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

Monday, 13 January 2020

The Shipping News

This week's writing is inspired by Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winning book, 'The Shipping News'. This darkly comic novel is packed with idiosyncratic characters, places and happenings. Four lists were developed - names of people, names of places, names of knots and names of boats. These were all placed on small pieces of paper and made into four piles. Each writer chose one from each pile and had to use them in a short story. The results speak for themselves!


    Alvin Yark stretched and yawned. He was in the space between dreaming and waking - a surreal mix of colours and thoughts.
    "Oh what the hell," he thought, turning to the bedside cabinet. On it lay a classic piece of Victoriana -his great grandmother's brooch -a breast-pin of hair.
    He remembered what they said about his grandmother, that she was frugal and hardworking, bringing her children up to be free of vice. He'd held that close to his psyche - not to lie, steal, or defraud anyone.
    Beside the brooch there were the remains of his last relationship - knitting needles with the fragments of her last project. With a feeling of emptiness he pushed the needles away. Perhaps he was too moral. That's why his girlfriends walked out on him. They said he was too critical and expected too much of them.
    He crawled out of bed fingering his telephone directory. He was leafing through the numbers hoping to find someone who would talk to him. "Hello" said the voice on the phone. "Oh, it's you," it went on. "Are you sure you're not a saint yet?" Then he heard the dial tone.
    After a few calls, which were about the same, he gave up in despair. Was it him or them he wondered? Decided it was a combination of both. Personalities at odds with each other. A clash like a clash of cymbals, a horrendous noise.
    Then he remembered his best friend who had taken the plunge and joined a dating site. A friend who had got married eight months later. "Worth a crack Alvin," he thought to himself.
Fingers trembling with anxiety he keyed in some dating websites. That's when he saw her. A redhead with green eyes. In her intro it said, "I enjoy reading and gardening. Am interested in science and I work as a lab assistant in the local hospital."
    "Perfect" he thought. "Beauty and brains."
    It was only about half an hour later he received a reply to his email. "You sound lovely" it said and "I would love to meet you."
    They arranged a time and date in three days time. For the next three days he could hardly eat. Anxiety in knotting up his stomach like a half-hitch.
    The morning of the big day he dressed carefully. "Not too formal" he thought, tossing aside his one suit he used for job interviews. He put on his dressy yet casual moleskin and jersey.
    He was waiting at the museum at the specified time, but he couldn't see her. She said she'd be wearing red. There was no one that he could see.
    Then wincing with horror, he saw a fat lady with a bad dye job walk towards him.
    "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty comes from within," he chanted inwardly to himself.
    "Alvin, is that you?" she slurred. She'd been drinking, he could tell.
    Surprised and disgusted, he turned to leave. Then he saw her face. She was crying.
    "I know you weren't expecting this," she said. "It's my sister's photo," she explained with sadness.      "No one likes me in a romantic way. But I am a lab assistant. I only got drunk because I knew you wouldn't like me."
    He weighed up the possibilities and gave it a go.
    He looked back a few years later and knew he'd made the right decision. They got on like a house on fire, married and lived reasonably content ever after.

- M.F.


     Wavey gulped, and the sea water coursed across his tongue and up into his nostrils.  Coughing and spitting he lunged upwards to the broken surface, tangling in line and ropes, buffeted by fishing boxes and the earlier catch of the day, now limp but with eyes that regarded him, unemotionally, as an equal at one with the ocean and the tide.
     Grasping the boat's rail, now underwater and on its side, he first knelt then stood, and as he raised himself his head cleared the smashing waterline and he coughed himself back to life.
    High above him on the deck he could see the dutch cringle tantalizingly out of reach, his only life raft locked away securely so it couldn't roll overboard in heavy weather.  Now unattainable the cringle taunted him, mocked his years of experience and skills, and his always careful preparation.
    Old Jackie from the Finger club had warned him about this;  not to be so careful that your lifeline is out of reach.  Wavey looked at his hands, split and bleeding from trying to stay out of the water.  One was missing a finger _ that was a marlin, twenty years ago.  It had flipped and rotated on the line and the snaking nylon had looped around his finger, taking it away with the fish.
    How long could he stand here, up to his neck in the ocean?  The water was cold but it was the waves' chop and swell would take him, he knew, down into Capsize Cove.

- Kate Jenkins


    Bunny pointed the bow of the boat toward the shore.  She'd never been here before, but thought it looked like a safe place for the night.  The Polar Grinder could withstand most currents and weather, but Bunny didn't like sailing her at night.  Fred jumped overboard with rope in hand, tying up tight to an old wreck on the shore.
    "Handy you taught me the mooring hitch yesterday," he yelled back.
    "Yeah, I was getting sick of getting wet every time we stopped anywhere," she replied.
    On shore they got a fire going, before pulling out their maps to find out exactly where they were.  Running her finger down the coastline, Bunny noted Narrow Cove, Lost Cove, Middle Cove, and then the one where they'd stopped - but it had no name.
    Bunny picked up an old piece of board lying in the sand and carved out some shapes, before stabbing it into the ground.  "I hereby name this No Name Cove," she declared, before taking her baked potato out of the fire embers and settling down for a well-earned meal.

- Christine Philp


    The wind was always wild at Home Rock; it blew off roofs, knocked down gates and made the horses skittish. Mavis Bangs hated living there, the perpetual howling gale made it impossible to have a civilised conversation; impossible to hear the gramophone; almost impossible to think.
    The wind was especially wild that Good Friday; it whipped up the waves into a towering crescendo and dumped detritus all along the beach rocks. When Mavis came down to gather periwinkles, she found the seaweed piled in strangle knots a hundred yards from the water's edge. As she walked over it, it made a shrill sound, as high as a horses's whinny. It was the sea song, calling to be free, and it echoed the call for freedom in her own soul.
    She walked slowly and purposefully, pausing now and then to scoop up a jewel of seafood entrapped in the green tangle, and listened with all her might to the ocean music; telling her to forget her gentle English upbringing and embrace this new untamed natural beauty to which her fisherman husband had brought her. With each step Mavis felt the trappings of civilisation recede further into the past and happiness and acceptance rushed like a wave over her.
    And for a moment, the wind ceased its relentless blowing, so she could hear more clearly.

- Helen Ledger


    It was a day and night of the howling Autumn winds which were gaining strength, but never once did it demolish the lodger’s household. The daily hunger pains and the average mans’ great capacity to down a few ales’ led to yet another guinea fowl (hereby known as the Gammy Bird) being decapitated ready for yet another guests’ meal.
    There were times when Benny Fudge would have been grateful if his young lady friend would saunter by, and in thinking so, Benny Fudge would play with the love knot of her platted hair.
    There after the open fire crackling with the odd sparks from burning red pine logs would hasten to burn to ash totally when it was time for a silent night in other parts of the lodger’s house.
    After a couple of nights of dodging treacherous and relentless winds on land and at sea, Benny Fudge gave up his activity of playing Roma Numbers (with all players who lost a round having to forfeit a few silver coins). Even the ship’s new captain could never surpass Benny Fudge, the Sergeant At Arms, at a game of Roma Numbers!
    The ship’s captain was never to be seen out of it, or as we say, totally wasted. Until now the ship’s crew could always hold their liquor like those in the story of Jason & The Argonauts. And at 5am on this, a fine Autumns morning, Benny Fudge commanded all crew to embark for another few days of relentless trips among a few other seasonal transporters!

- Graeme Wilson

Monday, 6 January 2020

Homonyms and Other Funky Words

There are many words that are written the same way but mean different things (a homograph. eg. wind blows, wind the clock). Then there are words that look different but sound the same (homonym. eg. eight and ate). This week we attempted to include examples of homonyms and homographs in our poems. A printed sheet of examples was very useful and the end result at times amusing! 

The Countrie Chicken Show

The latest Great Fowl of the Fair
Ate boar on a stick from his chair
The fare it was foul, it grated his bowel
As the public gave out a fine cheer

A test was made of his genes
at eight of the clock, so it seems
The jeans of the Marker grew darker and darker
as the Cockerel gave way at the seams

I shall not belabour this tale
The fowl is no more, I hear wail
The speech it was coarse
as they cooked him, of course
and that was the end of his tail

-Kate Jenkins


She had a ball
at the ball
and then at the ball game.

Her date was polite
and gave her a call
to remind her of the time and date.

He rose to greet her
when she walked in the room
presenting her with a red rose.

He was definitely her type
as the letters he wrote her
were typed impeccably.

They played in the leaves
she knows she'll be sad
when he leaves for good.

- Christine Philp

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...