Win a Free Writing Workshop! Guest post from Sara Blackthorne

Monday, 20th December, 2010

Sara Blackthorne

Win a Free Writing Workshop!

Sara Blackthorne is a writer, editor, and novice photographer living in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. She loves to knit, read, and ride her bicycle everywhere. Stay tuned for an upcoming writing workshop for women about finding the courage to tell your own story by checking out her blog or following her on Twitter. You may remember her as a previous Tuesday Poet.

Sara is running workshop focused on digging into your spirit to discover and release your true personal narrative. Running from December 21st, 2010 to February 1st, 2011. Due to the short notice I'll give the place away to the first to comment on this post. You can read about the writing workshop here. I would totally recommend it, Sara is lovely.

Here's a message from the lovely Sara:

For me, accepting my creativity and allowing in inspiration has been a long journey of healing and recovery. As a teen I would spend hours writing every day, infused with ideas and wonder. One day my English teacher made a passing comment that, while my writing was good, I would never succeed. In a fit of dramatics (as only I can provide), I followed my classmates to the cafeteria and proceeded to shred every one of my poems. All of them. Luckily, some classmates found a roll of scotch tape and re-assembled all of the work, but I was scarred. It took nearly two years to begin writing again, and only in the privacy of my journal. It wasn't until I was 15 and a new teacher suggested I submit a poem to a local literary journal that I felt I could really write. When the poem was accepted, and I read it aloud at the reception, I knew I was truly home again. Since that poem was published, I have struggled with letting inspiration into my heart, but I do not doubt that creativity lives inside each of us, and we need to nurture the quiet voice we all have. "Hidden at the Root" is one way that I am able to guide and nurture the creative voice inside others. Using tools and exercises I discovered through my own bleak writing times, my hope is that you will discover the path to your own core truth and write/paint/photograph/create from that wise and wonderful place. It is my own goal of being a catalyst for positive change that drives me to support and nurture the creative in every person -- especially women. My story is not unique. Many young girls and women find themselves silenced -- and we carry that silence throughout our lives. No one else can tell your unique story, and my work is to offer a safe and encouraging environment to explore that silence and the strong, beautiful voice waiting within.

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Tuesday Poem: East by Emma Alvarez Gibson

Monday, 6th December, 2010

Emma Alvarez Gibson




On dark country roads the stars shine

onto my head, the smell of wet earth

enters through open windows

while I fly out,

gliding just above the open space,

and the sound is wide, smooth ribbon.

An ice age thaws

while empires burn down,

the beginning and

the end,

and I’m home.


Emma's worked in the entertainment, publishing, automotive, spa and food service industries, and was quite arguably the world’s worst waitress. She's also co-founded a theater production company, co-wrote, co-produced and performed in a two-woman stage play, and once performed a Shakira song in Spanish at a fundraiser.  She loves stories about Antarctic exploration, her trusty Canon Rebel, red lipstick, a good gin and tonic, and graph paper. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter, she's also the mastermind behind Jack Move magazine and a great laugh.

I love this little-big moment the poem brings us, dream-like and sensual. I love the line 'and the sound is a wide, smooth ribbon.' The poem is tiny but well formed and it holds huge things. Lovely.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the hub


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Weekend web reading

Tuesday Poem: The First Drummer Boy of Xmas by Jennifer Compton

Monday, 29th November, 2010




The First Drummer Boy of Xmas


Yesterday I was at the Mall and I heard

my first rendition of Little Drummer Boy.

Dear Lawd above - I said to myself -

Xmas is hard upon us. For our sins.

It is time to head down the back paddock

with the chain saw and harvest a likely tree.

But alas, we have moved away from the place

that has feral and unwanted pine trees aplenty


which as far as I can see are basically weeds

although the local squatter made good money


selling them up in the Big Smoke come December.

What useless things they are. You can't eat them,


they don't burn well, they flare up and spit resin,

they poison the ground around them, nothing grows.


Except toadstools. Plump and gaudy like Xmas bells.

Deck them for their brief season, then chuck them.


At our new house I found the corpse of Xmas past

under the lemon tree. I put it on the burning pile.


Roll on autumn. Pa rum pa pa rum.



Jennifer Compton

Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington and now lives in Melbourne. Her book of poetry - Barefoot - was published by Picaro Press in May 2010. Her new stage play - The Third Age - which she completed while the Visiting Literary Artist at Massey this year, recently had a rehearsed reading by Khandallah Arts Theatre. In 2011 she will be a guest at Sarajevo Poetry days.

Jennifer recently won The Kathleen Grattan Award with her manuscript 'This City', which will be published by Otago University Press on National Poetry Day, July 2011. This poem is from that manuscript.

We thought this would be a fun poem to post as we enter the Christmas season. Congratulations Jennifer!

For more Tuesday Poems visit the hub.


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Weekend web reading

Quick Ten with Keri Smith

Monday, 22nd November, 2010


Keri Smith is a much loved writer / illustrator turned guerilla artist. I'm thrilled she agreed to be interviewed, I love her work.

She is the author of many bestselling books about creativity including the bestselling Wreck this Journal (2007, Perigee), How to be an Explorer of the World –the Portable Life/Art Museum (2008, Perigee), The Guerilla Art Kit (2007, Princeton Architectural Press), Living Out Loud – Activities to Fuel a Creative Life (2003, Chronicle Books) and Tear up this Book! :The Sticker, Stencil, Stationery, Games, Crafts, Doodle, And Journal Book For Girls!  (2005, American Girl). Her newest book is Mess: A Manual of Accidents and Mistakes (2010, Penguin Books). I've got several of her books, they are really clever and lots of fun!

Keri spends her days playing with her husband and son, reading, cooking and writing books. She teaches part time at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver B.C.

Keri answers questions about community, politics in art and the contagiousness of delight. She has a great Flickr stream and you can connect with her on Facebook.

Some of these questions were donated by the fabulous Helen Lehndorf.


HH: You've created a real community around you. How important is mentoring to you?

KS: While I have not done much of the one-on-one mentoring, I am currently teaching a class in illustration which is a form of mentoring to me. I believe that it is important to give back once you reach a certain point in your career, when you've figured out what is important to you and what you think the world needs to know. Or another tactic is if you were only able to communicate three things to others, what would they be? That's one way to figure out what is important for you to share with the world. I've been thinking about it a lot during this teaching process, it's a fascinating journey.



HH: How do you know when to stop giving? Do you feel drained or invigorated by giving? Where's the cut off point?

KS: This is a good question and the answer is probably very personal. I think each of us has to learn where our own boundaries lie, often the hard way. You will know you are giving too much because you will feel drained of energy. I am in a bit of a challenging place with it in the last year as I am now receiving more requests than I can handle (a good thing, yes), but it's hard when you want to try and help everyone who writes and can't. My cutoff point has changed lately as I feel that I need to reserve as much energy as possible for my books and for my family.



HH: "Everyone is an artist" - Joseph Beuys. What would you say to critics of this quote?

KS: That depends on the critic. Some of the critics are purists who want to believe in art as something that only a talented few can partake in. And most others are people who have been told, usually at a young age, that they were not creative (and never would be). These people carry this label around with them and feel unable to break free of it. It is my opinion that these perceptions can be changed, but it takes a bit of work.

I might also add that the Joseph Beuys quote was set in a specific time period (60's & 70's), meaning it Beuys was responding to the social and political climate of the time, (one in which artists were still striving to move out of a traditional place.) Ironically I feel we are still working to do this fourty years later.



HH: How important are politics to your creativity?

KS: Very. and more so the older I get. I see it as my job to question things out in the world, especially things that I feel are unfair, disturbing, and inhumane. I also feel it is the artist's role to hold a mirror up to the world in an attempt to let us see what is really going on. While my own work is not overtly political, I see myself as an activist who is dedicated to helping people to question things around them and hopefully see them in a different light. I am particularly interested in tuning people into the natural world, because you can't care about that which you don't even notice. It is my hope that just by starting to tune into the little things we will be able to see how everything is connected, and therefore much less likely to cause harm. I like to think I can trick people into caring. I know on the surface you could say that my books are slightly gimmicky, but I assure you there is a LOT more in there if you take the time to look and really experience them.



HH: The micro/macro seem to be quite a focus for you. Do you think the micro reflects / builds the macro, like fractals?

KS: My work deals mainly with looking at things from different perspectives. I believe that playing with scale is one way to shift our perception about something. It can also be quite enjoyable and a bit absurdist. I also quite enjoy things that delve into the realm of absurd. It's important not to take life too seriously.

I am not sure about your question as it delves into more of the scientific side of things (which I love to explore), while I exist mostly on the imaginary side. I would like to investigate it further.



HH: How has your online life grown / changed? Have you ever struggled with your increasing 'fame'?

KS: This is a tough question, especially lately. I hesitate to write much as I feel like I could fill pages with my thoughts on the online world. I believe the internet has really fueled my career and in part made it what it is today. I love the possibilities that exist with a connected world, and get excited about shaping the new technology in some way. When I started there were not many blogs out in the world, the medium was very new and people were still deciding how to develop it, what form would it eventually take? I have always felt it important to write from the heart and share my ideas, thoughts and experiences with the world. I still do this, but I find myself being a little (a lot) more protective of my personal life as my 'popularity' increased, especially since having a child two years ago. I am very adamant about not putting m son's life online, I feel strongly that it should be his own decision when he is old enough whether he wants aspects of his life to be public or not (it is not for me to share). I think our current culture is not doing enough thinking and questioning about the repercussions of making our lives public online, there will be many things that we can not anticipate. I often wonder what it would feel like to turn 15 and realize that your whole life had been shared and viewed online by millions of people without anyone asking you if that was what you wanted. Wouldn't you feel violated? Or would it just be something you accepted because everyone else was doing it too? What if you were an extremely private person?



HH: How do you hold fast to your core values through everything that comes with increased exposure and attention?

KS: Funny, I just wrote a little piece about that.  I find myself much more centered with my core values these days (having a child helps with this).



HH: I really love your call to "Act Now". What roles do you think "The Muse" and procrastination play in creativity?

KS: I constantly espouse the values and necessity of procrastination play. Most of my best ideas come when I am supposed to be working on something else. Never question your need to avoid work. I don't really think too much about "the muse" in the traditional sense. I'm more of the "make time" mentality, and the ideas will appear (at some point).



HH: Do you think that delight and playfulness is contagious?

KS: Yes.


Wait. Here, I'll prove it to you.

I became totally excited today after reading a story about Peter Buchannan-Smith, a big designer who was going through a hellish life crisis (his business was failing, his wife was leaving him, he had to sell his beloved house). During this time he took a canoeing trip to Algonquin Park a place he had spent a lot of time as a child. While there he did a lot of thinking about when he felt the happiest in his life and realized that the camping trips where a microcosm of everything that was great and beautiful (I'm paraphrasing all of this). He decided to start a company that was based on these feelings, so he began selling the best made ax he could find, and told his stories about what the ax represented for him. The axes are selling like crazy now. I think because we all have similar stories of simple things that delighted us as children. And we are all dying to get in touch with those things we feel we are disconnected from now. Mainly, things that have nothing to do with technology, money and consumerism.

If that doesn't convince you watch a small child playing with a toy he/she loves.



HH: What are you reading at the moment?

KS: I am reading "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet" an illustrated novel about a 12 year old genius who makes "maps" of his everyday life. It's very charming.



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Tuesday Poem: The Cartographer's moll by Natasha Dennerstein

Sunday, 21st November, 2010




If I could draw a map of my heart,

the raw regions exposed would be

where strips of you were not wrapped.


If I could draw a map of my brain

there would be tunnels and a labyrinth

with false leads ending in you – or not.


If I drew a map of my body, those

lumps would be bite marks left by

you, my contours swollen with you.


A map of my life would be cris-crossed

with traces of you and covered in references

to you and destinations we had been.


Co-ordinates would indicate where

you had been and wanted to go and

the places where I wouldn't let you in.


That map would cover vast areas of

me and magnetic South would point to

you and I would be facing true North.


You have lain your rail-lines across

my ranges and my terrain

has been forever changed.


Natasha Dennerstein

photo by Rebecca Swan

Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne of a family originating in Poland and Russia. She is currently living and studying in Wellington. She has been a psychiatric nurse for twenty years, which has given her an interesting perspective on the human condition and has been writing creatively most of her adult life.

Natasha says:

"I was thinking about colonization at a time in my life when I was thinking about love and relationships a lot. It occurred to me that the two processes have a lot in common, the invasion of one by another, the alteration in identity of the colonized. I was also looking at old maps and these ideas all converged to work out in this poem. It is a highly personal poem which I hope also transcends the personal. I like the ultimate stanza the most."

For more Tuesday Poems visit the hub.

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Tuesday Poem: tell your mama by Michele Leggott

Sunday, 14th November, 2010

Mirabile Dictu by Michele Leggott

tell your mama


it's the third of March   your birthday

and you would be seventy nine   my sister

wishes you were around to talk about

making mouths work   oromotor dyspraxia

in the beautiful language of clinicians

I see the little horse projected

in the stairwell by strong morning light

the equinox is on its way

mama we miss you   twenty five years

motor out of our mouths   yes

five foot four and shrinking   we'd like

to have had those years those jokes

those tickings off   the light has shifted

on its bearings   birds eat the figs

apples fall from the trees

let me tell you about the sky-blue stick

whose stories have just begun


Te Kikorangi we could call it

almost as good as the blue from Kapiti

we eat when the good times roll

pick it up and the weight of the sky

but also its cool panorama

communicate in a nano that sends

your fingers to find the silver collars

the white on blue smile of magnolias

traced out in reverse   and the circlet

hammered with tiny nails by the silversmith

who wanted to leave them proud   fire seeds

talking back to the birds in the trees


and I would know you   looking up

from the page   by the feel of you

blue chalk going down on the pavement

as the skies open   if I were blind

not a white stick but a sky mama

a pole of wind for the child

waving wildly about in the tree


I open the window after the storm

that washed away the chalkers' poems

almost as they were written   white on blue

the sky smiles again   the stick unscrews

in four pieces   it is a pool cue mama

looking for a good time to come

its stories are at work in our mouths

as the birds fly up in a white spray

that begins their autumn migrations



The inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate (2008-9) Michele Leggott MNZM is an awardwinning poet and literary scholar. Born in Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand, in 1956, she now lives on Auckland’s North Shore with her family and is a Professor of English at The University of Auckland and the founding Director of the new zealand electronic poetry centre.

She has represented New Zealand at festivals in Portugal, Berlin and South Africa and ran the nzepc trans Tasman symposium of poetics in 2010 - ‘Home & Away'.

tell your mama is from Michele's latest collection Mirabile Dictu (AUP), which came out of her term as the first New Zealand Poet Laureate.

Paula Green (in the NZ Herald) said of the collection:

As she moves through time and place, Leggott carries two sticks: a white stick to guide her failing eyes and the laureate gift, a blue tokotoko (Te Kihorangi) to act as her poetic guide...The collection reads as a glorious continuum with neither full stops to mark ends, nor capital letters to denote beginnings. It is as though we, too, can absorb the stumbles and the dark patches, the richness and the heavenly light.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Hub.



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Weekend web reading

Thursday, 11th November, 2010

Christmas gifts for those literary mates.

When is a book not a book? Here and here.

The mindset we need isn't the positive-thinking mantra that failure is impossible; it's that failures are inevitable...

Honeycomb Home.

Random House reduces it's New York offices.

What has become of the eccentrics in the ranks of our professors?

New Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize - Bernadette Hall judging.

I’ve written the same book three times. I just somehow got away with it. – Kazuo Ishiguro.

E Ink unveils first colour e-reader.

Free knowledge

Fun Brainstormer to kick off your writing.

Public speaking? Wear a good bra ladies.

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Tuesday Poem: Justine by Helen Heath

Sunday, 7th November, 2010


There’s no point trying to
stop your Ugg boots from scuffing
on the ground, it’s just
the nature of Ugg boots. Anyways
there’s no hurry. You’re thinking
about those Black Sabbath lyrics
and him singing in a metal falsetto
in the garage by the beer fridge. One
hand on his Holden Torana to steady himself
the other holding a spliff the size of a cigar.


Finished with my woman
’cause she cannot help me with my miiind . . .


But then the wind picks up
and you feel as if it could lift you
right out of your boots
and take you past the firebreaks
on the hill. But it can’t be The Rapture
’cause you’re only just above the houses
and the river, which slides over
the shingle beds
and out to sea. Besides, you know
you’re a sinner and you can’t ascend.



I'm posting one of mine this week that has just gone live at The 4th Floor Journal. I urge you to go and have a look at the other fantastic writing they have up.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the hub.

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