
the tide draws me there at the close of the year. And what a year.

I've had a productive one which saw twenty odd publications, starting with Otoliths through Horizon Review, ending in December with The Bactrian Room. I wrote a screenplay, penned a couple hundred poems, got longlisted for the Kathleen Grattan Award and started Escape Behaviours (the poetry for which I wrote this time last year).

Thank you all who've supported me in myriad ways - I feel grateful, and optimistic for the New Year. Here's to a creative and fulfilling New Year for all of you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh Christmas three

Three little baubles of happy news to hang on your tree this December:

Firstly - huge congratulations to Isobel J Hillman for getting her first poem published at Ink, Sweat & Tears - I'm particularly thrilled for her as she's my daughter, and she wrote Avalanches when she was nine (she's the grand old age of ten now!).

Secondly - I have a story up at The Bactrian Room. I'd love your thoughts on this one. My thanks go to Russell Streur who has virtually adopted me this year!

Thirdly - the names have gone into the hat - the person receiving a copy of The Juno Charm is:

Congratulations, Dan - drop me an email at teaforthetiller [at] hotmail [dot] com and The Juno Charm will work its magical way to you.

Thanks to all who've read and or followed the blog this year - your support means so much to me. However you choose to celebrate this holiday, I hope you have a relaxing and meaningful time - and a heap of fun ;) You really are the trimmings on the tree for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tim to dance

I’ve got the tunes on, prehistoric music, bass low enough to get your pulse flummoxed but not so loud as to make your brain feel like the last biscuit in the tin of your head. My dance partner should be here any moment….and here he is!

Hello, Rachel! Thanks for marking me on your dance card! If you hadn't said the music was prehistoric, I would have said it sounded a lot like Warpaint.

Hullo, huge welcome, and thank you for visiting snowlikethought, Tim Jones.

Let me get rid of your jacket – it is waterproof? It’ll still be there when you leave. Nibble? Biscuit? Drink?

Then what are we waiting for? Let’s dance. Mind the toy box, watch out for the rocker leg; not exactly a dance floor but all the world’s a stage, is it not?

As long as there's space for my elbows, I'm happy on the most crowded dance floor.

Now, Tim, I’m so thrilled you’re here to talk about your latest poetry collection, “Men Briefly Explained”.

In a recent radio interview you discussed some of the social pressures men are under to stand “alone” be “staunch”, and “not to show weakness”. ..  that media possibly adds to these pressures by portraying men stereotypically. Could you perhaps give some examples and say how the characterisation of men in “Men Briefly Explained” differs from caricatures of men in the media in your opinion?

The characterization that comes to mind is the "Southern Man" of Speights advertisement fame. I like those ads, but our Speights-loving friend is the New Zealand "Man Alone" stereotype taken to a point just this side of the ludicrous – terse, laconic, giving at most a grudging nod (and a Speights) of praise.

It's a powerful stereotype, because the long-withheld approval of a stern father-figure/mentor is something a lot of boys and men find themselves seeking.

I grew up in Southland, and the stereotype is not entirely without truth – some of those real-life Southern Men populate the margins of a poem like "Men at Sea". But I wasn't born in Southland, or even in New Zealand — I was born in Cleethorpes (that's near Grimsby in Lincolnshire, a fact it's just conceivable some readers won't know), and Cleethorpes Man is a much more emotionally labile beast.

Hopefully you’re warmed up now, Tim, shall we up the tempo?

You began your reading at The Thirsty Dog, in the Auckland leg of your recent tour, by introducing your collection as (paraphrasing) a book for anyone who wants to know about men, including women. You followed “women” with a description that the book is only a slim volume. This struck me as a deliberately provocative comment to make – especially considering your suggestion that more women than men buy your poetry (especially considering I was in the audience!) –  I was instantly aware that my interpretation of your poetry was going to be keener than if I hadn’t had the feminine rag waved at me. So, in light of that altered reception, I wanted to ask you if consider “Men Briefly Explained” a sort of Fight Club for poets?  That is, if it is in any way a defence of masculinity, and do you even think such a defence necessary?

I certainly wasn't using "slim" as an insult, unless it was an insult directed at men — i.e. that it takes only a slim book to explain us – but it seems that didn't come across as intended. So far, at least, women have shown a lot more interest in the book than men, but perhaps that reflects the realities of the poetry-reading audience as much as the contents of the book. In any case, if anyone was offended by my introduction, I apologise!

I don't think of the book as a defence of masculinity — unless to explain is, to some extent, to defend. I do think that the genders are often quite mysterious to each other.

I love the quote from Kathleen Jones on the back of the book: “This poetry is how New Women want their New Men to be – strong, sensitive and empathetic!” Should we add ‘brief’ to that list?

There are so many meanings "brief" could take in this situation, but if it's the meaning I think you intend, that takes us back towards the strong, silent type – the "Southern Man" I started with. There are times when I imagine it's reassuring to have the strong, silent type around, I expect. I hope I am the strong type, at least when that is appropriate, but I struggle with the silent part.

You’ve got some devilish moves, Tim. Right, let’s put something a bit slower on. You can be Björn to my Agnetha.

As an ABBA fan, that's an attractive proposition – but then I remember that my favourite ABBA song, "The Winner Takes It All", was written by Björn for Agnetha to sing, from Agnetha's point of view, about Agnetha and Björn's breakup. Which is very sad, and at the same time, a little creepy.

Of course, the song has now been redeemed by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon singing it at the end of the best and funniest movie about masculinity I've seen for ages, The Trip.

(Yes, I am a nerd – why do you ask?)

Your poems aren’t just about men, though, are they, Tim? The poetry winks to a start with one of the most startling conception poems I think I’ve ever read. 

Curved over islands, the world

dragged me south in a talkative year

slipping Southampton

as the band played a distant farewell.

It was better than steerage,

that assisted passage: ten pound poms

at sixpence the dozen, promenading

in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,

angling, in an understated way,

for a seat at the Captain’s table.

("Impertinent to Sailors", © Tim Jones, 2011) 

This poem has the rare property (though not rare for your poetry) of being funny, cheekily so, yet transcendental, and ultimately very moving. Could you tell me a little about “Impertinent to Sailors”?

Thank you! Like many of the poems in the first section of the book, "Impertinent to Sailors" is closely based on my own life. As I mentioned, I was born in the UK, and my parents decided to emigrate to New Zealand when I was two – the classic "ten pound Poms" on an assisted passage. I remember nothing of the trip, but I've filled in the details – several probably wrongly – from what I've been told about it. The abrupt and disappointing ending is certainly correct: Dad, having been lured aboard by the promise of a job waiting at the other end of the voyage, found when we disembarked in Christchurch that the job had been given to somebody else.

I find that two-line stanzas are good for poems expressing alienation or disconnection: there's something about the way that the lines in each stanza cling together, with a wide space before and a wide space behind.

This poem has found an unexpected second life. I posted it as a Tuesday Poem on my blog, and it was found online by an Australian composer looking for a text for a choral work he was composing called "Brighton to Bondi" – for which I was very happy to give permission. The work was premiered in Sydney in September, and seems to have to been a success – I hope to hear it one day.

Ah the band is growing faint, I fear, Tim. Too soon, too soon. A slow dance to end? No? Let’s go out with a big bang then!

“Queens Of Silk, Kings Of Velour” I imagine will be the sequin of a poem you will never shake off from this collection forward. It’s playful, flirty. When I first read it I scribbled notes. Marginalia: man is geek; to be man is to know and have the reflux reflex to regurgitate facts. Is this “what it means to be a man”?

That's good to hear, because I usually feel that my best poems are those that arrive more or less fully formed, whereas "Queens…" went through quite a few incarnations before reaching its present form.

Knowing obscure facts about seventies bands is only one of the many ways to be a man, but in my line of work (I work part-time in the IT industry to pay the bills that writing, sadly, does not yet pay) I meet quite a few men for whom the detailed knowledge of the arcane of one aspect of life is an important component of masculinity. There is a certain sense of security in knowing that both Elton John (under his birth name, Reginald Dwight) and Bryan Ferry auditioned to be the lead singer of King Crimson. It helps to make sense of a chaotic world – and yet the women are on the dance floor, wondering (or even worse, not caring in the slightest) about why all the men are sitting on the sofa.

Would you look at the clock; we’ve danced the time away. What a blast. Reading “Men Briefly Explained” is to dance through the ages of man, and man, what a dance! I’ve had a wonderful time, Tim, thank you for humouring me. Please, where can I find more copies of “Men Briefly Explained”?

Can there be More Than This? Well, yes – in an abrupt segue from melancholia to marketing – there can:

Men Briefly Explained is published by Interactive Press (IP) of Brisbane. You can find out more about Men Briefly Explained, and buy it direct from the publisher, on IP's mini-site for the book:

On my Men Briefly Explained page, there are more options for buying the book, plus latest reader reactions and reviews:

Just before you go, (ah, see, your jacket’s still on the pavement, you won’t get wet feet crossing that puddle) I think I’ve mentioned online before your “Boat People” was the first poetry collection I read when I first arrived in New Zealand four years ago. It felt like I was meant to find that book in particular. It’s wonderful to have another collection from you, Tim, the prequel as it were, I’ll treasure just as much. Thank you very much.

It's lovely to hear that, Rachel! I didn't know that about "Boat People", and that makes your support for my work even more special. Thank you once again! I shall sail out of here with my feet not quite touching the floor…

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nuala risen

Now there are some poetry books which make me want to dash off and write something myself and then there's The Juno Charm which just awed me into submission; I literally could not write for several days after I read it because it's raw and real and surprisingly funny where I didn't expect to laugh ("Mannequin Envy") and moving where I was determined not to cry ("Sons"), and because it's what I've come to recognise as a synonym for superb writing: Nuala Ní Chonchúir.

Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in Galway county. Her début novel You(New Island, 2010) was called ‘a heart-warmer’ by The Irish Times and ‘a gem’ by The Irish Examiner. Her third short story collection Nude (Salt, 2009) was shortlisted for the UK’s Edge Hill Prize. Her second short story collection To The World of Men, Welcome has just been re-issued by Arlen House in an expanded paperback edition. The Juno Charm, her third full poetry collection, was launched in November in Dublin and Galway.

Welcome Nuala, thank you for coming to snowlikethought to talk about your latest poetry collection, The Juno Charm.

This collection made me think of a pioneer sea voyage, in so much as the moon winking from many of the poems, the varied geographies, and lonely land marks. It’s a work rich with places. For e.g., “Blue House, Magdalen Islands, Quebec”: I read it from the bottom line up and the image of a photograph, my grandma in front of a lighthouse in Canada, came to mind – when I got to it, the title was perfect, and I wondered, how important is travel to your writing?

Travel is really important to me as a writer. It’s the old thing – I’m a hermit because I’m a writer so travel is the big bonus – being invited places to read. But also travelling for the pure enjoyment of experiencing a new place. It jolts my writing to be somewhere new because my senses are on high alert. I love getting away, it keeps me interested in life. I’m just back from four days in Paris and just being there, walking different streets, was fantastic. I have a story in progress set there so I visited the street where one of the characters lives and discovered it has a church on it, which fits beautifully with the story. You don’t get that kind of information sitting at home or poking on the net.

I suppose, at this point, I should mention I read the whole collection in reverse to begin with, but on re-readings, including in the order it’s printed, I felt it had a rhythm which could not be broken, wherever I began reading from.
Journeys, of course, aren’t restricted to crossing continents; you have an ability to bring life, the act of creation, to fresh focus, and there’s a cyclical feel to this collection – again, much like the appearance, disappearance, now returning of the moon – this collection has a pulse. How much conscious thought goes into arranging the poems within the collection – is the effect of the whole something you planned for or even anticipated?

Yes, it takes me ages to piece the whole thing together. I wanted the book to have a narrative that was book-ended with positive poems. I also wanted a thematic flow, so the poems about birth are grouped, as are the poems about pregnancy loss, the ones about marriage, the New York ones are all together too etc. etc. I guess I want the reader to become involved in the story the poems are telling, which is my story over a number of years. I don’t consciously choose to write in themes but I’m possessed with different things at different times and that comes out in the writing.

Finally, I want to ask you about birds. There’s a lot of symbolism in your poems, and references, some obvious, some less so, but they only ever add more to a poem which has already reached satin gloved hands inside you and slipped them off; it’s almost like I had to pull the images, your poetry, back out of myself after the reading, so I wanted to ask you what your thoughts are on symbols, what they bring to your work, what’s your relationship to symbol?

Symbols are really important to me; I get obsessed by things from time to time - the moon, peacocks – and they start to feed into my writing. I’m a fan of Sylvia Plath (which will be obvious to anyone reading the book) and I love her use of the moon. I also love the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney’s moon cycle.

There are a lot of charms in the book – mostly to do with fertility and trying everything to get pregnant. I wouldn’t consider myself superstitious but when life is being hard on you, I guess it’s normal to look for signs and portents (in birds, let’s say) or to turn to any method possible to make things better, like carrying amulets.

And speaking of birds, a little birdie tells me you’re giving away a copy of The Juno Charm to one lucky blogger – readers, pop a mention in the comments if you’d like your name putting in the draw.

The Juno Charm is such a moving work, an utterly stunning achievement, Nuala, thanks so much for visiting New Zealand and talking about it.

Rachel, thanks a million for having me. Next week my virtual tour takes me to the lovely Tania Hershman in Bristol in the UK.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Words worth

I just came across this over on AUT's facebook page, stuck a sample of my writing in, had it weighed and was very happy with the results: I am one lean writing machine!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tarn wish

I have one more poem up at Camel Saloon.

Sincere gratitude to Russell Streur, author of The Muse of Many Names, and bar keep extraordinaire.
I must have amassed a massive tab......

Friday, November 4, 2011

Love cent

Too fantastic - I have my 100th follower and it's Jennicat! Utterly marvellous - Now, what to send you, Jenni :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

To risk

My poem "Tourists" is up at Camel Saloon. Please feel free to amble on over - would love to know your thoughts on this one.

Many thanks to Russell Streur.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Could half dumb with

Advice for all would-be-bloggers - before you go jaunting off into the ether with your trusty portfolio of comments, read this:

I could have done with reading it three years ago.....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Expose her

In response to Rachel Fox's question over at my facebook page:
Please excuse the scribblyness of this reply - I've been rather sick today.
If anyone else has any questions I'll do my best to answer them in similar fashion - quick and scribbly - without the vomit.

Friday, September 30, 2011

E scape

I have a project I'd like to share with you. Venturing into unchartered territory, it has involved getting over my facebook loathing and incurring a sore thumb. You can follow it at Escape Behaviours and keep updated at my facebook page here. I aim to add a page a day until completion.

Monday, September 26, 2011

First speak

A huge shout out of congratulations to Andrea Quinlan whose poetry chapbook "We Speak Girl" will be published by Dancing Girl Press in 2012.

I can't wait to read it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two good

for presenting me with this fabulous award!
It's completely spiffing to receive any validation whatsoever and it's particularly lovely coming from someone as talented as Deirdra. Please do check out her blog. She has some wonderful interviews among other treats.

In other exciting news, I have two poems in Horizon Review. My sincere gratitude to Katy Evans-Bush for all her hard work and for being such a pleasure to work with. Thank you, Katy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Heir piece

Huge thanks with frills and rare buttons on to Andrea Quinlan for hosting my piece, 'Tagged' over at Story Bought Dress.

The piece is less a fiction than an elaborate analogy of how vintage wear makes me feel. I love that each item carries a memory of its past - that by my wearing of a piece I can evoke a sort of haunting - but in the best way - and acquire the experience of the life of an other through their garments. And it's the sort of not quite one thing or another writing that I love to indulge in, therefore I am grateful to Andrea for indulging me!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In her written

I've threatened to expose my views on feminism before on this blog, I think I may even have noted my rejection of the term 'feminism', but I must thank Women Rule Writer over at the Anti-Room for finally drawing out of me exactly what it is about the term that doesn't agree with me.

I think I'd like to add to my comment there - but to put it here rather than gobbling up any more comments space there - and say that, for me, patriarchy is at its strongest and conversely least detected within our language system. I'm not suggesting we change the language or that it would be possible or acceptable to drop gender markers, for example, from it - though this would whittle down discrimination at least in the written form. Shock horror, I don't even have the answer! But I do strongly, passionately believe that our entire value system is flawed and language is where it's clearest to see the discrimination, though most often ignored, and where it is easiest to stop. However, we have to learn to recognise it.

Our entire language is an extension of patriarchy. We don't gender every word so we have a better chance than, say, the French to rectify this but we do have gender in the language. Fact. We have masculine and feminine. Pretty simple so far, pretty fair, nest-ce pas? OK but what I think happens, all too often, still (no I am not the first to note this nor do I claim to have some enlightened position on the situation here), is how the masculine word is favoured over the feminine. Waiter/waitress (caps omission deliberate). Think up a few binaries. Try it. I am aware that there's some work being done to address this imbalance - actor is now favoured over the actor/actress dichotomy - this is progress and it's as much as we can aim for in the now given that we have to privilege one term over another ultimately to banish the inequality. It's much less practical to think up a whole new, gender neutral, term than it is to drop the recessive term in favour of the one we've privileged. But just take a look at the word we favour. In our promotion of actor, for example, we are acknowledging the superfluousness of the word actress. We are acknowledging that the feminine state was nothing more than a suffix to a male preference. All our progress looks, from this  perspective, like a lot of running backwards - running with gusto, but not quite progress. And not equality. But a start. I do not think there is a solution to be found in privileging the feminine term either, I must stress that, my aim is not for an inverted form of sexism - patriarchy with a feminine hat (ouch - self-loather?) - I want equality.

And that's essentially it - no cure, no big fix because I don't think society is ready for what it would take to fix the inherent discrimination hardwired within our respective cultures. And, respect is key here. A lot of ands, but as me granny said, a lot of 'ands make light work. So it's not easy to remove the discrimination from language or to achieve equality through deconstructing binaries but it is what I advocate and what I believe in and what I believe we can all work together to achieve, AND before you criticise it - you taken a look at your beliefs lately?

Therefore, my thanks to Women Rule Writer, and to every woman who has stood up and been counted for her rights and beliefs. But here's to every other person who's been discriminated against, of whatever other gender, race, (choose own marker) variation because feminism is not just for women, it benefits us all - but can we have a fairer name?

PS. is fair regarded as a feminine word? If so, take that last line as irony. Balance things out.

Maybe someone can get me started on class distinctions - that's bound to amuse. Discrimination and oppression wear many hats but all smell the same to me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unhurried IT

I almost forgot to mention, with all the pc wobbles I've had, my poem 'Inherited' was shortlisted for the 'University of Maine at Machias Eighth Annual Ultra-Short Competition' and will appear in the forthcoming issue of Binnacle. My thanks to Gerard NeCastro and congratulations to the winners and fellow honourees.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'd just lke to draw everyone's attention to a fantastic new zine venture for all who are inspired by vintage, thrift and fashion: Story Bought Dress

Here's what the blurb says:


Story Bought Dress is an online zine which seeks to explore the stories of outfits and their wearers in creative ways. The zine is particularly interested in work centering around vintage and thrifted fashion and pieces which blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. Contributions may take whatever form the author wishes - anything from essays and memoirs to poetry, fragements, prose and conceptual pieces. There may be a visual component to these if you wish.
Contributions from around the world are welcome. Please send your piece or any queries to storyboughtdress(at)gmail(dot)com. Please attach your piece as a word document and include a brief author note.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ballad debt

Illustration by R J Fenton 2011
Click to enlarge

Having major pc woes folks - sparks, smoke and EVERYTHING! Would be exciting (and for my life that is all it takes) were it not for the fact that it is costing me. I wouldn't have bought a settee if I'd known my computer was listing. Many trips to local library are the order of the day. And who made orthodontists the yankers of the purse strings? My advice to my daughter is - should she ever have children of her own - choose a partner with perfect teeth...then again, if her partner's teeth were unmatching in a perfectly opposite way, would that....never mind.

On pearly whiter news - two poems, owing much to the ballad tradition, in the latest blackmail press. My sincere thanks to Liz Breslin and Laura Williamson.

Make a cuppa first. Warning, contains strong language. Best get a couple of biscuits, too....

Let me know what you think - always love your (honest) opinions.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tweet time

These two little love birds were hiding out in my veggies and I didn't have the heart to separate them.

Well, hullo there strangers!

I've been a busy wee bee - more on why another time - but I was lucky enough to go to the launch of the latest issue of Sport a while ago (can't believe it's taken me this long to blog about it!) where the winners of the Unity Books competition, The Long And The Short Of It, read from their stories and launched the book of the same. 

Cover art by Anastasia Doniants.

The competition was for stories under 1000 words or over 10,000 words. Emily Perkins introduced the winning pair and asked them lots of interesting questions about how they write and what they write, and why, before asking them to read. 

First up was Kirsten McDougall who read with understated humour and perfect comic timing her story "Clean Hands Save Lives". It was a very deserved winner, a real stand out story, and ended, for me, just perfectly.

Emily asked some more questions and then Lawrence Patchett read from his long story "The Road to Tokomairiro" which made me wish I had entered with one of my historical fiction pieces. Lawrence paused for another chat with Emily before giving a second reading and afterwards I got the mic and asked a question of my own - whether the winners thought there was such a thing as a competition story. I mentioned how there seemed to be a rise in writers offering tutorials or courses in "how to write winning stories". Interestingly, all the writers said they didn't think a competition story should be any different from any other story - that your best work should be the aim of any writing, regardless of the venue or outcome.

I met Emily Perkins - again - afterwards and asked her lots of questions which she was lovely enough to answer even though I was gabbling my words terribly - nerves, I might add, not falling down water - and I had a chat with the very talented and similarly shy Anastasia Doniants who is responsible for the cover art on the book and who very kindly offered to give me advice on my latest project. Enough, enough!

And so, to show my love for my bloggy faithfuls - and a welcome hug to any newbies - I'm giving away my sole copy of "The Long And The Short Of It"  - signed by both winners and Emily Perkins - and Anastasia Doniants - to the first person who can guess which of the following songs I won a gold medal for singing in my school talent competition, age12:
1) Like A Prayer (Madonna)
2) Walking in the Air (written by Howard Blake, popularly sung by Aled Jones)
3) Where'er You Walk (Handel)
4) I Think We're Alone Now (Tiffany)

Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wedded this

All of you who took part in the Small Stones challenge earlier this year, like me, will be familiar with the lovely Kaspa and Fiona who organised it. I was lucky enough to have a stone included in the book - see side bar - and I'd like to take a wee moment to thank them both and to wish them HUGE
CONGRATULATIONS - they are getting married on the 18th of June!

Anyone who would like to wish Fiona and Kaspa well can do so by posting a small stone here on the 18th.

They are also running a free e-course for people interested in The Art of Paying Attention - see clip below.

I'll be back soon with more writing news.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Woe men

Two links to make you think.

The first is about a something that happened a long time ago.

How times have changed, eh?

The second is about now.

Some change.

You see, I'm one of those women who doesn't believe much has changed for women since Emily Pankhurst supposedly "shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back". People may hide behind religion or any other man made abstract constucts but there is only one question to be asked, still: when will women be given equality? I reckon I might be around in another forty years to see what's changed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Love scent

I read it's International Write-A-Tiny-Poem Day, over at Women Rule Writer's blog, and thought it would be lovely to join in and post a tiny for you here. It's also Mother's Day (if my blog posts this with the wrong date - it's lying - trust me it's mother's day; I have hand made cards, flowers with half of next door's shrub still attached, and gifts), one of my gifts has a curiously worded label, which is now my found tiny poem:
Bath Salts

to make beautiful
the love scent in your life

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leg it over there

Is this the funniest photo of a pair of legs you've ever seen?

There is some excellent work in the latest edition of Otoliths, including a very moving poem from Michele Leggott - highly recommend read.

In other news:

went to a very interesting reading on Saturday evening, given by members of The Author's Mouth group here in Auckland. There'll be another on the last Friday of May, at Borders in Albany's Westfield Mall. In future I will not down two coffees immediately prior to meeting people or wear skinny jeans to drink said coffee and sit for a long period of time.

completed a first draft of my screenplay, finally, and it's awful. Putting it aside for some considerable period of time until I have fathomed what to do with it.

writing and drafting poetry daily and coming up with some interesting things and I got the idea for my next collection of short stories - all of them, all in one go - like being hit by a creativity mannequin and swapping outfits rapidly. Now I need to stay focused and finish what I've started.

discovered many things make me laugh, often at inappropriate moments.

What are you lot up to and what do you know?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mashing nations

Tea's up. Fancy a sup? Let's see who's made tea and who's got pot luck.

Tiny teapot or big draw?

And the winner is.....

A little dreg soaked, the winner.....

Drop me your address in an email, Steven, and Shamfeign will wind its way to you.

Thanks to all of you who took part.

Monday, April 18, 2011

We ourselves

Excuse my wonky photography - the typeset on the actual book is not skewed as it appears here!

Saturday night had me at Browns Bay Library for the launch of Eye Street Poet Alice Hooton's debut poetry collection Shamfeign

Having a bludgeon of a bout of anaemia and the kids home all weekend meant I only had time to read a few of the poems myself, so more about them later, but so far I would describe hearing Alice read several and dipping in myself like having my brain taken back in time and stuck in the head of someone reminiscing over an old photo album, flicking the pages familiarly and quickly before me, pausing here and there on particularly fond recollections. Mostly I was struck by their brevity: succinct but with emotion and gravity, and a wry, quiet wit. The excerpt on the jacket, from Strangers, could also describe the poems themselves:

today I paint a picture
of islands

a clipped blue sea
jostling windsurfers in the bay

a ragbag of hometalk
lest they forget

(Copyright Alice Hooton 2011)

Originally from Ireland, Alice's poetry takes in immigrant tales of Ellis Island, WWII, and relatives at home and NZ. I have a signed copy for the first name out of a teapot ( I lost my hat - which isn't to say I recommend wearing a teapot for sun protection - a burn is a burn is a burn...). Drop a smiley :) in the comments if you want your name to mash (also known in non S. Yorks circles as brew).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Any verse ay?

April 10th would have been the birthday of poet Bella Akhmadulina, had she not passed away last year. As a fine tribute to her, Russell Streur has put together a special edition The Eye of the Needle where women writers, poets and artists have come together to mark her first posthumous birthday. I have several pieces of poetry and artwork there and am very pleased to have been asked to contribute. Many thanks to Russell for the opportunity.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do so

Me again. Have just finished making the pamphlet going up for auction here. Huge thanks to Keris.

And here it is, paint still wet at time of photographing - a totally one off collection of thirty poems, never before seen (ten of them written in the last three days).

 first read of 30 original poems,
glow-in-the-dark presentation envelope,
authentic Japanese newspaper dust jacket, 
hand beaded page marker,
hand painted front cover,
secret hidden, removable, original art;
all by me, for you, for Japan.

Auction ends this Sunday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


If you can write, paint, edit, proof read, make art and much more, you can for Japan here. And here. Please do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In sight

As I've mentioned before, my husband stutters. It's difficult to argue with a person when you have to politely wait for them to get their retort out. I have also witnessed other people's reactions (non-stutterers) to my husband, such as the parents who ushered their child away from our son at the playground, the man in the spec shop who couldn't look at him, and the interviewer who said he couldn't give my husband a job because the job was communications based (it was an IT job - communication would have been primarily email), and these, and other moments, led me to write over a hundred poems about or connected to stuttering in some way.

I am extremely proud to have two of these poems, "Gecko" and "Fat Tongue" in Air Flow, the magazine for the New Zealand Speak Easy Association for people who stutter. Huge thanks to Bruce Whitfield, and for a very generous and appreciated hand of friendship.

Poems are on page 4 but please take some time to read the magazine, it's insightful and goes to show what excellent communicators, high achievers, and generally people you want on your team, stutterers are. And if there are any stutterers in Auckland, please get in touch!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A second

Started this painting in October 2010 - in progress.


Many thanks to Merc for dropping this link in the comments thread. If any authors out there can donate books/writing/critiquing services, here's how.

Got back from the fundraiser for Christchurch last night to a phonecall with a tsunami warning and the news there'd been a massive earthquake in Japan. My heart goes out to everyone there. It hardly feels real, only seems a second since Christchurch, and I've spent the greater portion of today feeling utterly at a loss for what to say: inactive sums me up. It was the second tsunami warning we've had since we moved here in 2007. They scare me. I came here from about as far inland as you can get in the UK - tsunamis were not a phenomenon we were concerned with in our daily lives. To experience one must be unimaginably frightening. Already, the loss Japan has suffered is beyond my comprehension.

I opened blogger to write this post and then couldn't type, so after a brief walk around the house, returned to find the following message typed:

hi i love you mummy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dig in

I sketched my mother some years back, the drawing has been the foundation of many other pieces and experiments including this.

I seem to be on repeat - feel free to visit My Mother's Land: it's about digging, oh and stinging.

Think I've got VIP membership now, at the Camel Saloon - else escorted off the premises for loitering! Thank you, Russell Streur.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In portent

A few things:

Welcome back, Andrea at Rainbow Notebook.

My poem "Auckland" made it over The Second Hump and was chosen among Russell Streur's favourites of February.

Thirdly, February 22nd 2011 will be a day New Zealanders remember forever, I know I will. Like many poets here in NZ, and the world, no doubt, I have been moved to write several pieces about Christchurch, however, I didn't feel it was my place to post them and wasn't even sure I should voice them at all. Perhaps a sense of guilt, or a feeling of voyeurism - being so close yet privileged and distant altogether. But having spoken to a few writing friends I have been convinced I should let them be read. Therefore, when Russell Streur asked if I'd like to submit anything to a forthcoming special edition of women's poetry I sent along a few poems including a piece I'd written about Christchurch Cathedral. You can read it now over at Camel Saloon here.

My sincere thanks to Russell.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bolder gestures

A little while ago I donated a painting to my daughter's school fun fair - the painting I used for my blog header as it happens. After last Tuesday, I emailed the PTA and asked could funds be redirected to Christchurch. I am really pleased to report that all funds, including those raised by the auction of my painting on the 11th March will go to Christchurch. And it seems that even people in Christchurch are not letting Tuesday's tragedy keep them down - what do you make of this? 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's not not awards

Thanks this week to the two lovely ladies who blog, respectively, at:
 this writer's life, and
 Ramblings From Yet Another Stranger On The Bus.

I usually deflect awards as the list of conditions for receipt often read like the instructions for flat-pack furniture. And the awards don't colour coordinate with my blog. Oh, and "passing them on" conjures imagery of contagious disease. But, aside from all of that, I appreciate people letting me know they like my blog - that means a lot to me - and it's a nice opportunity for me to note one or two blogs that deserve a mention.

Also, back in October, I said I would take part in a quiz from Patteran's Pages - I hadn't forgotten, Dick, but I hope this will do instead, at least for now.

Both awards ask me to list seven things about myself:

1. I had my first newspaper article published when I was fifteen.

2. I sometimes wake myself up laughing in my sleep and I once had a giggling fit for forty minutes, non-stop.

3. I don't believe you have to find a husband to lose your father's name.

4. My great great grandparents on my maternal grandpa's side were Irish and fled an Gorta Mór.

5. I was Mary in my primary school nativity and the angel Gabriel was my cousin, although I didn't find out until after I left school. My teacher told her she would have made a better Mary. I was deeply hurt (I'd auditioned and everything, and still remember the song!).

6. I was the first girl to wear trousers at my high school (and got summoned to the deputy Head's office for my audacity).

7. I was once dragged by my ear to explain what I thought was funny about The Lord's Prayer - it was this:

For The Love Of God, What's That Up Your Sleeve?

Bless me, mam, for I have sneezed, a snail slick
of snot shot out, top speed, hauled up my arm
and dried shiny hard like a graphite thick
drawing, rubbed, over worked by childish palm

to glossy grey like slates in the rain. And
I tried to explain when Betty dragged me
by the ear but she couldn't understand,
I'd got my head hung so they couldn't see

the candles dripping from my nose, sticking
to my hair, and so she hauled me up on
stage: full view. They all thought I was laughing
as my sniffs increased in speed and not one

explanation could I give standing there
for “what's so funny about the Lord's Prayer?”

And to the nominations; considering these awards are doing the rounds, and the whole six degrees of separation thing, I'll just note a couple of blogs I enjoy reading for kinship as well as content:

Sara Crowley's A Salted - for real and raw writing with no mincing of words.

Lori Tiron-Pandit's Daily Writing - for searching questions and creativity.

Helen Caldwell's My Writing Life - for a store-house of writing related info.

We should all wish for sisters like them.

And thanks again to Leslie and Teresa for nominating me - you are both the human equivalents of home, for different reasons; I want you to know I'd nominate you right back!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A quake


If anyone in Auckland can and wants to donate:

Highlife Entertainment, George FM, Cafe Massimo and Y Generation will be joining forces this weekend to collect donations of bottled water to send to the effected areas in Christchurch after the earthquake.

There is currently a major shortage of clean water in Christchurch so bottled water will be needed for families, rescue workers and clean up teams over the coming weeks.
Drop off points at George FM 105 Ponsonby Road, Cafe Massimo Takapuna, Newmarket and Albany have been organised for donations this Saturday February 26th and Sunday February 27th between 10am and 5pm.

We ask that bottled water is delivered in boxes but if for any reason this is not possible, then bottles of water in plastic bags will also be fine.

Donations of canned food, clothing and other items of interest will also be accepted.

All donations will be delivered direct to Christchurch next week.

For more information or if there is any support that you or your company could offer, please contact Adam Bennett on the following details below.

Adam Bennett 021 649 100 –

Highlife entertainment:

George FM:

Cafe Massimo:

Update: There's a call for anyone who can offer accommodation in Auckland, for those who cannot travel home to Christchurch, to contact here.

A quake has caused devastation in Christchurch. I am reading the news in utter disbelief. My thoughts go out to everyone there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Man the lights

My poem The Garden Of Earthly Delights is up at The Literary Burlesque. My sincere thanks to Melanie Browne.

To risk watching

Auckland, November 2007. Photo taken by me: I'd been here three months.

Auckland is now available for viewing at The Camel Saloon.

Lowly kindness and high regards to barkeeper Russell Streur.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I saloon thee

My poem "Pack Thi Bags And Guh, Lass, Teck Thi Ook Nar" is now up at Camel Saloon. Many thanks to Russell Streur. Amble on over, pull up a stool, you're in great company.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tale of two piccies

I have two photographs over at The Camel Saloon. My round and sincere thanks to Russell Streur, bar keeper extraordinaire. Poems coming shortly!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Inner ear

Quick word in your ear:

I have a poem in Otoliths. My sincere thanks to Mark Young, I hope the snakes brought by the floods have now gone.

Update: with more floods on the way, my thoughts go out to those in Queensland.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Greywacke blogs

Saw this at Titus' blog and thought it was a lovely thing to be part of. It's all about taking a moment to notice something. Although I may not post my stones daily on the blog, I will be collecting them daily and will add them here as and when I can.

Monday 10. 7am
A crack in the ceiling; a volcano rising out of peeling emulsion seas. An ant climbs Rangitoto.

Tuesday 11. 9:30am
Staple caught in the carpet; wool dyed to look like sand. A history of everything in brown.

Tuesday 11. 7pm
Bluebottle: all the colours of earth viewed from space. A fly carries the world on its back.

Tuesday 11. 8pm
Tui calls; briskly stirred drink, particles combining. Tapping spoon on china.

Tuesday 11. 8:15pm
Leaden on the swan plant where stained glass should be; dying monarch.

Wednesday 12. 6pm
Sandstone warm at my back; sunning. My thoughts walk a street of clouds.

Thursday 13. 5pm
Bluebottle; blue heart, pulmonary departed. Sea-breathing jellyfish; misplaced lung.

Bluebottle jelly fish, photo taken by Rachel J. Fenton, Thursday 13 January 2011.

Friday 14. 5pm
Coal faced mynahs beak pick beach quarry for snap.

Friday 14. 5.30pm
Three rams chase egg, butt to retrieve it without breaking, fall apart giggling. Rugby ball bounces on damp sand.

Saturday 15. 9am
Clothes tag on the table; commercial breakfast.

Sunday 16. 3pm
A spill on the notebook; penicillin in progress. Writing as medicine. Self heal; eat your words.

Monday 17.
Bird call; lapping glass.

Tuesday 18. 9.30am
Laundry basket on kitchen floor; still darks in morning.

Wednesday 19. 3pm
Toy tractor lifts book from rug; book lifts child from realia.

Thursday 20. 9.30am
Wisteria reaches for the window; holds out the light.

Friday 21. 5.30pm
Cables chime on flagless poles; Empire folded, the band plays on.

Saturday 22. 7.20am
Drawers left open. Another scratch. Bleeding washing.

Sunday 23. 11.30pm
Hot chocolate on white bedding dries as blood. I surrender.

Monday 24. 10am
Woman stares out through office window, file in hand; pending.

Tuesday 25.
Scribbles in red ink; my name (Rae), and what looks like an eagle's claw; sun dance.

Wednesday 26. 5.30pm
Sparrows flick playground bark: wood chirpings.

View from my house.

Thursday 27. 2pm
The bench, looking out over Mairangi Bay, where I last ate pastries with my mam. Before we left, how did I picture home? With buddleia growing out of her hair, smoking like a forgotten foundry in Attercliffe. And now? Against the backdrop of the sea; Pacific.

Friday 28. 9.15pm
Wedding anniversary. Rain forecast. Lick finger and press to the table: eat inside.

A collection of mugs. Note the Yorkshire Rose!

Friday 28. 10.30pm
Man with a toadstool for a brolly walks a pied dog in the storm: he must be on something.

Saturday 29. 6.30pm
Bulldog on lead. Dog's happier.

Sunday 30. 10am
Teens, taut as swingseats, lark in togs at beach playground.

Sunday 30.
Evolution: two seals stand in the time it takes a wave to break. Gnarly wipeout.

Sunday 30.
Ironing: men with boards press the sea, crease in its waves.

Sunday 30.
Statue: a sheathed phallus, protected from acid rain; environmental consummation.

Sunday 30.
Low barrier promotes Fence Hire; false advertising.

Monday 31. 5am
Morning stretches its wings, pigeon call and dove grey at the window. Whenuapai bird cuts a track clean and rigid as a cleaver. Small bodied chirpings huddle together or fall from the block to bush, defiant in pre-verdant screen in this colourless hour, tone in sound alone.

Monday 31. 8am
Last night's crumbs on table: coconut crack.

My thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for allowing me to take part in this project, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you've enjoyed reading my daily greywacke. My final stone is here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Water wait


I went to the beach yesterday evening. As I arrived a man parked his bike, got into a wetsuit, put on red flippers and headed out towards the ship on the horizon line. I watched him. His strokes were even, rhythmic, and every third stroke or so a wave would hide him from view. At about five minutes in, he became indistinguishable from the sea. I waited. Fishermen arrived. Families picked up their beach umbrellas and left, couples came in from the water to cuddle on towels, a fish flew above the water; feeding time. Two hours later a flash of red appeared. He let a wave carry him onto the beach, took off his flippers, walked to his bike and got his towel. I went up to him. How far did you go? He smiled. Language is more than plosives and fricatives after all.