Palmerston North poet Helen Lehndorf.


Environment focus for Massey’s new literary resident

The state of the environment will get poetic treatment when a former Massey student who has been writing, publishing and performing poetry for 20 years takes up the University’s next Visiting Literary Artist residency.

Helen Lehndorf, of Palmerston North, whose first collection of poetry, The Comforter, was published by Seraph Press last year, will take up the position in April. In May she will give the first reading in the 2013 Writers Read Series, organised by the School of English and Media Studies, at the Palmerston North City Library.

Ms Lehndorf says during her residency she will work on her next poetry collection, which deals with ecological issues.

“I will be working on my second poetry collection which will be a creative response to environmental decline and humanity as an endangered species”, she says. “As our collective ship slowly sinks, we'll need to find solace in art, I'm hoping my next book will offer something of that.

"I had decided to take 2013 as a writing year anyway, so to have been chosen as visiting artist is wonderful and will bring some financial and peer support at a time I especially need both.”

As well as giving a reading from their work and participating in the Master of Creative Writing contact course, the visiting artist is charged with initiating community involvement in the arts.

Senior lecturer in creative writing from the School of English and Media Studies Dr Thom Conroy says Lehndorf is “the perfect person to initiate new and exciting arts projects in the community.

“As the founder of the popular Wednesday Night Poetry Reading series in Palmerston North, a former events coordinator with the Palmerston North library, and a former poetry editor for the Manawatu Standard, she is a vibrant local celebrity”.
“We are especially lucky to have Helen as our 2013 Visiting Artist at the very moment when her book, The Comforter, has been achieving major national recognition,” he says. “The Comforter was selected as one of the 'Best Books of 2012' by The Listener and Helen’s poem 'Wabi-Sabi' was selected for the 'Best New Zealand Poems' list of 2011."

Here is what The Listener has to say about the collection overall: “If you’re thinking snuggle-up, warm milk, there-there – don’t. This book burns with the pressures of what it’s like to be she who comforts. Honest about the way domestic responsibilities deflect adult fears and longings, it excels at capturing suburban claustrophobia, the enraging tedium of chores, the comedy of clashes between an adult’s and child’s eye view. There is a clinched energy here; the poetry fizzes with ironies."

An excerpt from the opening poem, Wabi Sabi

I would melt icicles on my tongue for you, resist the drinking down, drip it into you. Then repeat, repeat until my lips were raw.

To read more of Helen Lehndorf’s work click here: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/the-comforter.html


Related articles

Spotlight on Kapiti for Writers Read event
Joint poetry appearance for Wellington Writers Read
Great outdoors celebrated by visiting writer
Book award finalist to read short-listed work