Thursday, August 26, 2021

In honour of a day honouring poetry ...

 It's New Zealand Poetry Day today!! All sorts of things were planned but we are in Level 4 Lockdown (the strongest type of lockdown) so things have gone online. In honour of a day honouring poetry I thought I'd share some of my own poetry online, too. 

The first poem, Fancy, is one for children. I wrote this years ago when some friends were visiting one bright sunny day and their youngest was getting a bit close to the lavender bush which had a few bees hovering around it. This poem appears in A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children (ed. Paula Green, Random House, 2014).


Don’t pick the flowers

the bees might follow you home

the cows will come for the buttercups

forget themselves

and eat your grass

leaving little half moons in the mud

that remind you

of Milky Way nights

and cream and honey on your porridge in the morning

The second poem, The Meaning of Life, is for grown ups. It appeared on Paula Green's NZ Poetry Shelf blog June 21st this year (which you can check out here). 

The Meaning of Life

I am not here

I am here

I am not here to ask why I am here

I am here to find answers

I am not here for you

I am here for me

I am not here to demand meaning

or faith

in anything except myself

I am here the only thing I can be sure of

and here I am not so sure

When I am no longer here

the Earth may show as little

or as much care

as if

I was never here

And last but not least, here are some New Zealand writers for young people (including moi) reading some poems they love in celebration of this wonderful art form, on Paula Green's Poetry Box (A New Zealand poetry page for children) with some great poetry writing challenges for children included. Click here.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Well that took an unexpected turn ...

Hi there ('waves') - long time no see. Between having not a lot to say and many things to do I have not blogged for a long time but I suddenly find myself stuck in a motel room in the deep south (Invercargill) in level four lockdown, in limbo while I wait for the right time this evening to head to the airport and catch a plane home to Auckland. So I thought I'd write a post and fill you in on my latest adventures ...

A week ago I was setting off on a ten day odyssey. First down to Wellington for one night to attend the New Zealand Childrens and Young Adults Book Awards (NZCYA) in my role as NZSA representative on the Book Awards Trust. What a lovely warm, positive event it was, full of collegiality, community and joy. It was fantastic to see all the different groups that love and support children's and young adult literature come together to celebrate the cream of the book crop. I returned home the next day, packing and repacking so I could leave early the next morning with my SO/Personal Patron of the Arts to drive down to Hamilton. I visited Southwell School and had a fun morning talking creative writing with some of their Year 7s. We got the chance to visit Hamilton Gardens in the afternoon once the rain had shifted and if you are ever in that part of New Zealand I encourage you to check out this fabulous free treat. It's like the tardis in there with something new and unexpected around every corner. And you don't have to be a gardener to appreciate what this place has to offer.

On Saturday I shared a morning event with fellow writer Karen McMillan, talking about our books, creative writing for children, ideas and imagination. In the afternoon I ran a workshop on writing Fiction for Children for 26 participants

and then it was back in the car to return home. 

The following morning I flew to Invercargill to start a Storylines Tour of schools in Southland with a crew of 3 other authors (Sue Copsey, Kate De Goldi and Pauline Smith), and a mum and dad to take care of us, driver Peter and expert wrangler Rosemary. Our school visits on Monday and Tuesday went really well. The schools were welcoming, and the students were engaged and beautifully behaved. We visited bigger schools in town and smaller schools in more rural areas. At my first visit on Tuesday morning I spoke to 296 students ranging from new entrants to year 8, and my last visit of the day was a shared chat with the entire school (six students) at Glenham. 

(My fellow author Sue Copsey is not checking social media but is taking a photo of the students as we take a closer look at one of the illustrations in The Were-Nana).

(The gang's all here [almost] - Me, Sue, Rosemary Tisdall, Pauline Smith and Kate De Goldi at the last supper on Tuesday night, with Peter Mercer taking the photo).

It already felt like we were making an impact. And then in the afternoon there was a reported case of covid in the community in Auckland. At dinner we received the alert - level 4 lockdown across the country. Flights home were hastily rearranged as we shared our last meal together, our tour ended prematurely, just as we were hitting our stride. 

It would be fair to say I'm feeling pretty disappointed we can't see this through. These things are months in the planning with the four authors carefully scheduled across 31 schools and several thousand students. Driving times and talk times are carefully calculated and there are also the logistics of flights and accommodation for everyone involved.  These things can't be helped and I'm glad we got through two full days and met some wonderful children. I hope we made a difference. I certainly feel like the children have changed me...

So now I'm sitting in a motel room waiting for midday to turn into late afternoon taking the slow road with packing my suitcase. It is a weird time. I have everything crossed that this quick, hard response means the virus doesn't get the chance to get too far. I know these things get worse before they get better but swift, decisive action has been taken and I will be doing my part. Stay safe people, do all the things (mask, scan, distancing, hand washing and get tested if you feel unwell) and see you on the other side soon. I have other things to tell you ...