Monday, 4 December 2017

Signs of the times

This week we went for a short walk down Princes Street with our notebooks, noting down words from various signs in shops, on passing trucks, on buildings and windows. It didn't take long to fill up a page, then the tricky part - putting them together into a piece of poetry. Not easy but good fun.


let nothing perish
collect up the moas of designs
that have long celebrated their birthday parties
in the trash sak of history
the warehouse of the antiquated and outdated
is open for viewing
sit and drink your daily coffee
and eat your homemade pies
while the dealers and restorers do their work
patching with needle n thread
the retro clothing store thrives
and the pawnbrokers are alert for a bargain
there are 2nd hand books in custom uniform editions
and a bus stop right outside the studio and gallery
the choice is unlimited and the quality
is guaranteed
anything else is a compromise

- Helen Ledger


You'd be lucky to get a Persian cupid
They're in limited supply
You might get a free consultation
at the Zen attic
If you can pull together some
better moves
Every day is a new adventure
Behold, a new style!
A retro sensation!
Be open, be free
Beware - a wolf in sheep's clothing!
Swigging alcohol in a banned area
As dead souls drink purple rain
Believe me, the visual effects
are electric!
Blue oysters thrive behind the counter
Be bold, it's a sign of things to come
Dial up now for a viewing
Or clear-off before we perish
inside the great sensation
of an invented life.

- Paul Smith

Monday, 20 November 2017

Robbie Burns Poems

For the past couple of weeks we have been working on poems inspired by the life and work of Robbie Burns. Prompted in part by a competition run by the library and the Dunedin Burns Club as part of our City of Literature programme. Not everyone will enter their poems but it has been an interesting challenge. The first two poems relate to Robbie and the last was from an exercise to write a poem describing something in detail (in 5 minutes or less!).


Tho' I loved you dressed in pink
I couldn't believe we fell in the drink
Even tho' you were dressed in beige
I never thought we would be engaged
Tho' the river was swift and strong
I always believed that we belonged
You tried so hard to be my wife
But you couldn't swim to save my life
Now I'm gone, my life cut short
Please still wear the ring I bought

- Haki Davis


Wha' hae to ye, Robbie
we'll drain a wee bit dram
the finest whiskey in the land
fit for the gills o' the bishop
sitting in St Paul's
and looking o'er the image
o' the man that scandalised yon Presbyterians
wi' his women and wine
they'd ha' none o' him near First Church
wi' his respectable nephew as minister

I love to sit by the banks of the Leith
and dream of Scotland's brownish heath
and read of Robbie's sinful ways
atoning for his passionate lays.

- Helen Ledger


You sit so still
Upon your seat
Pen in hand
Birds at your feet

Inspiration is at hand
You see a pretty lady pass
Oh if only you could lie
Together on the grass

And a sip of whiskey
Would not go amiss
What more could he want?
Perhaps a wee kiss

Dreams are free
So the saying goes
So keep on dreaming
Until the rooster crows

- Paul Smith


High in the sky, burning in the sky
Green, blue, yellow and bright
Travelling to Black Jack's point in the night

- Haki Davis

Monday, 30 October 2017

Blessings and Family Stories

This week we continued the theme of blessings/karakia and whakapapa/family connections. Mainly because we had a bunch of people who hadn't done it before. We tried out using the pepeha/personal introduction as inspiration for a creative or family story. One is included here, hopefully more in future.


Bless this gift of food
Prepared by many hands
Many cooks won't spoil this broth
May your belly swell with pleasure

- Robert McFelan

God of wild berries and cultivated kumara, god of freshwater trout and seafood gathered from the beach, god of barn and chickens and free roaming deer; by the hand of the hunter, the farmer and the fisherman, this food has come to us. As we eat, let us acknowledge their work and Your provision. Let us eat to satisfaction, but not to excess, mindful of demands on earth and sea; let us strive in gratitude to return to You what You have given us.

- Helen Ledger

We all came together the same way
Mother nature bless us today
Thank you for the kai to make us strong
From young as babies as we carry on
Let us enjoy this meal for all
And help our talents big or small
Bring us luck and enjoy our kai
Thank you Lord, kapai
In Jesus' name, Amene

- Vincent Clayton


The 'Bangalore' left England in 1853 with the Jackson family on it. They sailed over to New Zealand which took about three months. After the boat landed in Lyttleton, they got off and looked around in dismay. Only a couple of houses and a long walk over the Port Hills greeted them. Struggling up the hill they saw the Canterbury Plains stretching into the distance, covered in bush with only a small settlement of houses in Christchurch. The family consisted of mother, two daughters, six or more sons, a son-in-law and grand daughter. My great-great-grandfather, Ambrose Jackson, was about eight at the time. The family settled in Papanui where the elder boys worked with bricks. Ambrose eventually lived in Waimate by the Hunter Hills where he was a fruit grower.

- Gail Palmer


The 'Flying Mist' arrived on a windswept rainy day. William, Helen and baby Euphemia looked out at this new land. Their new home. They had travelled across the oceans for three months to arrive to weather that was all too familiar to this young Scottish family. Well, at least it can't get worse they thought. As they got closer to land they saw it looming up ahead - the monro they later learned was called 'Bluff Hill'. They looked at their possessions and wondered how they were going to get themselves up and over this monster.

- Christine Philp

Monday, 16 October 2017


Today we tried our hand at writing a blessing with the thought that these could be used at Artsenta or events. In Maori tradition there are three main blessings or karakia - one for opening an event or meeting, one for closing and one for food. The first below is for an opening and the other three are blessings for food.

Our Father we thank you for your kindness
We uphold your name in this place
Great and mighty God of this place
Bless us
End all hostilities as we gather together
Let us gather together and remember
Those who have gone before us
Let us gather together and remember
Those who are alive
We pray your blessings on us and our children
May the God of peace guide us
For these blessings we pray
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

- Haki Davis

Mother nature brought us here today
We give thanks and praise
Acknowledgement of our weaknesses and strengths
For the well being of this kai
Keep us safe together
For the enjoyment of all walks of life
We are truly thankful
Go forward with strength, honour and respect
For all of our talents

- Vincent Clayton

Lord God,
Give us this day our daily bread,
To fill us up from our toes to our head.
We give thanks to those who made our food,
Once we're all fed, we'll have a good mood.
We also give thanks for the land and sea,
Meat and veges, oh let it be.
Bless this food we are about to receive,
We hope it's yum so we don't all leave.

- Katie-Rose McRobbie

Shakespeare said:
'If music be the food of love - play on!'
      I say:
'If food be the music of love - dig in!
But enjoy it slowly
Savour each mouthful
Have enough, but not too much
Share the bounty with your friends
Give and you will receive
Good karma

- Paul Smith

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Artsenta Writer, Recent Works

A Collection of Recent Works by Eleanor Harrison

How to Define Oneself
A Collector of Found Objects,
A listener, a reflector, A Gazer
A Woman, A writer! A maker,
A Polymath! An opener, A Potter,
An Unconditional Leo Lover,
A Capricorn Moon, An Observer,
A Cancer Sun with Libra Rising,
The Balancer,
The Passive yet Stern.,
I finally know what I want and how to speak,
How to be productive,
How to be Alone.
How to treat others consistency with love and respect,
A Giver of Time,
An abundance of Ideas,
A survivor of Cruel Experiences,
that did not come close to shattering my essence;
for I have learnt to greet suffering with a smile,
and oh how our emotions are so fleeting,
They will always pass and so will the pain.
For my words have always been pushed aside
and so I hesitate to speak,
and they only care for your appearance,
But I have found true light and strength within myself
and only I know the true power of my words;
for that is how I have healed myself, time & time again,
and if only you could see me now.

Tearing off my Personality
When you are born, two individuals exist under one.
Your personality - which is ever changing,
From Birth, your personality is affected by the family you are born into,
place, time, circumstance. Your essence is your true divine nature.
Your constant stable I. Your true consciousness that always exists within you.
From Birth we are taught to suppress this.
Our divine, all encompassing, unconditionally loving nature until
we all become truly mechanical beings without any sense of ourselves but falsehood.
Tear off your personality!
Tear off your false ideals!
Humans may say they like something one day, then the next say they despise that same thing.
Humans do not know themselves.
What we think we are is not what we rationally are.
To become truly closer to oneself - one must remove all these made up selves.
To see what is true outside of us, we must be able to see what is true within us.

Only I can know how much I can Endure
Only I can bite my tongue for so long
Only I try to never complain
Try to be always grateful
Only I can fend for myself & those around me
Only I know how to love my family despite I am invisible
Only I care for my Mother and siblings,
Only I compromise,
Only I know how to make myself happy,
Only I know how to take care of myself
Only I know the extent of my past,
Only I know how much I have grown,
Only I know how to truly care for others,
Only I know how to smile while blood is trickling down me,
Only I wake up everyday and demand I do something productive,
Only I demand a future for myself,
Only I walk 11km to the nearest waterfall to dunk my head after being without a shower for two weeks. Only I can pretend I have my reality together.
Only I know the extend of my pain, and despite that,
Only I know to persevere.

Monday, 18 September 2017


Traditionally Haiku have three lines with the first being 5 syllables, the second 7 and the last 5 again. Some of us did try this but the primary goal was to focus on capturing a moment in time using the least amount of words and simple, direct language. So if you're a stickler for rules these break a few. Still we are in good company as the NZ Poetry Society are on our side!

Coffee in one hand
Hand in hand together
Snuggling by the fire

Cold and raining
Attaching working limbs
Slow climb up the hill

- Katie-Rose McRobbie

The ghost of a tree
At my back door

Cobwebs dangle
In the glasshouse
Over winter

He reads
As he walks
Into a bus

- Paul Smith

Monday, 28 August 2017

Animate the Inanimate

We all had to choose an inanimate object to write about, or as if we were that object speaking. The challenge was to find the personality of that object. Some are obvious and others you have to guess what they are!


I like to stretch
And reach for the sky,
Never quite getting there
But oh how I try.

I'm made of wood
Or metal too,
Anything that's strong enough
To hold you.

There are many new versions
Multiple uses for all,
But always the main aim
Is to be long and tall.

These humans, they think
They are the bee's knees,
But they'll never reach the top
Without at least one of me!

- Christine


Four cups on a table
When all else fails, have a
cup of tea, said Mum.
This is grief.

- Robert McFelin


Words of history
Words of prophets
Words of the holy and unholy
Though inanimate
People say I have a living spirit
Uttering words from above
Sin crucified on cross
Stories of people
Saints and sinners
Prostitutes and prophets
Whores and history
I tell also of future
Not the price of gold
Not the winning race horse
But how God wins in the end
And how we all reap paradise

- Phillip Porteous


One day the iron got tired
of steaming and pressing
and grew arms and legs
it jumped off the ironing board
and ran down the street trailing its cord
until all its water
had sloshed down the drain
its iron stomach
expanded in the freezing cold
and it grew hungry
for electrical ions whirling
and so it returned
to where it was from
meekly it served out the rest of its days 
putting creases where it was told
but now and then in protest
it overheated
and melted nylon petticoats

- Helen

Signs of the times

This week we went for a short walk down Princes Street with our notebooks, noting down words from various signs in shops, on passing trucks,...