Back to the PhD

This is what Sam looks like when he concentrates. Here he is working hard to pull the cord from my camera case. It is also what I look like when I concentrate. robinhood crypto

At the end of April I return to my PhD studies. Sam will be spending 26 hours a week in a forward-thinking and fun childcare we found close by. After nine months spending all day together I will miss him a lot, but I can’t wait to write and read in the silence of my study. Before I went on maternity leave my supervisors and I agreed that I should focus my research thesis solely on the depiction of nature in Robert Hass’s work (I was looking at two other poet’s work before this decision). It’s a good decision. I am looking forward to spending my time with his poems.

Later this year, my first collection of poems–my other baby–will be published by Hue & Cry, so that is something amazing to look forward to.

Pledge for my book

Hue & Cry Press–the publishers that are putting out my debut collection of poetry in July–are crowd sourcing the funds to print the book using a website called PledgeMe. It’s a pretty awesome idea to get small creative projects off the ground. You can pledge however much you want from $5 to $500, and depending on the amount you get a different reward. One reward, of course, is my book of poetry - A Man Runs into a Woman.

If you’d like to make a pledge, big or small, here are the detailsIt will make my day!

Tuesday Poem: Blackberry Eating by Galway Kinnell

Blackberry Eating by Galway Kinnell is another poem that I’ve discovered while tutoring stage one creative writing at Massey. Kinnell is an award winning American poet whose work is intimate and resonant. Oddly, I seem to drawn to poems about blackberries, my favourite poem being Meditation at Lagunitas by Robert Hass with its final killer line, “saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.” Both poems, though, are about language, as I’d guess a lot of poems are, which is probably while I like them.

nadex log in What I found interesting was, after reading Blackberry Eating in the student readings, I went to see if I could find an audio version online in order to listen to Kinnell read the poem. The version I found is different to the printed version (he has added the words “or broughamed”), so at some point there have been multiple versions of the poem. Anyway, have a listen.

Check out more Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.

Tuesday Poem: ‘My Father’s Love Letters’ by Yusef Komunyakaa

My Father’s Love Letters

On Fridays he’d open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams’ “Polka Dots & Moonbeams”
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter’s apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he’d look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

‘My Father’s Love Letters’ is one of the poems that my tutorial group (stage one creative writing) are studying. It is such a tender and brutal poem; it never gets old for me (also, such skill with line breaks!). The poem was sourced from the Internet Poetry Archive where you can also find out more about Yusef Komunyakaa.

Read more poetry at the Tuesday Poem hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Bamboo Poem” by Dave Snyder

“Bamboo Poem” by Dave Snyder (PDF).

Charlotte Simmonds sent me a link to Snyder’s fantastic poem that appeared in The Iowa Review. I haven’t got permission to use the poem on my blog, so I’m posting the link. The poem is seven pages long, and it earns it’s length. I’d be interested to hear other reader’s ideas about the poem. online trading platform For me it is both a disenchanted love poem and a poem with environmental commentary.

For more Tuesday poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Mowing” by Robert Frost


There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound–
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.


I discovered “Mowing”, a wonderful sonnet by Robert Frost, while reading an article about using field trips to help teach nature writing (for my PhD–this is not my usual bedtime reading!). In the article, the teacher taught his students how to mow a field using a scythe. Fun. The article also talks about Frost’s dedication to factual description of the countryside. For example, he names the flower in the poem as “Pale orchises”, not accidentally, but because he wanted to be true to the field that he has mown. “Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak”, he says. Robert Hass, who is the focus of my PhD thesis, is also persistent and specific in his descriptions of the natural world. I see it as a sort of homage; a purposeful naming to make others notice.

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “ferry crossing” by Vivienne Plumb

ferry crossing

the French boys deal cards on top of their mother’s samsonite
overnighter/ the Arahura pushes out from the Wellington wharf
and leaves the corduroy-rippled hills behind/ the ferry rocks and
rolls and some people look greener than Cook Strait/ how are you?
well i threw up and now i feel okay/ good as gold have a hot
/ it is calmer once the boat hits the Sounds/ tuatara-crouching
land with a vertebrae of fir trees along its back/the clouds move
like floating countries overhead/ the French wipe their white
plastic deck chairs ooh la la those dirty gulls have been at it again/
you can taste the salt on your lips as we turn for Picton/ red roof
jetty chimneysmoke

This sweet prose poem is from Vivienne Plumb’s latest collection, The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons (Seraph Press, 2011). The collection is comprised of thirty nine prose poems that “celebrate and satirises” New Zealand icons such as The Warehouse, white baiting, and Crown Lynn. I thought “ferry crossing” was an appropriate Tuesday Poem for this time of year, and it was one of my favourites from the collection.

Read another of Vivienne’s poems that featured as a Tuesday Poem.

Listen to Vivienne read her poems on the radio.

For other Tuesday Poems, check out the hub.

Tuesday Review: The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf

The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf
Seraph Press, RRP $25

The Comforter is Helen Lehndorf’s debut collection of poetry. Lehndorf grew up in Taranaki and studied Creative Writing at Whitireia Polytechnic. She has published poetry for twenty years, so The Comforter is long overdue. Published by independent Wellington publisher Seraph Press, and with a cover by Sarah Laing, the collection looks good in the hand.

While Lehndorf explores familiar themes for a debut collection such as childhood and family life, the poems have an edge of domestic unrest. Relationships are loving but hard work; mothering is a mix of desperation and laughter. “Manawatu gothic”, as one poem states. When writing about her own childhood—her father at the freezing works, her mother sewing and gardening—Lehndorf talks about the skills she’s inherited from her parents. Stitching and gutting, it seems, and maybe a stoic outlook.

The Comforter is also a book about tending. While Lehndorf is obviously a keen gardener, the garden works as a metaphor for the growth (or shrivelling) of her emotional life. The act of gardening also talks to the responsibilities of adulthood. Lehndorf writes playfully about her own childhood, but the present seems more complicated. Many of the poems dwell on renewal: ‘I want a shiny, clean / version of myself. Closedown, / hibernate, restart’, she states in Wabi-Sabi’.

The book is arranged into four sections, but would have been braver without them. It seems to be a New Zealand tick to create unnecessary structure (as Cy Matthews discusses in Landfall Review Online). Streamlining would also have allowed the few weaker poems to be put aside. Some poems do not seem to reach beyond a straight description of events, such as the adolescent trials poem, ‘Strummer summer’. The list poem ‘Alpha’ also felt a little flat. I wanted these poems, and a handful of others, to talk about broader ideas. Family and home are two of the best subjects for poetry, but by looking outward the poems could have provided an entry point for this reader. For example, the poem ‘Where thought goes’ manages to be both intimate and inclusive. In a yoga class (where the teacher is dying of cancer), Lehndorf explores the way thought and language can be used to manage our emotions:

she is not dead yet. She is right here, demonstrating the triangle pose.
My thoughts go west, go wayward. My thoughts are cul-de-sacs.
Dead-ends. I am a sick baby, a cut flower. I am not safe
around visual metaphor.

Although some poems don’t deliver, The Comforter is a sharply observed and funny collection. In ‘Domestic Violence’, a wonderful poem of domestic frustration, the poet watches river swimmers and thinks: “I hope you drown, you / beatific full-buttocked revellers”. In ‘Poem without the L word’, the poet compares her lover to the things that make life worthwhile:

My warm brown egg.
My coffee pot.
My mulch, my humus,
my thick layer of good rot …
Every hour, on the hour
on 45, 33
and on imported, limited-release EP.

While the book blurb may have over-reached in promising “shocking honesty” (the only poem that comes close is ‘Before the Departure’, a brilliant poem about motherhood), the collection is heartfelt, relatable, and authentic. This may be due to Lehndorf’s lack of pretension. That is not to say the work is not serious: Lehndorf’s words are chosen carefully. Sound and rhythm are strengths of the collection, and it’s one to read out loud. There is an easiness to the way Lehndorf’s words flow: “Sparrow head, blackbird beak, thrush face / threaded on leather, fastened with wood” she chants in ‘Latest Project’. To steal jargon from wine tasters, the book has great mouth-feel.

Overall, The Comforter is a beautifully produced and well written collection of work that I enjoyed reading (especially on re-read). The final poem, ‘Garlic-planting time’, leaves us with the poet’s underlying optimism:

This is storing and healing. This is
planning and tending. With muddy fists,
you take possession of the year.

Tuesday Poem: ‘Making tea in the universe’ by Helen Heath

Making tea in the universe

Have a look in the pantry.
you’ll need to gather up everything

there is, every particle
of matter between you and me and the

edge of creation. Now squeeze it
into a dot so infinitesimally

compact that it has no

There is no apron to stand behind.
There is no space, no darkness

for this pregnant dot to wait in.
There is no past for it

to emerge from, no egg timer.
The tea leaves are in the pot,

put the kettle on, light the gas.
In the first second

the dot has space.
Magnets fall from the fridge

as you get the milk out.
In the first minute your universe

is a million billion miles across
and growing fast.

There are 10 billion degrees of heat.
The kettle is boiling by the third

minute and 98 per cent
of all the matter that is

or ever will be has been
created. Pour the tea to brew

while you wait
for life on earth.

I am a sucker for science poetry.  It’s a great way to talk about the commonalities between science and poetry. Personally I find the universe pretty hard to comprehend, and I enjoy the way Heath’s poem pairs the homely act of tea making with the creation of the universe. For me, it talks about one way we can relate to such a big idea. I know the universe is far too baggy to fit in my head, yet I still take it for granted. It’s as common as making tea. Of the poem, Helen says in Turbine 2011 (where the poem also appears):

‘Making tea in the universe’ is a partially found poem inspired by Bill Bryson’s description of the Big Bang in his Short History of Nearly Everything, (Black Swan, 2004) in which he describes the creation of the universe happening in the time it takes to make a sandwich. This poem won the inaugural ScienceTeller Poetry Award in 2011.

Helen blogs at and writes poetry and essays. Her poetry has been published in many journals in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2009. Helen’s chap-book of poems called Watching for Smoke was published by Seraph Press in 2009. Her first full length book, Graft, will be published in 2012 by VUP.

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.