Exciting news from Colombia

Dear Ruth

It is a real  joy for us to let you know that the first edition of Poemas en la Sala de Espera is being printed!

In the next few days we are going to start the distribution of 2,000 cards to the waiting rooms. We will leave the cards sitting on tiny chairs so that they are literally waiting to be read, as you can see in the photo.

Thank you very much for all your help, advice and encouragement!




View the first Spanish edition here Poemas en la Sala de Espera

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For Everyone

1901277_489338907836736_8738838387684466105_nToday I received the fantastic news that Poems in the Waiting Room is one of the charities lucky enough to receive sponsorship from the For Everyone  Charitable Foundation.

The Foundation, established in 2009 by Ali Williams, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, is partially funded through the sales of the For Everyone water and milk products. Every product you buy gives a portion of the sale as a donation to the Foundation to fund community projects.

I applied for funding assistance for our braille booklets. And an email arrived today saying

Great news. We are happy to support your application for braille cards/translation.

So our sight impaired readers can be assured that the next four editions of Poems in the Waiting Room poetry cards will be transcribed and printed in braille.

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And the 2014 competition winners are


Helen Lehndorf has read over 300 poems, and then read them again and again, keeping in mind her own criteria plus a few words of requirement from me!  She had no idea whose work she was looking at as I removed all sign of ownership on the poems that slipped into the competition complete with names! Any letters, drawings and photos were also kept in my care so she was totally in the dark re age, sex, occupation, and experience of the poets. Helen has done a fantastic job and I am thrilled with her choices.

The winners have all been notified, their prizes are in the post, and I’ve emailed everyone, who provided me with an email address, to let them know the results are out. Many thanks to: Booksellers NZ, and Otago University Bookshop for providing book vouchers as prizes for our 2014 competition.

The winning poems will appear in the winter edition of the Poems in the Waiting Room poetry card. I intend spending the weekend going through all submissions and selecting any which might be suitable for a future PitWR edition. I’ll be in touch with those poets early next week.

 And now the results:

Booksellers NZ First Prize:  ‘That’s Art’   by Belinda Diepenheim from Ashhurst.

Booksellers NZ Second Prize: ‘Old Home’ by Cherry Hill from Christchurch.

Otago University Bookshop Third Prize:  ‘Ode To A Compost Bin’ by Charmain Koed from  Nelson.

Otago University Bookshop Best unplaced Dunedin poem: First Rain After Drought’ by Carolyn McCurdie.

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition. Your support will help Poems in the Waiting Room continue to provide free seasonal poetry cards to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices.

Regards,  Ruth

Judge’s Report

Picture this: a sunny autumn afternoon in Palmerston North, I am sitting on a big, circular floor cushion on my living room floor with a mug of tea by my side and a wide mandala of poems fanned around me on the floor, as I read and sort, read and sort…

What a wonderful way to spend a day, and what a privilege to read the work of so many different voices, from different locales around New Zealand (made evident through the terrain described in the poems).

This year the strongest theme that came through by far was nature poems. It heartened me to be reminded of what a nature-loving, outdoorsy nation we are…there were so many poems about seasons, plants, camping, swimming and best of all intimate descriptions of the places the poets live, pride in their local terrain. Some of you ought to be employed by Tourism New Zealand!

The second largest subject matter were poems of a philosophical nature – questioning poems, contemplating our existence.

It should be noted that I had two criteria in my mind as I read the poems – firstly, the quality of the poems. Did the poem engage and surprise? Was it unique? Interesting? Was the imagery fresh and particular? The second thing I had to consider was the potential publishing of these poems in the Poems In the Waiting Room booklets. Ruth specified that poems which get selected for the booklets need to be: ‘good, not depressing, upbeat, uncomplicated, poems which would reduce stress and anxiety and leave people feeling a little better.’ This criteria makes complete sense. If you are sitting in a waiting room worried about your health, then the last thing you want to read is downbeat poetry. I got the enormous pile of entry poems down to a final seven contenders and I found it very hard to choose from there, so it was this latter consideration which helped me ultimately choose. There were a lot of strong poems, including amongst those which didn’t make the shortlist, which I liked but tended a bit towards the melancholic. I thought it was worth reminding you all of that to hearten the poets who did not place.

I wish to give a special mention to the four poems which didn’t end up placing, but which did make my ‘final seven’. Please know I very much enjoyed your poems and I contemplated them at length in choosing the finalists. Thank you for your beautiful words. They were: ‘Great Aunt’; ‘What Happens’; ‘Today I bought…’ (excellent use of concrete poetic form!); and ‘Wanaka’.

Some brief words about the winning poems:

Third Place: ‘Ode to a compost bin’ is wonderful in its bold simplicity and it’s entwining of ode and metaphor, the humble compost bin was celebrated with apt, accurate imagery and then extended out into a life metaphor with a deft hand in the final stanza.

Second Place: ‘Old Home’ was again, wonderfully bold in its simplicity, (I like a plain-speaking poem!) but surprising, particular, affectionate without being cloying and captures something of the nature of ‘wairua’ / the spirit of place. Wonderful work.

First Place: What caught my attention about ‘That’s Art’ was again, the combination of careful, deft description and imagery coupled with a light-handed love of simple pleasures. It has the same light-handed celebratory tone of Rumi. It binds the quotidian to the divine in the most tender way. A beautiful piece.

The Dunedin winner ‘First Rain After Drought’ so beautifully captured the tension that not just the gardener but the whole eco-system of backyard experiences during drought. The sensitive gardener can feel their plants thirsting and crying out for water. This poem is a beautiful exploration of what it is like for gardener and garden when that first decent soak of rain comes – there is a breaking of tension so profound which the poet cleverly describes with a clever metaphor in the second stanza.

Again, thanks to all who entered and my huge congratulations to the winners. It was such a pleasure to read all of your poems. I hope you all enter again next year. Thanks, too, to Ruth for asking me to judge the competition – thanks for having faith in me to do a good job!

With love,
Helen Lehndorf

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My writing room

DSC03209I’ve got a writing room for a few months and it’s tucked away in Dunedin’s historic home, Olveston! When I’m not at my ‘real work’, or organising the winter poetry card or the October poetry exhibition  I’ll be ‘the artist in residence’ at Olveston. I’m planning to write about the house, the people, objects and whatever else comes to mind and finish my term there with an August reading or exhibition. Jeremy, Olveston’s manager, has very generously opened the house up to me and I can’t hide the fact, I’m very excited.  If you want to follow my happenings then have a look here.

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This’ n that, but mostly poetry

This morning we went for a walk around St Clair, ending up at Second Beach where we watched surfers, kayakers and paddle boarders all enjoying the balmy morning. And look what I found on our wanderings – another letterbox to add to my collection, my photographic collection that is!

LetterboxI’ve been preoccupied this month with poetry but not specifically Poems in the Waiting Room. I’ve met the deadlines, just, and sent my own poems off to three publications. We attended the launch of Deep South 2013  at the University Bookshop.  On Friday night we went to a brilliant concert featuring the Irish singer/songwriter  Damien Dempsey . He has a huge voice, powerful lyrics, and to my ears, he’s a poet.

A Palette of Poetry has been consuming my time as well.  My application for funding assistance is away  ( please cross toes and fingers) and I’ve been slowly gathering artists. Keep an eye on that blog as I’m hoping to profile some more artists in April.

The Poems in the Waiting Room Competition results should be back to me by mid April so as soon as I know I’ll let the winners know and then publicise it right here.

A couple of months ago I came up with an idea and it just wouldn’t go away. So I let it out of my head and into the wide world ( well I told two people!) and now I’m about to start a new project. All very exciting – I’ll reveal more in a week or two!


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Small acts of kindness

Autumn 14 resizedAfter an edition goes out I never know whether I’ll receive any feedback. If I hear nothing I just presume the poems were alright and didn’t offend/upset anyone. And then the times I do get a response I’m usually pleasantly surprised.

I arrived home from work this afternoon to find a note from Lee Briccetti, the Executive Director of Poets House in New York thanking me for the latest poetry card. Lee asked me to look them up if I’m ever over this side of the pond. When I was seeking permission from the publisher to use William Stafford’s poem I was asked to send a couple of copies of the card to Poets House. I wasn’t expecting a reply, so an appreciated bonus.

Autumn 14 1 resizedYesterday an email arrived from Auckland readers saying how much they enjoyed this edition. An email arrived last week from a receptionist in a  medical centre saying, the cards are very well received by our patients.  Some patients can’t believe that they are free and they are able to take them home if something in one of the cards has impressed them.

Basil Dowling’s wonderful poem Poppies featured in the latest edition and Basil’s daughters Imogen and Virgina both sent emails congratulating PitWR on the beautiful production and the project.

These small acts of kindness have left me looking at the whole project with renewed enthusiasm!

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Poetry, Books and Art in Dunedin

A couple of weeks back my friend Pauline rang to say would I like a lift down to Port Chalmers to hear the poet Riemke Ensing reading at the library. I’d read some of her work when wandering through the web but I hadn’t read any of her books so I quickly said yes I’m keen. What followed was a wonderful hour listening to Riemke read from her heart, read with exuberance and read with passion. When she decided we’d heard enough she appeared startled by the audience’s greed – we wanted more!  A lovely lady. I hope a return trip to Dunedin is planned. Read more about Riemke here.

Sam at Chicks3

Sam at Chicks

On Friday night we went down to Port Chalmers again. Sam Hunt had been in Port for the week recording with David Kilgour and The Heavy 8s.  Sam started the evening by reading and then the The Heavy 8′s  joined Sam for a few poems. After a short break the 8′s returned with a mixture of old and new songs.  A brilliant night. Chicks was a great venue for Sam – he looked completely at ease (when doesn’t he?) and rocked through all his poems even before he was joined by the musicians.

This afternoon we went along to Jung Chang’s talk at the College of Education Auditorium. The author of Wild Swans, in which 100 years of Chinese history is told through the eyes of three women (her grandmother, her mother and her), was speaking today about her latest book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. She was an eloquent amusing speaker and captivated the audience completely.

Manu's exhibitionWe then wandered up to Olveston seeking out the basement or rather the drying room! I know it’s not the normal entrance to Dunedin’s historic home but this is where Olveston’s  first artist in residence exhibition was on display. Manu Berry has produced 47 woodcuts and etchings from his four months in residence. During the residency, he roamed the house and gardens absorbing its textures, decorated rooms, and treasures. Manu spread his initial sketches on the floor for us to look at and then our eyes moved upwards to view the final works on the drying room walls. Along one wall he has hung a 21-piece series of drypoint etchings in different shapes reflecting those of a dining set on a dresser in the kitchen.   If you live in Dunedin do call in and see his work. It’s wonderful having it on display in Olveston.

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