Thursday, 21 May 2020

Winners & Losers

Today's writing is about winning and losing. We've all had experience at both. No doubt we are better at some things than others. It can feel bad to lose. But is losing all bad? Is winning all good? And is how we think about it the most important thing?


I have learnt
That to win
Is to enjoy
The flow of energy
Movement of limbs
And body
The slow, patient
From a tutor`s heart

The companionship
Of others
Learning too
On this journey
We call

- Pauline


The dreaded cross-country time of year again. It was always late summer - the days were starting to draw in. It was cooler in the mornings and daylight shrinking at both ends. There were the "practice runs" followed by the "Big Day". Clad in maroon rompers and standard uniform white top. Across the road, down the river-bank into the Heathcote, strewn with weed. Up the opposite bank and then up the hill - an excruciatingly long distance at the time! And finally, back into the old school yard, last, or slightly less humiliating, second-to-last. And then the relief. Relief that it was over for another year. Maybe next year it would'nt be so bad.

- Pauline


Thwack, whoosh, thwack, thud, the shuttlecock flies over the net as we try to out manoeuvre each other.  5 - 1, I'm winning, not a common occurrence.  Thwack, thud, ugh.  Another point to me.  And another.  And another.  You'd think I'd be enjoying this, but I'm not.  I'd rather lose a close game than thrash this person.  Maybe I'll ease off and hit more shots towards her.  She gets a point, then misses more.  10 - 2, 10 - 3, maybe she's on a roll.  11 - 3, 12 - 3, damn.  I end up winning 15 - 4.  I get the point, it looks good on the score sheet, but I don't feel good about it.  I wonder if that's how people feel when they thrash me?

- Christine


I hate P.E.  Why can't we do something fun, like play games or sports?  It's always running or jumping or bloody gymnastics.  Today it's cross-country.  Cross-bloody-country.  I know I'll be last, I always am.  If I was braver, I'd refuse to do it.  What's the point?  The others will run off, and I'll walk in, 15 minutes later, panting, red, and buggered.
P.S.  I hurt my knee climbing over the barbed wire fence, later discovered I'd torn a ligament, so now I refuse to ever do cross-country.  Yay!!

- Christine

Tuesday Haiku

A small writing group is still a good writing group, as today's post shows. Haiku are short but deceptively difficult to do well. How do you capture the essence of something in just a few words? And did you know that they are designed to be read in one breath? Often the last line contains an element of surprise or juxtaposition. See this link for more on haiku writing and give it a go!

Rain starts to fall
wet hills are now free from drought
sheep will eat long grass

Driver turns the wheel
bus proceeds along the road
Passenger frowns

Pause for photo shoot
Faces and a selfie stick
Visit Dunedin!

black cat with white feet
calling endlessly outside
wants to eat my cheese

black fur touching skin
small cat vibrating gently
warm and friendly pet

-Kate Jenkins

All along the beach
the waves lapped against the shore
coming and going

Wet nose, loving eyes
whole body waggling with joy
so pleased to see me

Dropping from above
nourishing the ground below
seedlings poking through

Writings on paper
drifting, falling, in the breeze
spreading their message

- Christine Philp

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Limericks, bubbles and more

Creative writing sessions are now happening virtually, partly via Facebook and partly through email. The first session we decided to just have a bit of fun with limericks with the added challenge of using the word 'bubble' (we're all in one apparently!).

I sit here in my little bubble
Trying not to get into trouble
My list of chores, all not done
They are not my idea of fun
Sadly, in time, they will double

In my bubble I sit here alone
But I really shouldn't moan
I have a roof and lots of walls
And I can still make some calls
On my trusty telephone

- Christine Philp

There once was a women who wanted a cuddle
Everyday she got the days muddled
Now and then she looked at the diary
She figured out what the days were finally
Because she's having to stay in a bubble

- Julia Godfrey

We have a PM who we note
Speaks beautiful jewels from her throat
Her hair it is lovely
It’s well done up daily
Her stylist ‘essential’ or ‘nope’?

Our health Minister we shall call Davey
Keeps the wheels a-turning, well maybe
He got in some trouble
Rode out of his bubble
Now voters are thinking ‘So, should we?’

- Kate Jenkins

These limericks are from an earlier session at Artsenta we hadn't posted yet!

A Dalmore doctor named Mike
bought himself an e-lec-tric bike
he quickly fell off it
so there was no profit
as his GP's charges were hiked

a Golden Guitarist from Gore
found her fingers had gotten quite sore
she wrapped on a dressing
which caught in the 4th string
'til her fingers were bloodied and raw

A haughtily faced Royal aunt
sought to ride only well at the Hunt
she followed a fox
had left her whip in the Box
and came last, with a frown and a grunt

-Kate Jenkins

There was a young man from Fern Hill
Who got an unexpectedly large bill
He sobbed and he cried
Till neighbours thought someone had died
And rushed to comfort that man from Fern Hill.

There was a small town called Gore
Where more was less, and less was more
Where teeth could be few
And extra fingers they grew
Till it became part of folklore.

There once was a Queen called Liz
Who had her nose in everyone's biz
Her kids couldn't marry
Any Tom, Dick or Harry
Until they'd passed the royalty quiz.

- Christine

A one-eyed prospector from Warri
Fell drastically hard in the quarry
Unbeknown to him strangely
He was rescued by "Mangely" (guess who? ;-)
So his fate LEAD him out of his folly.

A formidable woman from Gore
Had a history of being a whore
She ended up drunk and stunk like a skunk
But then gained a diploma in law.

A serious student from Gore
Owned a dog with an over-sized paw
He used it to bat ball
With the children 'o St Paul
And they all won an award in the Fall.

Poor 'ol Harry didn't know who to marry
He experienced a terrible quandry
Was it Mum and the Crown
Or the life of high renown
Through his illustrious wife and her tally?


Monday, 17 February 2020

Birds of a feather

Today's writing was inspired by an event listed in the upcoming Dunedin Fringe Festival (19-29 March). Local artist Manu Berry has a bird themed exhibition and is asking people to provide stories about birds based on their personal experience. Birds are a wonderful theme as everyone is bound to have multiple stories to share. The trick, from a literary perspective, is to not just say what happened but to wrap it up in a story that is compelling and interesting to read.


Streams of golden sunlight pierces native bush. I hear the distant trickling of a far off stream, A rustle behind me. Silently and slowly I turn and before me a cheeky curious kea scooping up its lunch. A foot away from me, it follows brazenly, footsteps to hops. I approach the rest of my hiking party. It flys off with a flash. I am left in awe of nature's wonders.

- Sarah Williams


The bell rings for lunch. I gather my jam sandwiches and venture forth towards the playground. I take a bite when I hear the distinctive squawks of the seagulls as they come swooping into the lunch area, chasing each other away for the chance of a meal. I gobble my lunch and rush inside as the flock of gulls dive bomb for the chance of a snack.

- Sarah Williams


"Rats", he said. "They were eaten alive by rats."
Leaving the bedroom, I walked out into the lounge. From the fireplace I heard a thumping.
"Oh my God", I thought. "The rats are here to eat us alive."
Following that thought came a scream. Inside myself I felt my stomach twist and turn. as the screaming subsided I looked at the logburner.
"Oh my God," I thought. "It's a bird."
Fluttering, thumping against the door of the logburner was a sparrow. It had flown into the chimney and got stuck. I opened the logburner door and out it flew. It was flying into the windows but not the one I had opened to let it fly free.
Something had to be done.
Grabbing a ruler. I pushed it out the window, thinking of it as my good deed for the day. That ruffled up sparrow was my ticket to a better hereafter.

- M.F.


    Suddenly it was upon us; that supposed night of stillness, when the Christmas star shone brightly overhead... But the cold despairing ebb of day, presented anything but!
   Wild winds of torrential velocity had swept the country and pounded our shorelines for three solid days, with no let up. The sky was obscured to an impenetrable dimness; at an even earlier hour, by the unpredictable elemental onslaught.
   I had arrived home without hope in my heart and my body desperately wanted sleep.
   But my eyes were drawn to the window in the half light, to a shape which I almost convinced myself was imagined. However, in keeping with the nature of curiosity, I found myself drawn to the back door which kept appearing to recede within the enveloping darkness and the rude onslaught of the vicious blast.
   Experimentally edging my way out of the long forgotten sun room, around the side of the rear decking, now only visible to the soles of my feet, I realised at first; only by my tenuous sense, that there was indeed a shape which perceptibly took the form of a bird in trouble.
   My heart appeared to provoke the simultaneous weakness I began to experience in my legs, as the thump of its sinus rhythm pervaded my being atypically. Edging closer to the delicate creature increased the intensity of the delayed moment, as I began to virtually sense its breathing; under duress. A palpable fear gripped me; both for the desperate plight of my visitor and beyond that; whether I could maintain the presence of mind to attempt to assist it on such an occasion.
  Another face drenching of dark rain later, swirled into my whipped and ever tangling hair; artistically modified by the increasingly treacherous gusts, (in disagreement about abating), practically rendering me vision-less for the interminable next minute.
 ...There came a warmth towards me by way of my arms, which knew their purpose independently; unlike the trajectory of my thoughts, but embodying a deep emerging joy, as the life in its shallowness, nestled in my breast.
   Reaching the house was forgotten, as the contrast of comfort, warmth and dryness, by way of a box and mild warm hot water bottle sufficed, to carry my little feathered friend through the long uncaring night ahead.
  By morning, my heart smiled on hearing promising movement from the sleep nurturing confines of the box.
  Recovery had been a near miss, but sometimes in life there is an epiphany.
  I knew that it was what was in my heart that really mattered.
  That day I saw the hope of Christmas.
  I was rescued by a beautiful white dove.

- AH-B



Wednesday, 12 February 2020


Odes are fun to play with as they are generally about something we love or are passionate about. So we sing its praises far and wide. What better subject to start us off than Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street, according to Dunedin at least. And then onto any subject dear to our hearts. These are perhaps irregular odes in that they do not follow any prescriptive formula though most rhyme. All however are praiseworthy contributions you will hopefully enjoy. 


O what delicious small divine,
worthy of the finest wine,
as the bread from oven comes;
crispy crust and squishy crumbs.
The pundits say that you should wait
24 hours from bake to plate.
But, ah, who is there can resist
a slice with melted butter kissed.
Hail to the breadmaker's craft;
if you don't like it you must be daft.

- Helen Ledger


Oh wondrous street, I look at thee
And think you are too steep for me.
How will I get to the top
Without having to stop, and stop?

The houses hang off the edge
I wonder if they make a pledge
To hang on tight, with all their might
Or do they simply slide off at night?

The tourists come by car and bus
To see why there is all this fuss
While those who live there are outspoken
As once again, a fence is broken.

Oh wondrous street
Oh steepest street
What will we do to solve the clash
Between locals and the tourist cash?

- Christine Philp


This wondrous vessel I see before me
Made to carry coffee or even tea
Or hot chocolate if you desire
Particularly if you're beginning to tire.

You can be coloured, or just plain white
To lift and carry, heavy or light
Two handles when young, one when older
Or maybe none if we get bolder.

Such a simple shape and yet so complex
The last thing we want is for it to flex
As we carry our drinks, usually hot
To that extra special spot.

But let us not restrict its use
It's size and shape can give us clues
Breakfast cereals are a fave
Or scrambled eggs in the microwave.

A simple vessel with so much potential
It can become a decorative jewel
Yet a plain white one will suffice
When using it to shake game dice.

- Christine Philp


Twisting, twirling, a column of steam
A distinctive odour pushes its way up my nose
You are the object from which I rise from my bedclothes
Dragging myself out of bed to taste and smell your rich aroma

I prefer you sustainably harvested and Fair Trade
But sometimes my wallet confines me to a cheaper brew
My favourite is a round rich full-bodied beverage from a cafe
A treat I can only afford monthly

I like those posh Moccona and Golden Roast Nestle
But can only afford one vice, alas not coffee
I love the cinnamon sprinkle in my latte
The delicate heart-shaped swirl on my coffee's froth

Tactile, with an odor, warm and visually appealing
It just about stimulates all the senses
Sitting on and incubating my cup of coffee
I wish I could make a cup last for ever.

- M.F.


Well I have at least once dragged my legs
up your sloping pavement

Also at least once, I have been driven
up your incline and lazily meandered my way down

Does the wind blow colder at the top?

Walking, hiking, limping
to the pinnacle of Baldwin Street

I can view from the top and see the world

a wonderful view
an awesome view
a steep view

No one can equal this
at least I think not

I'll be "high as a kite by then"
In the words of Elton John

It's been a long time - eh Baldwin Street
But still you remain in my memory

I push and pull myself along your sloping pavement
There is nothing in the world that beats your jaffa roll

The street coming to life with thousands of rolling jaffas
(not from Auckland)

Enjoying the dizzying heights at your pinnacle

I will always love you, but
probably won't walk you again

- M.F.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Urban Grids and Garden Beds

From studying and reflecting on maps to artworks, the process can be similar. Describing what we see, what the artwork makes us think and feel, what it might be telling us. Establishing a connection. Looking, really looking. These poems are reflections on the work of Emmellee Rose, an artist from Dunedin.


Lines and lines
and rows and rows
of intersecting strips.
Colours muted
into shades of grey
and black,
no white.
Like cars on a highway
racing off to sights unseen
leaving shadows in their wake.
Roads intersecting
and interlocking
creating squares and rectangles of space.
but irregular,
but disordered,
but not.
Like nature
nothing uniform
nothing perfect.

- Christine Philp


Life is not a journey
not a pathway, roadway, airline flight, or rail, to
a place, terminus, initiation, euphoria, being-ness, un-being
It is made in pieces
each part fine, apparent, short, finite, long
conversing, intercoursing, communicating, touching with
the being / dying / living of others,
meeting / greeting / chatting / arguing /
orphaned / loving / lost
A quilt, a cloth, a pile of matchsticks
coloured / toned / aligned / randomised / uncontrolled

BUT  each touch, thought, look, memory
holds my Art-Work together

- Kate Jenkins


lawn, shrub
tamed, tidied
light reflects
colour of leaves
strategic placement

- Kate Jenkins


scattered lines
like all my thoughts
less black and white
but a changing shade
across and up
at every level

- Simon Little

Monday, 20 January 2020

Maps of the Imagination

Inspired by the Phaidon book 'Maps' (2019), this week we used some ancient and contemporary maps as inspiration. We chose a photocopy of a map and described what we saw, what we felt, what it made us think; the map a starting point on our poetic journey rather than an end in itself. Reading very different responses to the same map was an interesting finale to our exercise and shows how much of ourselves we bring to our perception of the world around us.

MAP 1.

Choose a map
And write a response
He said
I did
(you might get the dregs)
She said
A fortified circle
Enclosing a belief, a faith
Crosses and towers
White and Black
Good and Bad

I am drawn
More to a plain
Black, circular line
Nothing within
Or without
Freedom to journey

- Pauline

MAP 2.

Empty things
The intensely cluttered
Making space
For one`s Self
A park maybe
A seat overlooking
St Kilda beach

Inner Space
Matching the outer

- Pauline


A sprawling body and legs above head
in a yoga pose.
I don't know what the pose is but I imagine
he is pretty flexible.
His moustache looks painted on - an afterthought I suppose
Twirling into two spirals, each a mirror of the other.
His face appears to be in complete symmetry
excepting the text, which is an artwork.
I've tried learning foreign languages
but the delicately formed sprawling script
took me completely by surprise.
Sometimes I think the way something is written
is more important than what is contained in the letters.
People call on the drawing to ascertain the luck of the letters.
The moon in all its phases is usually invoked as a sort of Goddess
a sign of passing time and when to plant seeds.
I look out my window and see the moon shining
faintly on the garden path.
A silver light show - quite different from the harsh
unblinking light of the sun.
I notice in my figure that he sports two giant round earrings
inscribed with astrological signs that he himself carries.
A replica of the moon where ever he goes.
Now I'm not superstitious.
I don't throw salt over my shoulder or touch wood.
But I somehow feel drawn to this image.
Do I vaguely believe it's true?
Well maybe not, but it's invoked a lot of emotion in me
And I'm pleased to have seen it.

- M.F.


My ancestors sailed these seas long before you came
with shells and coral they mapped the islands
palm fibre traced the ocean swells
They know where they were before you discovered them
generations of navigators
charted each atoll
in their outrigger canoes they travelled
many miles
When you plotted with pen and ink
for the benefit of
future explorers
They were there first.

- Helen


Map of Jerusalem as the Centre of the World
maps are political statements
my nation
my capital
takes the position of central attention
Places of historical importance are highlighted
ancient buildings and battlefields
we apply thet names
that we the conquerors
have bestowed
renaming or erasing
those that came before

- Helen

Winners & Losers

Today's writing is about winning and losing. We've all had experience at both. No doubt we are better at some things than others. It...