Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Today we feature one of our regular writers who has diligently written up the poems she has developed at the Artsenta Writer's Group over the last few months. This writing traverses a range of topics from shadows, exhibitions, and Autumn to the recent Queen's Birthday. All writing is by Kate Jenkins - thanks for sharing with us Kate!

* S P A C E *

Standing under the solid stars, brightly twinkling in a black sky.  Who makes their shadows?

On a blacked-out night when sun is down and moon has ebbed, if I stand in the light of only stars will my shadow be beneath my feet or scattered broken all around?

The sounds of Earth impinge and echo, as cars pass and person-walking dogs patter by, but those diffuse light beams, millennia old, are absorbed into the neons and LEDs of 21st Century days, and extinguish.

My soul always reaches up when my head is raised to see those stars.  Broken shards of pain and doubt scatter with my broken shadows, each a cloaking contribution to night.  That black cloak falls off and light-ness lifts my breath, steaming out into the airlessness of space.

An exhibit hangs, carefully mounted
Aligned to floor, ceiling and wall
A prospect, an incoming breath
Exposed          to view
                        to critique
                        or amusement
                        to confusion
Open to comprehension and incomprehension alike
An artist stands, not too close
Ready to speak, to explain, to elucidate
Fearful             of being seen
                        of incomprehensible criticism
                        of mockery
                        or misunderstanding
Hoping for delight, or awe, or just a simple ‘that’s good’


Downed leaves, the rotten, composting, mould-ridden end of last Summer are trampled in the door on my shoes.  Brown, yellow and black they drift absent-mindedly on the wind, not staying at home but congregating in the corners and around the objects of everyday life, like teenagers out on the town for a Friday night.

My garden’s trees are nearly bare now, just a few lifeless stragglers swaying drunkenly on branches, then catching a passing zephyr they drop and mingle, onto my carefully ignored bulb patch.  Its occupants mutter together words of encouragement, sharing visions of Spring life, beauty and replication.  They are the shopkeepers, the place holders.  They will not drift away.  They cannot wait beneath this blanketing protection but drive upwards towards the Winter’ chill to exhibit, eye-catching, a glimpse of green.

Four layers – still not warm
Four layers – now heated up, as
cold morning swings into a hot afternoon
Three layers, two,
Our blasting winter sun is
not enjoyed by our Northern friends
Each island, province, city
watching for the signs of warmth
            clearing of grey skies
            the end of the rain, fog,
            and those dull dull clouds
But here we take our Holiday
            - Thanks Ma’am -
And wear our cloudless sky
like a blissful flower-trimmed hat
as we race around, enjoying
            Indian Summer, La Nina
            Global Warming
            Dunedin in Winter

Monday, 20 December 2021

Words for Trees

Dunedin is blessed to have many beautiful trees and the green belt like a wreath around the city hills. Trees are even more significant at this time of year with most of us decorating a special tree for Christmas. But beyond Christmas most of us will have special memories of a particular tree where something happened in it or under it or to it. So trees were the topic this week with the optional challenge of shaping the poem itself.

                                fold  &  fold
                                    &  fold
                          fold  &  fold  &  fold
                   fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold
                                fold  &  fold
       fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold
fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold  &  fold and fold
                     how much do I have to do?
                    So much work; so little result
            The concertina’d squares of blue and red
blue    red    blue    red    blue    red     blue     red    blue
                                clash together
                                - only one foot
                               - now two
                               - nearly three
Crepe paper crushed by tight little fingers
Impatience rewarded by  l e n g t h e n i n g  b r a i d
Cellotaped ends will stop all that work
un rav e lling
                     where the paper has run out
And now the tree!  but no, all must wait for Dad
His carefully placed lights and glass balls
      Not to be Touched by minor hands
No fires here.  He will place the paper length delicately,
balanced, correct, away from HOT bulbs and breakable GLASS

- Kate Jenkins


you don’t belong here
yet you   s   d    r
             e     o    o
            n       w     o
             d      n      t
and you  s p r a w l  l a n g u i d l y   across my space
       Spring’s burst of vibrant green growing into long trunks of summer
no vertical challenge is accepted;  and
not content to bear just once;
                    once                                                      twice
           your golden bells                                   your golden bells
       burnish leafy branchlets                       burnish leafy branchlets
      not enough to joy-fill once                  you have to show off again
and bring midsummer’s golden days      into the cloud and rain of winter

 - Kate Jenkins

         still angry
   He brought you down
Your years of growing tall
now               cut
   (water)                 stream
                                 not                 (water)
            (water)              it
                                 Maybe you can
                                     still grow,
                                          but alive

- Kate Jenkins


Decorating the Christmas Tree
Was so much fun this year
My sister and her boyfriend
Were finally back home
So I got to decorate the tree with them
It came time to put up the star 
I heard people sometimes lift the youngest up to put the star on 
I accidentally said it out loud 
My sister & her boyfriend suddenly picked me up by the legs 
I was frightened and scared 
Mum gave me the star 
While I was wobbling up in the air I put the star on 
It was a crazy yet fun adventure 
Putting the star on top of the Christmas tree this year
So be careful of what you say out loud!

- Julia Godfrey

There once was a tree as large as a barge
I climbed up as high as the sky to see where to cut from
I examined it closely up and down, side to side
Should I forget or should I abide?
Was it safe to cut this tree down, or should I leave it and hide?
I climbed down with a frown right down to the ground
How would I begin to cut down this huge huge tree?
There was danger with no harness, but I grabbed the chainsaw
And held on with dear life and kept out of strife
I clung hard to the big branches, cutting them down one by one
Crash, crash, crash, one by one they came down with a smash!
This would be hard earned cash for me and my friend as a guide at my side
I think he wanted to hide out of the way and stay that way till the end of the day
Thank God and hooray! I cut it down to the trunk where there was a bit of gunk
But we worked together and each of us knew we had succeeded and neither had flunked!

- Greg Maynard



Once there was a family 
who gathered together with glee,
why? to celebrate with their tree
the tree would not walk or talk
but if it could it would say:
"gather all your gifts and cards
stockings, wrap them, label them,
cover them with beautiful paper,
glitter and stickers, with names
with tokens of love and kindness
scratch them, place them on me,
around me, upon me, underneath me
Gather all the children and parents
to share the joy of the baby boy
born in a manger to save all people
and the trees.
 - Greg Maynard

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Artistic Inspiration

The Artsenta Annual Exhibition was used as a starting point for this weeks writing. We were asked to choose an artwork that spoke to us and to write a poem that encapsulated four tasks: to describe what we can see; to reflect on what the art made us feel; to interpret what the artwork was telling us; and to relate the art work to something in our own life. Some people did four lines for each task creating a structure for their poem in the process, while others just let the inspiration flow. Art is a great place to start writing! 


Two warmly comforting occupants of the night
                    - side by side-
 a take on Taku Rua Ruru; and a memory roused
A painter’s brush of green
Dark and Light, it’s all the same
Feathered owls, two ruru, sit
tinted green in a forest flood of
matching feathers and strangling leaves
    Larger than Life
               Staring, Unblinking
For each, a cape of feathers wrapped tight
Claws like forest tendrils twine around
A cruel curving beak like a haughty nose
and the always watching eyes
Sleep is now Awake:
You hide among the matching leaves
Watching, staring, silent
I sleep, almost
Time held by the chiming clock
Wrenched awake by your violent screech,
adrenaline bites with your feathered flight
- KJ  


The fairy’s glow has gone
Big grey wings hanging low
A long purpley/pink dress
That goes to her feet

She’s cradled herself on the floor
Her hands against her knees
That are against her chest
With her hair drooping low

Seeing this fairy
Makes me feel sad
And I can’t see her face
Since her head's between her knees

I feel exactly like this fairy
As when I lost someone close to me
I cradled myself in the same position as her
So I could be silent and pour the sadness out
- Julia Godfrey

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Conflict resolution

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn't always need to be bad or unhappy - it can be constructive; we can learn and grow through conflict. This week in our writing roopu (group) we took on the challenge of writing about conflict but to make it easier we focussed first on a conflict between two animals and then followed that up with people. We were asked to write a short story that incorporated some level of conflict and also how it was resolved. Like positive conflict it was challenging but rewarding!


Lost in her own world, Rubi rounded the corner and climbed the first step. She heard a low growl. Startled, she looked up and there was Bobbi, huddled up against Rubi’s cat door. Rubi’s hackles rose and she swished her tail angrily. Bobbie had no business sitting there! It was her door, Rubi’s door, and Bobbie did not belong. Rubi expressed her displeasure with a rumbling growl. Bobbie continued to sit there, her way of escape blocked by an angry Rubi. So, Bobbie just held her ground.

Bobbie was hungry and she knew from past experience that Rubi would complain but that she would not come any closer. Just to be sure she emitted a low growl and swiped a warning paw in Rubi’s direction. Rubi did not back away, but she didn’t come any closer either. Both cats gave a low growl and then began to complain loudly. It was a standoff!

The ruckus attracted the attention of the house’s occupant. Time to feed Bobbie. As she opened the door Bobbie made a mad dash to hide in the garden. A human, even one that fed her, was much scarier than Rubi any day. Rubi gave her a parting swipe and then trotted inside through the open door straight to her bed. With Rubi gone, Bobbie came a little closer. She was so hungry. The scary human put some food out for her and then disappeared, closing the door behind her. Now Bobbie felt safe. Time for a meal.



Jane looked up from her computer as her flatmate blundered in through the front door. She had a fast approaching deadline for her assignment and she needed quiet to concentrate so she could finish it on time. Sally continued to blunder through the room, kicking off her shoes and dropping her bag onto the floor with a thud. She collapsed onto the sofa and muttered, “Phew, what a day I have had. I must tell you all about it.”

Jane felt herself cringe. Once Sally got going there was no stopping her. Maybe distraction would work. “You sound as if a soak in a hot bath is just what the doctor would order. Then we can talk.”

Sally loved a long soak. This should give her time and the quiet she needed to finish on before the deadline. She was so close. But Sally wasn’t interested. She had too much to tell.

Jane tried again. “Why don’t you make us a cup of coffee.”

This time Sally trekked off to the kitchen and Jane tried to refocus on her task. It wasn’t easy with Sally crashing about in the kitchen. The noise was really very disconcerting. But she had to get this done. Even so, she did not want to upset Sally by seeming to brush her off when she so obviously needed to talk. Sally was a good friend and ever so sensitive. And she seemed pretty upset already.

How was she going to handle this? Maybe distraction was not the best way. Maybe she needed to be clear about her own situation. She had to get this done before she cooked dinner and time was ticking away.

Sally brought her coffee to her and then plonked herself down on the sofa. Jane took a deep breath,

“Sally I have an important assignment which I must email in before 8pm tonight. I am not quite finished but I can see that you really need to talk. If we talk now do you think you could cook tea tonight to allow me to get it finished? Everything is prepared and ready to go.”

Sally looked up from her coffee:

“Oh Jane, I am so sorry that I am disturbing you. I just don’t know what to do with myself until I get this off my chest. Of course I can cook dinner.”

Sally smiled. “And I will do my best to cook really quietly.”

Jane and Sally settled in for their talk.


Thursday, 5 August 2021

Olympic Poetry

Well the Olympics is on and there's some amazing athletes doing some incredible things. Much of their performance is beautiful to watch and contains highly choreographed movement with artistic flourishes. So our group was tasked with choosing an Olympic sport and writing a poem or short story about the athlete's prowess, poise, determination and perhaps their hopes. We then had to imagine we were the athlete and write about the moment just prior to the big performance and what was going through the athlete's head.


I feel the nerves take hold,

Breathe, I tell myself.

Forget the skater now competing,

I have no control over what she does.

Maybe she will give a better performance,

Maybe she will not,

That is outside my control.

But my own programme is not!

Don’t watch.

Just breathe and breathe again.

What do I need to do?

Think girl, think.

I need to land my triples,

All of them!

I can do it,

I know I can!

This is no time to doubt.

I can do it.

I know I can!

Do I try for my triple axel?

Do I, do I?

I have landed it in practice,

I have landed it in my programme.

It’s hard, but I have done it.

But do I take the risk?

I am sitting fourth now.

Can I move up?

A triple axel and clean programme would do it.

Can I do it.

Yes, I have done it!

I can do it again!

What if my landing is shaky?

What if, what if?

I could tack on another jump.

Yes, I could.

It doesn’t need to be a triple,

A double will do.

Yes, that is the plan.

I have nothing to lose.

I only have something to gain.

Yes, I can do it,

I can really do it.

And I will.

My coach believes in me,

And so do I.

My goodness, it’s my turn,

My turn to be the best I can be.

I am ready.



The skater takes his pose

Waiting for his music to begin.

He glances at his coach

Who nods his support.

His music begins and his body sways

As the music appears to become a part of him.

He begins to move

As the music takes him with it.

He becomes caught up in the story

His music and his moves tell.

The music builds

As he prepares for his first jump.

His focus is intense.

Set it up,

Wait for the beat.

He summons the strength,

And he takes off.

Lift and twist.

Round once, twice, three times.

Landing backwards he lifts off again

Using the momentum from his landing

To gather the lift and speed needed.

He takes off.

Lift and twist.

Round once, twice, three times.

He lands with a smile on his face.


One element achieved, the hardest.

He feels on a roll.

His body works to the music

Flowing effortlessly with the beat.

He feels strong and in control.

Wait for the beat.

Now spin.

Wait for the beat.

Now change position.

Another element,


He feels strong and in control.

Again, and again,


He is near the end,

Now the music is all that matters.

It flows around and through him

Taking him through his movements

To that final dramatic sound and pose.

As the music fades away

He slowly becomes aware of the standing ovation.

In this moment he knows,

Knows he has achieved a personal best.



As the high jumper poised himself 

and got into his stance

he gathered his thoughts 

by having a glance at the bar 

and how far and how high. 

He thought, oh my

I will try and try 

to jump so high, 

I will even try to fly. 

Over the jump and 

over the lump and the bumps 

on the way to glory I will go.

Go for gold 

for gold is the best colour 

to seek and secure 

valour, prestige, honour. 

No guts, no glory. 

So I gather my prowess 

and try to jump 

as high as the sky

To jump and leap 

whether I dance 

or hold my stance 

in such a way to play 

and compete. 

To extend my arms and legs

to stretch and move 

as high as a kite.

To jump with all my might 

and to gracefully 

win to my delight.

- G Maynard

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

A walk in the country side


This weeks we took inspiration from the natural world and some writing of one of the artists at Artsenta who had written a detailed account of his walk in the country. So our writers were tasked with remembering a time they did the same and writing a short story based on that experience and trying to bring the sounds, sights and smells that went with it. We then were tasked with turning that prose into a poem that captured the experience in a more fleeting way.

Walk in the countryside

The cowpat is glooping over my shoe - yes, I am using gloop as a verb, no other verb seems to capture the visceral, unsettling sensation while the brown turns to green as it spreads over my previously cleanish shoes.  And here I was, more concerned by the ripped trousers and the bleeding thigh that I had just given myself trying to scramble over the barbed wire fence.  Why is there even barbed wire?  At least the next fence coming is one of those orange ribbons of modern temporary electric wiring, no barbs on that.

The smell from my shoe is so very 'rural'.  A smell I had tricked myself into thinking I had escaped.  A smell I had hoped was trapped in my childhood.  I smear it ineffectually across the grass, failing entirely to get my shoe remotely clean.  There is no escaping this smell.  Last week's grass.  Even the nearby brush of tussock is proving no help.

The big dumb eye of a cow dispassionately watches my awkward flailing.  I anthropomorphise it, tell myself it is enjoying my suffering, the unpleasantness it has caused.  But I can't fool myself, that eye is too stupid to know malice, too stupid to know anything.

I should have stayed in town.






Confidence is Power, Misplaced


The orange ribbon sparkles

          with interwoven metal


Manufactured glory

Sparkling across the verdant earth

Held in place

         by plastic posts

            stabbed into the dirt


A reminder that man has conquered nature

          with this flimsy




Stepping over it

          man is quickly reminded that he


          is nature


The pulse hits

          somehow both sharp and dull


          but with panic inducing confusion

Tightening the muscles against escape


Why did we do this to ourselves?


          We too are nature.



Thursday, 27 May 2021

Repeat it if it's good

Inspiration for this week came from a song by Bob Dylan called 'Shelter from the Storm' which includes a repeated line similar to the title - 'Come in she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm'. The line is repeated at the end of each verse and creates a powerful structure. Repetition can be a useful device in poetry so the task was to use a repeating line. Thanks Bob!


This needs to be held

Not quickly spent...


The warmth as I enter 

My new home


The shaft of sunlight


As the sun glides around

The "other building"


The green, tenderly painted

Cast-iron ends of my

grandmother's seat

Standing guard

Offering rest


My mother's

Carefully chosen birdbath

Standing to the south

Reflecting sky

And shells

thoughtfully placed


All this

Needs to be held...


not quickly


- Pauline

Today we feature one of our regular writers who has diligently written up the poems she has developed at the Artsenta Writer's Group ove...