My name is Leah. I live and write in Wellington, New Zealand. Welcome!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Winter Flames'

You stand
poised above the flames,
feeding them branches you have snapped
with quick fearless hands.
There are marshmallows,
sodden and silky in our mouths
between laughter and open-ended thoughts,
musings over
the uncompromising rotation of the earth
and the interplay between
predestination and free-will,
words strung like drying laundry
flapping above the flames.
The night air is sodden,
draping over our shoulders,
growing heavier as our talk increases.
We are intoxicated
by the licking flames;
the courage in our guts
coming from the depth of the evening.

- Leah McMenamin
Head on over to the Tuesday Poem for more wonderful Tuesday poems!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Inspiration: On Creativity

A slightly different format today...after reading a recent post on Brain Pickings I came across a couple of really wonderful quotes in the vein of of "inspiration" and "creativity".

For all of us who engage in activities that require some form of creativity - writing or painting or dancing or singing; knitting or collecting or photographing or cooking; there are times where Creativity strikes us, the Muse descends upon us, and we create prolifically.

There are other days where it is just hard, a real slog, trying to get anything done. I thought I'd share a couple of great pieces, one from the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and one from the musician Jack White, for today's Monday Inspiration.


"Do not believe those who try to persuade you that composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The only music capable of moving and touching us is that which flows from the depths of a composer's soul when he is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration...We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.
"A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration. Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness. But my patience and faith did not fail me, and to-day I felt that inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write to-day will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it. I hope you will not think I am indulging in self-laudation, if I tell you that I very seldom suffer from this disinclination to work. I believe the reason for this is that I am naturally patient. I have learnt to master myself..."

Jack White

"Inspiration and work ethic - they ride right next to each other...Not every day you're gonna wake up and the clouds and gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you're gonna write a song from it. Sometimes, you just get in there and just force yourself to work, and maybe something good will come out."

Friday, July 27, 2012

NZ Poetry Day: 'For My Brother' - Ron Riddell

After so many distances
solitudes and silences
after so many journeys
deaths, losses

After so many sojourns
seas, shores of exile
forgone farewells
and nil responses
I remove myself
from familiar ground
to where I’m rootless
with no past nor name

that I may speak
to you, truly, kindly
from an inner state
which resonates

with the midnight
cooing of a morepork
patient, timeless
calling from the deep.

 © Ron Riddell (reprinted here with his kind permission)

Ron is an arts graduate of Auckland University, and he worked for many years as a school teacher. In recent years, he has been travelling and working in the Americas. Writer and peace-advocate, also a painter, musician and author of a number of books and plays, has published twenty-one collections of verse and two novels.  He has been the founder and organiser of many writers’ workshops and cultural gatherings in New Zealand, Great Britain and Colombia, most notably perhaps The Wellington International Poetry Festival. Whilst better known as a poet, he now divides his writing time between fiction and poetry.

Visit Ron at his website:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Vermont Mermaids' - Brett Elizabeth Jenkins

The night of course dampened by liquor. Hot breath of the summer
trickling our necks. We follow close behind in this new Eden,

tramping down the saplings. Some of us without shoes, the big breast
of the moon cracked open in front of us. We approach the lake;

night water, wisp of fog. Look, our clothes
there on the banks. There are no clouds. The moon allows us

to see all of it, all of us. We swim to the middle, Vermont mermaids,
buoys of light. Imagine us drifting

to the bottom. How we could swim under there.

Brett Elizabeth Jenkins lives and writes in Minnesota. She is the author of the chapbook ETHER/ORE. Look for her poems in Beloit Poetry Journal, Potomac Review, PANK, elimae, RHINO, and elsewhere. You can visit her here:

Come back to the TUESDAY POEM for more wonderful poems - and a celebration of New Zealand Poetry Day at the end of this week.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Tribute to a Year in Ethiopia

This time last year I was doing curriculum development work at One Planet International School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My daily routine involved perhaps enjoying a fresh papaya or melon for breakfast, walking through throngs of people and cattle and derelict cars to work, working on Social Studies and Character Education material for the school, eating shiro for lunch, and spending the evenings with friends in my wee apartment.

My Ethiopian home
After being back in New Zealand for months now, I realised I've never really taken the time to reflect back upon my experiences there, which have shaped me in ways I could never have foreseen.

There were many tests and difficulties faced for all of us who worked there, but looking back the joyful experiences far outweigh the not-so-pleasant ones, and I'm glad it's like that. I want to look back on my time in Ethiopia with rose-tinted glasses, so that everything I saw and everyone I met has a golden light shed upon them.

Working at a Baha'i-inspired school meant that I worked with people from very far-flung places; from Finland to Australia, North Carolina to China, as well as Ethiopia. It was an incredible chance to dive into a beautiful culture and people, and share that new experience with others from all around the world.

Our little internationl family
I could spend hours writing about my time there; the taste of warm shiro in the evenings against the grainy bitterness of injera; walking past vultures and donkeys on my way to work; the sound of a begena tinkling down a lane like raindrops striking tin cans; the leaden bellies of clouds in the rainy season turning the earth to a swampy marshlands overnight; the bright eyes of the people I met every day.

Even though I spend a lot of time writing on this blog, I want to dedicate the rest of this post to pictures, because I feel like they can encompass my momentary experiences a little better than my words can.

Cleaning up the communal grounds in our apartments
The misty ruins of a hut on the way to Axum and Mekele in the far north
A lonely cow herder in Axum
Intense car door interiors
The most beautiful eyes - baby Bayan (above) and local girl (below)

Incredible tea ('chai') and coffee ('buna'), coupled with amazing coffee ceremonies

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Savai'i Sorceress', Karlo Mila

don't get your hands caught in my hair
were the last words I threw at you
in a flying goodbye
deliberate words
your eyes landing on curls
tangled / a web / a nest / a net
thrown into the wind
wrapping around you

don't go standing on any star-mounds
late at night in savai'i
or I might call your name
like a chanting eel from an underground cave
trying to catch you

stay away

don't let me be
the last thing that creeps into your mind
and spreads
before you go to sleep
like the vine that wraps itself
like a boa
around rainforest branches
dripping glossy leaves
smothering the forests
in upolu
with such style
and tropical panache

because I'll never tell the truth
that the laugh I throw between us like a handful of coins
is no longer

stay away

'Savai'i Sorceress' is from 'Dream Fish Floating', Karlo's first book of poetry published in 2006. Her poems are an exquisite exploration of Tongan, Samoan, Maori and Palangi culture. Many thanks to Karlo for allowing me to share her poem here!

Head on over to the Tuesday Poem hub for more amazing Tuesday poems.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Empty Apartment II'

© Gabriel Ward 2012

 It is not present here –
that sense of human existence,
the smell of someone
who inhabited this space
before I found it.

The only things left behind
were a smashed cabinet
a hammer
shards of glass
and a skein of red wool.

I lay down in a cold corner
and wrapped the wool
around my wasted heart,
the strands got tangled
along the lengths of my ribs.

I could make my home here,
on this dusty floor,
a quiet place to sleep
and shelter
from the lonesome rain.

Here it is quiet,
and I am liminal,
betwixt and between realities,
so if I was to stretch out one hand
it would be found elsewhere.

- Leah McMenamin

This poem was inspired by some of the AMAZING photographs (like the one above) taken by Gabriel Ward. Gabe and I are friends from university, and he is currently living in South Korea. His photos are really edgy and soulful, you can visit him here:

Visit the Tuesday Poem hub for more great poems to brighten your Tuesday!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Inspiration: 'The Winter Vault', Anne Michaels

"The wind was high across the river, through the trees a continuous splashing of shadow and early autumn sun. Jean's bare skin was cold under her cotton skirt.
   They drove for about an hour and then stopped by the side of the road. Avery took out a folding camp table from the car and placed it in a field. The tabletop seemed to float in the high grass. Jean set out the hard sour spy apples and the blackberries, the bread and the cheese, two tin plates and a knife.
   Jean looked at the swaying field and the hurtling clouds; she held back strands of her hair with one hand. Amid the wind, the perfect fruit lay still and solid on the table.
   Later they drove into the suspended light of dusk, the sun falling in the miles behind them. She could not stop thinking of the stillness of the apples, the movement around them.
   A still life belongs to time...And this days stillness, she thought, this single day: it belongs to us."

Anne Michaels (b. 15 April 1958) is a Canadian author, and wrote 'The Winter Vault' in 2009. Her previous works include 'The Weight of Oranges' and 'Miner's Pond', which won the Commonwealth Prize and the Governor General's Award respectively, and 'Fugitive Pieces', which won the Orange Prize and Guardian Fiction Award. I found this lovely quote from her when I was (quite lazily) looking up her biography on Wikipedia:
'When you put a tremendous amount of love into your work, as in any relationship, you can't know--you can only hope--that what you're offering will in some way be received. You shape your love to artistic demands, to the rigors of your genre. But still, it's a labor of love, and it's the nature of love that you must give it freely.'

Thanks, Mary, for lending this to me!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'I Can Be Anyone'

Who shall I be for you,

Seventy-two virgins with loose curls,
eyes glowing,
spinning silk for you
and smiling
with benign anonymity.

The Medusa,
to turn you to stone,
heavy wings
and hissing, twisting
snakes in my hair.

A poet,
to write you love poems
full of the sweetest words,
lines you can pour into
chamomile tea before bed.

A noble
with jewelled fingers,
inviting you into a dovecote -
let them
feed from your hands.

Any of these I can be,
and more.
I am fluid
and transparent.
I am whatever you decide.

- Leah McMenamin

Please return to Tuesday Poem for some great Tuesday poetry!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Inspiration: 'Possession' by A. S. Byatt

"It is possible for the writer to make, or remake at least, for a reader, the primary pleasures of eating, or drinking, or looking on, or sex. Novels have their tour-de-force, the green-flecked gold omelette aux fines herbes, melting into buttery formlessness and tasting of summer, or the creamy human haunch, firm and warm, curved back to reveal a hot hollow, a crisping hair or two, the glimpsed sex. They do not habitually elaborate on the equally intense pleasure of reading.There are obvious reasons for this, the most obvious being the regressive nature of the pleasure, a mise-en-abime even, where words draw attention to the power and delight of words, and so ad infinitum, thus making the imagination experience, something papery and dry, narcissistic and yet disagreeably distanced, without the immediacy of sexual moisture or the scented garnet glow of good burgundy."

'Possession' is one of A. S. Byatt's most popular novels.It won the 1990 Booker Prize and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. It is a melding of romance, detective work, and academic thrill seeking. It centers around Roland Michell and Maud Bailey, two academics researching the lives of two Victorian poets, and follows their scholarly obsession with these poets' works and lives, and the surprising results their research uncovers.