Tuesday, December 25, 2012



                           Brilliant, this day – a young virtuoso of a day.
                           Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors,
                           deft hands. And every prodigy of green –
                           whether it's ferns or lichens or needles
                           or impatient points of buds on spindly bushes –
                           greener than ever before. And the way the conifers
                           hold new cones to the light for the blessing,
                           a festive right, and sing the oceanic chant the wind
                           transcribes for them!
                           A day that shines in the cold
                           like a first-prize brass band swinging along
                           the street
                           of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
                           with the claims of reasonable gloom. 
                      Denise Levertov

Jeanette Winterson posted a startling new Christmas Story on her website a couple of days ago. She writes one every year - this year's is characteristically searing and illuminating. 

This evening we will light candles along the wooden boardwalk that winds its way through my garden, rustle together a pile of cushions and head outside to share poems (Melissa Green's Nativity, David Wagoner's The Silence of Stars, Jeanette's Moon series and this latest Christmas story. . .  We will take turns to read out loud to each other and an audience of trees, grass and stars. . . 

". . .  I keep a light in the window because there is a part of me that believes that the light will attract something - I don't know what - something that isn't a moth. I keep the light lit because I don't want to accept the inevitability of darkness. . . "

Love and blessings to you all this Christmas - may we keep our lights lit as we enter 2013,  a whole - and hope-full - new era. 

Friday, December 21, 2012


"Nature will bear the closest inspection. 
She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf 
and take an insect view of its plain.'

                                          Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)












Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Poem - BIRD by Pablo Neruda

                        It was passed from one bird to another,
                        the whole gift of the day.
                        The day went from flute to flute,
                        went dressed in vegetation,
                        in flights which opened a tunnel
                        through the wind would pass
                        to where birds were breaking open
                        the dense blue air -
                        and there, night came in.

                        When I returned from so many journeys,
                        I stayed suspended and green
                        between sun and geography -
                        I saw how wings worked,
                        how perfumes are transmitted
                        by feathery telegraph,
                        and from above I saw the path,
                        the springs and the roof tiles,
                        the fishermen at their trades,
                        the trousers of the foam;
                        I saw it all from my green sky.
                        I had no more alphabet
                        than the swallows in their courses,
                        the tiny, shining water
                        of the small bird on fire
                        which dances out of the pollen. 
                   Pablo Neruda

Tui - photograph by Pippa Howard (my sister who came to Dunedin three weeks ago - first visit in 15 years!)


This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Helen Lowe
with All my life 

                          "So we sat, and the waves
                          crashed in like gifts, or insults. . . "

Birds is my final Tuesday Poem for 2012. What a year it has been: joys juxtaposed with terrors,  madness with miracles. Poetry provides a container for Life in all its crudeness and subtlety. Like music and the visual arts, it has an unsurpassable capacity to be both protest and prayer, rational and lyrical, cerebral and mystical. Poetry is balm. It is shaman. It is connection. And it is healing. 

Heartfelt thanks to Mary McCallum - unfaltering helmsman of our TP boat - for her remarkable dedication not only to poetry but also to us - poets and readers of Tuesday Poems. As far as I know nothing quite like our TP community is to be found 'elsewhere'. Without Mary, TP would not exist. I know I am not alone when I say how much I appreciate her constancy, her generosity of spirit and her zeal. I can't think of a week that's passed when our small community has not received welcome word from dear Mary. Come hell or high water, she is present; witty, humorous, big-hearted and supportive. You are a rare bird, Mary McC! This ecclectic little chorus of critters is singing their appreciation to you. . .  xo 


“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act … in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous thing. . . " – Howard Zinn  

Sunday, December 16, 2012



"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

How disconnected we have become from all that is good for us and about us. 
I don't know what to say in response to what happened at Sandy Hook School.
There has been cyclone devastation in Samoa and Fiji, too. 
May love surround those dear lost children and their grieving families.
Blessings and mercy on the islands' coastlines and communities.
Blessings and mercy on us all. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TUESDAY POEM | Albatross by Penelope Todd

                                 LEARNING FROM THE BIRDS


                                This parent does not fuss:
                                six days at sea;
                                six minutes now suffice

                                to deliver her burden
                                to the child that waddles over,
                                claps and daddles beak at beak 
                                up comes the mess of squid
                                scooped from the black
                                a thousand miles off.

                                New-fledged, the young must jettison
                                the undigested stuff of infancy:
                                bones and fins, the beaks of octopi.

                                How wings grow slick
                                and open for that years-long
                                maiden flight no parent can impart

                                nor how to wrest eight writhing limbs
                                from the open sea at night.

                          Penelope Todd 

I was happy to be in the audience a couple of Wednesdays ago when Penelope read her poem Albatross. Vegan cafe Circadian Rhythm hosts a monthly poetry gathering here in Dunedin and we were there to listen and read. I barely gave Penelope time to sit down after her turn at the mic before asking if I could please post her poem here - and soon? Thank you, Pen. 

Wee 'Albatross Aside'. . . 

In Dunedin, when the first adult Royal Albatross returns to land after spending many months at sea - and, too, when the first albatross chick hatches - the city's cathedrals bells ring out in celebration.    


This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Helen McKinlay
with Lines for a New Year 
by iconic NZ poet Sam Hunt.

Sam generously offered up a second - unpublished - poem for readers, titled Tell Me What 

                                  "Tell me what I don't know -
                                   not what I know now

                                   or what I'll know tomorrow. . . "

The end of the year is fast approaching. . . There will be one more Tuesday Poem posted on the hub next week, after which we will all take a break, re-congregating towards the end of January 2013. (2013! Pinch me?) xo

From Albatross to AMIGAS - A new ebook by Penelope Todd & Elena Bossi

Penelope Todd will be well-known to many of you. She's a witty and generous blogger and, too, the brains, muscles and heart behind Australasia's first e-publishing company, Rosa Mira Books.  In a nutshell, she's a pioneer - and a visionary. She is also an award-winning author of a substantial library of books - Island (a novel), Digging for Spain: a writer's Journey (memoir), The Watermark Trilogy - Watermark, Dark and Zillah - Three's A Crowd, PeriBoy Next Door and Box (Young Adult Fiction), all of which you can check out (and order) here

Penelope's most recent work is a unique and ambitious collaborative novel titled Amigas, co-written in English and Spanish with Argentinian author and friend Elena BossiOn her website, Penelope introduces Amigas as follows - 

"When Elena Bossi and I met in Iowa 2007, our common languages were mime and laughter. My Spanish was paltry; Elena’s English was picturesque. Nevertheless, on parting, to sustain our friendship, we agreed to write a novel together in alternate chapters (and letters), each in our own country and language. In 2009, we met in Argentina to polish the translations of our story.
Amigas 'presents both English and Spanish versions in one digital edition. 

2009: in Argentina, a woman prepares to travel to Italy for a funeral. In New Zealand, two friends discuss art, loss, and how to accept life as it plays out.
1969: a girl from New Zealand and another from Argentina are stranded in the airport in Rome. A friendship is forged and they exchange letters for a decade, until events take a sinister turn during Argentina’s ‘dirty war’.
2009: again in the airport in Rome, cancelled flights throw together two women whose lives have intersected in unexpected ways.
The hidden threads of these friendships are drawn deftly together.
Amigas is a story of female friendships, how they are forged, how they endure across time and geography, how they stimulate and sustain."

I've wanted to recommend Amigas to you since it was launched online a couple of months ago. The cover (striking, yes?) carries an albatross* created by Elena's son, Pablo.

Praise for Amigas -

"The prose is cogent, clear and often shot through with silken lyricism. There is resonant, evocative work here that leaves a long emotional contrail in the reader." Emma Neale

". . . Just to congratulate you and Elena on this delightful story. I loved the characters, strong, very different voices, the joys and hiccups of their developing relationship. I loved the contrasts between the increasingly harsh realities of Claudia's world, and the almost cottonwool comfort of Jude's, and yet the ordinariness of both, family, the growing of girls to womanhood. I cared about these two. And for that reason I appreciated the integrity of the ending. I wanted a happy ending. I wanted Claudia to be well and happy. Then I just wanted information about her … in its fictional way it honoured the truth of what the people of Argentina endured  during those years …  Humanity shines through this story. The structure, the skipping from country to country, culture to culture, language to language, brought home in the most powerful and subtle way, that a basic humanity is what we all share, linked by that and by shared pain and love." 
Carolyn McCurdie (poet, novelist and short story writer)

"Finished Amigas - loved it. Authentic evocation of the late sixties and pleasing tension to keep me scrolling.  Expertly written, believable characters I really cared about. A smooth collaboration and a compelling story-line." Kay Cooke

Meet Ratty (RMB Promotions Officer), Lily the Pink, Isgar and Dasychord.

Penelope blogs here (The Intertidal Zone) and here (Rosa Mira Books). You will definitely want to meet RMB's PR 'person'. Ratty announced himself (and his role) to Penelope one afternoon as she was sitting with her sketchbook open. She says he arrived pretty much 'fully formed'. Lily the Pink turned up next. She's the love of his life, a fairy pink armadillo from Argentina. Their union resulted in the arrival of twin ratadillos, Isgar and Dasychord (so named by RMB readers).  

Do yourselves - and your loved ones - a favor and visit the RMB website before Christmas? Support its dedicated crew by buying an ebook or two. You will not be disappointed. Reviews for Rosa Mira Book's first four publications have been stellar - from readers and critics alike. I take my hat off to Penelope. It takes faith and tenacity to turn a vision into reality, especially given the precariousness and unpredictability of today's world, economic and otherwise. She's an astute editor with an ear for much more than grammatical pedantry and surface story. 

                   Click on the icon to visit the RMB website

Exceptional they are. Exceptional she is.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012


                           NOT YET A MAN

                           There are notes of melancholy in the air.

                           A boy folded his wings and fell through

                           a seam in the clouds - broken comet blazing

                           through blue, he dragged the ceiling of heaven

                           down. His cry cracked the sullen sea.

                                       Did you hear his splash?

                         The dusk barely shook itself -

                         there was no moment's silence.

                         The smallest of waves rose to soak

                         the local shore, tickling the laughing feet

                         of children too busy with sand

                         and ice creams to notice. I counted

                         nine pink tongues licking.

                         He raked the sky clean.

                         Someone's son







FLOAT - CB - Acrylic on Paper 1995

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Kathleen Jones
Kathleen has chosen a remarkable poem by Canadian eco-poet Catherine Owen -

"Our minds can turn anything romantic.
Is the problem.
The sewagy mud of the Fraser a quaint muslin & the spumes    

        pulsing out of chimneys at the Lafarge cement plant look,   
        at night, like two of Isadora Duncan’s scarves, pale, insouciant veils,   
        harmless. The trees are all gone but then aren’t our hearts

more similar to wastelands. . ." 


For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill.