An invitation

Tuesday, 17th April, 2012


I’m really excited to announce the launch date for my book of poetry. If you’re in Wellington I’d love you to come along and say hi. As you can see the cover design has been finalised and it is heading to the printer this week. I feel a bit like a book bride and my launch is probably the closest I’ll get to a wedding! You're most welcome to the launch but if you can't make it you can order a copy from me and I'll send it out.

The Launch details >>

VUP & Unity Books warmly invite you to the launch of Graft by Helen Heath to be launched by Harry Ricketts.

Thursday May 3rd, 6pm, Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington.

“Helen Heath’s poems are more than usually aware of the exits and entrances that shape us: they shuttle between past and present, shroud and wedding gown, the lives we lead and the lives we aspire to...  always alert for points of continuity, connection, and wholeness.”

– Bill Manhire

$28, Paperback, Victoria University Press.

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2012 begins

Tuesday, 3rd April, 2012


Yeah, yeah, I know, 2012 began a few months back now. Well, yes, I guess it did but the academic year just began a few weeks ago, so I’m going with that calendar.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to settle in I’m really getting into my research. I can’t believe I’m allowed to just read and write about what I love for 20 hours a week! I keep looking over my shoulder to see if someone is getting ready to tell me off.

My research to date has been about Robert Crawford. I’ve been doing some close readings of some of his poems and literary criticism. Robert Crawford is a Scottish poet who has written a lot about technology and its impact on people. Crawford’s technology is all about social and political change, well-grounded in people and nationalism. I never realised the importance of technology during the 80s in Scotland. I guess the American modernists were in a similar position in that progress in science and technology was considered hugely important and patriotic at the time, it was tied up with the wider national identity and emotions. A Scottish Assembly (Crawford’s first book of poetry) was published in 1990, just at the end of this influential period.

Reading Crawford’s chapter ‘Modernist Cybernetics and the poetry of Knowledge’ in The Modern Poet. I came across this:

Modernist allusion functions as a hypertext system, taking the reader continually from one reference to another, setting up complex relationships among texts within texts. The older, manuscript-based analogy of the ‘palimpsest’ is too simple to express how a poem like The Waste Land works. It sets up so many simultaneous relationships, transmits such a multitude of messages, that it offers us a vast database, a growing library of texts, bridges between them, and connections between cultures. Its complexity is a cybernetic one which anticipates the computer age at least as much as it derives from earlier forms…. The modernist poem is a deliberately coded work. (p190)

I was pleased to read this as I had been contemplating the history of this kind of writing after hearing Rachel Blau Du Plessis read on the 22 of March. It struck me that her work was very much a product of the internet age - had a very hypertextual nature. She had quoted Pound as an influence on her (as did Crawford). I hadn’t known what to call this kind of writing and described it to myself as analog hypertext.

In my notes about her I said:

Rachel talked of the whole epic as a brain trying to remember what’s going on, hence some repetition and looping back. She sees the whole poem as a grid with 19 poems in a column and 6 columns = 114 poems. The initial reason for this form was to combat the fear of a blank page. She wrote the first two pieces – ‘it’ and ‘she’, and they were in discourse with each other, she knew there would be more but wasn’t sure how many to do. At first she thought he’d do 100 like Dante (Pound also) then after she’d done 19 she saw them as a long string without a break (she described it like a long string of French knitting!) and decided to insert a column break of sorts. This was a random number but turned out to be fortuitous in that it’s a prime number. She said George Olsen does that too (see wide-open page).

She spoke of drawing coloured lines of connected and re-occurring themes and ideas through the grid to create streams or weave. I said that I thought her work lends itself to hypertext and she agreed. Her work is like a precursor to hypertext, she’s asking your brain to create and recognise the analog hyperlinks (I guess many poets do this in a way but hers seems very intentional).

So I now feel like I’ve confirmed a starting point to trace this kind of writing back to and that it is a valid notion. I am also relieved that it seems to begin with the Modernist, since that is as far back as I wanted to go when exploring the influence on the contemporary poets.

So that’s where I’m at…

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Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 24th December, 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wishing you all a wonderful 2012.

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New year, new project

Tuesday, 20th December, 2011

So I have some news. I feel very happy and nervous abut it but I also feel keenly aware that while I have good news some friends, who are extremely talented, have had bad news or are unable to take up the offer due to damn financial constraints.

So the news is that I have accepted an offer of study towards a PhD in creative writing at the IIML to start in March 2012.

It will be part-time study so I can continue to work part-time.

The PhD has two componants; creative and critical. For my creative component I intend to write a collection of poetry exploring the intersect between people and technology. For my critical component I intend to explore the use of science in the works of Jorie Graham, Lavinia Greenlaw and Robert Crawford. These things may, of course, alter slightly over the next few years.

I'll be using this blog as my reading journal next year but I'm hoping to continue with the interviews, poems and other booky stuff too.

I just want to say thank you to all my friends, family and everyone else who reads this blog and supports my work. None of it would have happened without your support.


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The Comforter - a give-away

Monday, 5th December, 2011

This weekend gone I had the good fortune to attend what I think may be my favourite book launch ever. My dear friend Helen Lehndorf's long awaited book of poetry - 'The Comforter', published by another wonderful Helen, Helen Rickerby of Seraph Press.

Emma McCleary has already done an excellent brief of the launch on her blog. So I'll just say it was a truely lovely afternoon and steal a couple of images from Helen's flickr stream.

The book itself is 'a beautiful object' as Pip Adam said in her launch speech. The poems are beautiful too. You can win a copy by leaving a comment here but I also urge you to buy a copy, you'll be supporting an excellent poet and wonderful small publisher! The winner will be drawn on Friday night NZ time.

Bravo Helens!


Karlo Mila, Janis Freegard, me.


Emma serving 'Comforter' punch


Signing books.

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Guest post from Susan Pearce: I like using my Kindle

Sunday, 2nd October, 2011

Susan Pearce

The NYPR programme Radiolab broadcast a very good podcast on time perception . It includes the story of a woman with lupus who suffers acute short-term memory loss and as a result is an excellent very long-distance runner. She runs those three-week races through the Arizona desert where you (certainly not I) run for 23 hours and sleep for one hour, or something like that.


Her advantage over other runners is that around the tenth day, they’re not only carrying their backpacks and water but also the weight of the knowledge and resentment that they’ve been running ten days and they must be mad to have thought they ever wanted to and maybe they’d like to stop. The woman with memory loss doesn’t remember how long she’s been running: she simply knows that she needs to run.


(I haven’t listened again to check the details, by the way. Remember what Ondaatje says about novelists needing a bad memory. That’s me.)


Anyway, this story reminds me of the effect of my Kindle on my reading.


I love using my Kindle. It’s funny that the word ‘using’ presented itself to me just then. ‘I like reading from my Kindle’. That sounds odd. You can read a book, but you can’t read a Kindle. The Kindle is merely the technology which transmits words to my brain via the movement of photons bouncing off that pearlised, non-glare screen. Without the text - the author’s ideas and work - it would be nothing.


But without text there’d be nothing to a book, either, except its pages and binding. A ‘book’ in this sense is more accurately called a codex: the technology of binding pages together and giving them a cover. (You can imagine a 3 CE Facebook scroll-status: “Just visited the Oracle. She reckons those clunky square-edged codexes aren’t destined to catch on – says scrolls give you a more flowing sense of the meaning, come closer to emulating life’s cyclic nature, type of thing.”)


We’ve long been used to collapsing the identity of a specific codex, its cover design and typography, together with the ideas, poetry or narrative it contains. A hard-copy book takes on the memories and impressions of its reader. The books on my shelves are bound up with the conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues about them, where I acquired them, and my ideas of the person (people?) I was when I first read them.


But I have to admit that the Kindle is making me into a better reader, and for that and the excitement associated with reading, I love it.


Normally I read ludicrously fast (unless it’s non-fiction, or I’m going to review the book or assess a manuscript), absorbing chunks of text for a story-drugged escape and the pay-off. That wouldn’t matter if I only wanted to read for fun, but language and narrative and ideas are how I see the world, and developing my understanding of how they work is vital to what I do.


When I first took possession of my Kindle, I tried reading a few pages of Pride and Prejudice (pre-loaded onto it by the lovely person who gave it to me). The reading felt boggily slow. When I tried to figure out why, I realised that usually I read up and down the page as well as from side to side, and scan across to the facing page to check whether there’s anything more scintillating going on there, skipping to dialogue and action. Sure, call me shallow. Only a love for language and composition and an intense interest in human behaviour has prevented me from becoming a James Patterson or Dan Brown fan.


For those who haven’t yet viewed a Kindle, its screen behaves only a little like a paper page. The lines are much shorter, and in the font size I’m reading at (about 12 point) it fits around 230 words – a couple of meaty paragraphs. I’m currently reading The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Green, and it takes five screens to get through a single page of the edition. Because I see fewer words at a time, I read more meditatively. I’m less distracted, and the ideas seem to sink more deeply into me.


Both The Fabric of the Cosmos and Anna Karenina (my previous Kindle read) are weighty books. I don’t have a good history with weighty books. In a swotty way I like their challenge, but about a third of the way through, I feel the pressure of all those unread pages on my right wrist. The story’s great, I think, but still so far to go. Even if I slog through to the end, my pleasure in the story is diminished because finishing it has begun to feel like a duty.


The Kindle, on the other hand, weighs the same no matter how much I’ve read. It tells me at the bottom of the screen what percentage of the book I’ve finished, and there’s even a little visual indicator (a bar that slowly fills from the left), but that’s more abstract: it doesn’t affect me in the same way as would a bunch of actual paper. As a result, a little like the long-distance runner with memory loss, I focus more closely on the words in front of me and think less about how far I have to go.


I don’t want to do all my reading on a Kindle. Codex-books with their designed covers and tactile pages possess more dimensions and reach more of my senses than the Kindle. They seem imbued with more spirit, feel friendlier – perhaps that’s down to our shared essence of carbon – and are immeasurably more attractive. I’m looking at a collection of spines on my desk that include Further Convictions Pending, Towards Another Summer, Marcus Chown, Wulf, Gifted, Sport 38 and Strange Meetings. It’s soothing and exciting just to run my eyes along them. However, I think everyone who’s watching is agreed that for better or worse, this time round it won’t take several centuries for the balance between old and new technologies to shift.


Susan Pearce is the author of Acts of Love and a number of short stories. She teaches the Short Fiction course for Victoria University Continuing Education and sometimes writes about books and writing at swimmingwithbooks.


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Belated Tuesday Poem: a voice that’s not the same as hers by Maria McMillan

Tuesday, 13th September, 2011

As a follow up to this morning's post here is a mix & mash entry by Maria McMillan:

a voice that’s not the same as hers


Under the trees in Victoria Park certain grasses

bleed. I shave parts of my skull to the scalp.

My old woman loses speech. The morning’s tai chi

moves like seaweed as we move our pockets full


of river rocks and jam jars our house made of bamboo

you fill it up and it fills up and you’ve filled

it up. And there it is. Whole mornings whole.

Afternoons. Cut and grow. Cut and crush.


I had a knife and you had shoulder blades and

a hollow chamber making dream words making

tyre swings and fresh water crabs, crackers and

boiled lollies. We scramble into the goat


cave and sit on wooden beer crates. We stay

until it gets dark. It takes two years. The rain

rattles. I press my ear to the smooth sodden

green turf. The goat shit. I see all this from the link


bus window. You go away and come back

different people. None of the hair I have now

knew you when you still knew me.

There’s a call from home. Shadow stands up.



Uses Helen Lehndorf "Tincture", Ian Wedde, "Shadow Stands Up" and Emma Barnes, "Don't Lean Away"


All made available through Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.


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Tuesday Poem but not here...It's not too late

Monday, 12th September, 2011


Ok, so this isn't a Tuesday Poem but it's pointing you to one. It's not too late to enter this year's mix & mash.

Check out Sarah Jane Barnett's amazing entry on her blog. 

Also just up is Harvest Bird's entry.

In the Literature Remix category you take two or more creative commons works listed on the page and rework them into a new piece. You could win $2,000 and be published in an ebook by Mebooks.

Go on, have a go! 


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Tuesday Poem: Years with a Husband by Tim Jones

Monday, 5th September, 2011


Men Briefly Explained

Years with a Husband


Stone to her water

his edges eroded slowly

leaving the core in place.

He was immovable

from desk, chair,

or opinion,

the slave and exemplar

of routine.


If she let him

he would wear those clothes —

scuffed fawn trousers,

frayed blue shirt —

till eternity,

till kingdom come.

He would vote the same way,

express the same


lawn bowls, modern art, the very thought

of a Pacific holiday.

Their son

she now saw

was growing stony too.

She blamed testosterone

and private schools.


Still, there was this:

that as she stretched and changed

rode the courses of her life

her husband would always be there,

blunt, imperceptive, abrupt:

her rock.


"Years with a Husband" is included in Tim Jones' new poetry collection "Men Briefly Explained", published by Interactive Press (Brisbane) and now available from Amazon as a paperback or Kindle ebook. "Men Briefly Explained" will be launched by Interactive Press in October 2011, together with Keith Westwater's debut collection, "Tongues of Ash". Details of the launch events will appear on Tim's blog. 

Tim last appeared here with a Summer Poem. He has a gentle sense of humour and his work really feels true.

For more Tuesday Poems go to the Tuesday Poem hub.

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Tuesday Poem: Lagoon by Rhian Gallagher

Monday, 29th August, 2011




A navigation has been made,

black swans and spoonbills

come back through all kinds of weather.


Harvest done. Soon they will start again,

rounding the plough, dry summer clods

buried in new dark furrows.


The bristled hills reach for each other

across the gully, creek makes its way there

ends in a pool with this after-sea.


Lagoon is a gathering place, waters

merge; birds find their float

and hutch and settle,


return is an instinct. Things I’ve known,

hair cut close on a woman’s neck, and how they vanish

and how they leave a touch in memory.


Return is an instinct or else it’s a wild dream

bending me to this slow water,

scud of foam and kelp,

long flying days unwind


come down. This summer

with its un-companioned course

steers me in.



Rhian Gallagher’s first poetry collection, Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, London, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. Gallagher received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award in 2008. Gallagher is also the author of a non-fiction book, Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson, (South Canterbury Museum, 2010).

'Lagoon' comes from Rhian Gallagher’s second collection Shift (forthcoming from AUP), which, as the blurb says - "encompasses a departure from London, where she lived for eighteen years, and a return to the pines and paddocks of the South Island. This mid-life shift involves acts of retrieval, confrontations with loss and movements towards renewal"

I find this poem very sensual, melancholy and almost electric with anticipation underneath the gentle language. I'm grateful to be sharing this preview of the collection with you and looking forward to reading the whole collection.

For more Tuesday Poems go to the Tuesday Poem hub.



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