A sycophantic post about Billy Collins

I love Billy Collins and he is a close second to Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich and well a whole of of others  and after all it isn’t a race, so forget that bit about coming second.

Billy Collins

Today, at the airport bookshop

I bought a book.

I put it back once then held

On to it for quite a while

Before taking it to the counter

$29.95 was more than I could

Afford, I reasoned. The price of

A bottle of wine, I argued.

I bought it, and a pen and

A journal which I am

Writing in now.

The title of the book is

Nine Horses and all nine

Are there on the cover.

A poetry book by Billy Collins.

I’m in love with him by page eleven.

He is galloping towards me, scooping me up,

Carrying me off, on one of his nine horses.

His wife Diane with whom he lives

In Northern Worchester County, NY

Will not be happy with his decision to ride off

With me.

Sue Heggie

If you have a few moments I recommend these videos.


This a poem I really like:


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.


See here for a reading of this poem by a three year old. (Thanks Susan)



In the olden days

We were  a family of 6 kids, not catholic just careless. I don’t think birth control wasn’t that effective back then and we all had our place and in the pecking order. I was the youngest and the skite. I embarrassed my quiet sisters by doing handstands at the bus stop and I don’t think I have ever stopped. It wasn’t that we didn’t know about the men in rain coats in the park, more that we just had to deal with them. Parents were back in the shadows of our lives and we did pretty much what we liked. There was no bawling back to an adult, the lord of the flies method was centre stage. I learned to swim because my brothers ditched me at the shallow end of the pool while they went off to dive bomb. I fell in love with libraries because books were magically free and there was nothing like My Friend Flicka for getting away from it all. I trained myself to simply not hear the outside world when reading. No-one thought it dangerous to walk to town through the town belt to the library with my sisters but there were ghosts and ghoulies and scary men who would steal you away and kill you out there. It wasn’t that we were innocent, not at all. I remember finding an entire carton of condoms and although I didn’t know what they were, there was enough sibling sniggering to know it had something just beyond my ken that I needed to know about.

There is a great poem on the course I’m doing whose title is “I Was a Nasty Child”. Maybe I was particularly nasty but I think we all had a knowingness about the way the world worked. I picked on the adopted kid, befriended a girl in my class because her mother worked at Cadburys and they always had chocolates around the house. I never let her wear the best cowgirl outfit. I had to do well in arithmetic in school as the desks were moved around according to your results and  Gary with the crepey skin and asthma always sat in D group.

I don’t really buy the notion of childhood innocence. What about you?


The idea of having your own room was laughable. I shared with my two sisters, my brothers shared their room and my parents had the tiny backroom that was so small their wardrobe was in the hall.  Naturally there was only one bathroom. I could get all “young people today…” as I find their sense of entitlement offensive. They expect to have it all, the house, the car, the travel and all without actually saving for it. They expect to get promotion without experience or hard work …all except my boy of course!!

Mine was a Janet Frame kind of childhood. If you have read her wonderful short story, The Reservoir you will know what I mean. It’s a grey old rainy day and we are both feeling a bit poorly so thanks to our kind friend who brought us consoling and yummy leek soup.

The sense of companionship and community was powerful back then though and knowing your neighbours has been scientifically proven to make you happier. I am always scheming for my eco village so if you want to join in let me know! I don’t mean a hippy dippy village but a neighbourhood of friends who look out for each other. I’m far too selfish to share anything.


Quotes I love from Janet Frame:

They think I’m going to be a schoolteacher but I’m going to be a poet.

(Childhood diary entry, quoted in To The Is-Land)

I like to see life with its teeth out.

(Letter to John Money, 6 May 1947)

I have discovered that my freedom is within me, and nothing can destroy it.

(Letter to John Money, 3 October 1948, on being committed to Seacliff Hospital)

Life is hell but at least there are prizes. Or so one thought.

(From the short story ‘Prizes’ in The Reservoir: Stories and Sketches)

The general opinion in New Zealand then was that natural teeth were best removed anyway, it was a kind of colonial squandering, like the needless uprooting of forests.

I know someone who had her teeth out for her twenty first!!

(An Angel at My Table)

‘For your own good’ is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction.

(Faces in the Water)

There is no past, present or future. Using tenses to divide time is like making chalk marks on water.

(Faces in the Water)

The Southern Cross cuts through my heart instead of through the sky.

(Towards Another Summer, written 1963, published 2007)

A writer must stand on the rock of her self and her judgment or be swept away by the tide or sink in the quaking earth: there must be an inviolate place where the choices and decisions, however imperfect, are the writer’s own, where the decision must be as individual and solitary as birth or death.

(The Envoy from Mirror City)

I really love emailing, it’s like writing a poem in the sky.

(From an email to Elizabeth Alley)

Dying is an adventure, and I’ve always enjoyed adventures.

(Janet Frame to palliative care doctor, quoted in Sunday Star-Times interview with Anthony Hubbard, December 2003)

Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination.

(The Envoy from Mirror City)

Write to me with your thoughts so I don’t feel so alone in the universe. FG


writing exercise

As an exercise for the Iowa Poetry writing MOOC we had to do meditative free writing and so I did the meditation etc. and came up with about three pages of writing. It seemed that I would write about doing the kiwi OE thing and coming home again but somehow my mother and her life of raising 6 kids a under the age of 8 came up. I always vowed I would never be at home with the dishes and the porridge pot every day the way she was. We were raised in Dunedin and I remember that our long pants were sometimes so frozen that we could stand them up by themselves. I loathed the grey water washing smell in the wash house, having to put my hand in the kerosene tin for the pickled eggs in that cold slimy sludge and my father boiling up tripe. My mother always seemed to be practically sitting in the fire when we got home from school. We came home for  cooked lunch in those days and there always seemed to be ironing or washing or clearing or cooking to be done. I went to sleep with the rhythmic thump of the iron.

Still, being in a big family had its advantages, the Heggies ruled the beach, we had budgies and guinea pigs and trolleys and a lot of freedom I suppose. We had our fair share of falling out of trees, setting things on fire and getting stitches in a variety of places.

My one and only boy led a very different life where I was the big shadow in his life, always there, always anxious, always demanding of high standards of behaviour. Whereas we ran pretty wild, especially at our “crib”  and adults really didn’t feature much in our activities. More tomorrow but after WORK. Ahhh have to work for the next week or so to shore up the coffers.  FG


Cooking washing etc.

Darning tired by the old fire, mending, breaking amends,
Pinny on still, sparks burning acrid holes in the rag rug,
the pulley damp and warm with the weight of nappies.

Folding cooking washing crying cleaning mending sewing drying
(She aches to put pencil to opinions at the late kitchen table)

Words flare in the grate and float blackly up in smoke.
Whole yarns knitted up in woollen vests, needled and muffled tightly.
Poems stitched up in bodices muttering between clenched teeth,
Words carefully embroidered into the best white linen.
Sonnets soaking in the wash house, songs in socks at every heavy footfall,
Lines hung out to dry on a good drying day, the wind catching their breath.
Stanzas pummelled in grey water and put through the wringer.
Whole novels folded between sheets, ironed flat as a page.

Washing cooking folding drying cleaning mending sewing crying
(She composes a list of promises and plants stealthy seeds)

Sue Heggie



Morning everyone, I have spent the morning putting my tiles under the new tile tab on the home page. I decided when I gave up work to make all my gifts for people. Tiles were on the agenda. However, the glue, the tiles, the images…don’t really make for an inexpensive gift so I am trying to cover the costs of the materials by selling some. There are no two exactly alike so at least they are individual. Labour costs will never be covered by knitting or making things but there is a real joy in doing it and I think it is a special gift when it is made by hand.  My next project is to have a go at making soap.  Sorry friends, soap and a dishcloth could be the Christmas gift of choice….

I am having to do the dreaded W word this week and next but it will pay for all the films I want to see in the Auckland film festival. Yahoo, I love this life, there is always something cool to do. I am a bit concerned about turning into a weird old lady as I find myself slothing about in my yoga pants. I am reluctant to go out as I have so much to do here. This afternoon is cooking for a friend coming for dinner, finishing the last scraps of wool on a last dishcloth, and doing the fourth lecture in the Iowa University MOOC.

One of my recent tiles made from a calendar I brought back from France.
Crazy ladies 1
Crazy lady 2. ( but very happy crazy old lady)



Wimbledon, books, movies, tiles and more Herons

You can probably tell by the prolific number of dishcloths that I have been watching Wimbledon. What a great men’s final by two champions. I know they are both quietly generous philanthropists and they are role models for men. Such a change from thuggish league and rugby behaviour. They are respectful of each other, of their family and friends. Rog has always been my fav but I think this was the time for Novak to win.





I have just finished The Dressmaker, an Australian novel by Rosalie Ham. Kind of offbeat and some black humour but really enjoyable as well. I am about to start The Kindness of Your Nature by Linda Olsen as I enjoyed her Let me Sing You Gentle Songs.

I’ve been working on the silicone finish for  more tiles and am about to set up a tile tab to see if I can sell a few just to cover the cost of the materials, I am finding it reasonably easy to live within my means but it is very tempting when the film festival is starting to earn a bit more so I might have to resort to some contract work . There are about 15 films I want to see.




I also sat and did a lot of cutting out in the rain at the weekend! I am thinking of covering our cheap coffee table as above. Might look a bit too naff but it was so enjoyable, remember playing with scraps for hours as a child?


I saw Jersey Boys and Calvary at the weekend. Jersey Boys is a good romp through some great songs and is very similar to the stage show. I found Calvary very interesting, they bill it as a dark comedy but for me it was a really interesting look at ethics in the vein of The Magdalena Sisters which had a profound influence on me. Not as bleak though. My companion wept at the end so not much of a comedy…I would be interested in the opinions of anyone who has seen it. The main actor was fantastic.

Finally i am working on my uni poetry course and have been editing The Heron poem. I’ve changed the title from The Herons to focus on just her with the others as onlookers. When I wrote the line “skirt hoisted” I knew in the back of my mind there was a painting of a woman with her skirts hoisted so I searched and found her and she became part of the poem.

I find editing really difficult so this has been good discipline for me as sometimes the bending of lines to fit a form or whatever often destroys it for me. Please give me feed back. FG

Heron at Okarito Lagoon 

She stands on lean legs in the glass lagoon.
Her skirt hoisted to her thighs, her reflection
a mirror, Rembrandt’s loyal wife.

The congress in the trees, hunch in white gowns,
perch smugly, their judge-heads nodding to one another,
peer lecherous, down to the water.
They cannot see themselves, guilt-framed.

They imagine the concubine, whore, courtesan,
slow span of wings wide in feigned stretch, covet
the beauty so unaware they long for her,
all of her, all of them.


Brain Balls and Herons at Okarito

Morning all, a busy day for me today with appointments and visiting.  When I first mooted giving up the day job, friends and me too I guess, were concerned that I would not cope with the lack of social contact. I keep wondering if it will begin some day but more and more I love the quiet, the time to sit and think, I rarely watch television- just the living channel 🙂 when I’m knitting in the late afternoon. I relish the quiet, the sun streaming in, the full day ahead.

This morning after yoga I made healthy seed balls based on a Dr Libby Weaver recipe. She says these are great when you get the 4 pm chocolate cravings and I agree. If you want the proper recipe and loads of other dairy-free, gluten -free recipes, buy Dr Libby’s Real Food Chef. Other wise her brain balls can be found free here.




I just throw in the nuts of any kind, linseed, sesame seeds, then 8 dates, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of water and the cacao powder. I’m taking half my batch to a breast-feeding mother as i think these will be reasonably healthy for her.

After yesterday’s poetry exercise the only phrase that I  wrote that I liked was the “skirt hoisted” heron so I have taken that and expanded it into another poem stemming from a trip to the most beautiful Okarito Lagoon, in the South Island, famous for white herons. We went on the most perfect of days, bluer than blue and there were more herons than our guide had ever seen perched in the trees- magical.

Herons at Okarito Lagoon


She stands on lean legs in the lagoon.

Her skirt hoisted to her thighs, her reflection

a mirror.


The congress in the trees, hunch importantly,

Perched smugly, their white judge-heads peering

Down to the water.

They cannot see themselves.


They imagine her

the hussy, bitch, tart,

the beauty so unaware that they all

want her, all of her, all of them.


Sue Heggie

Have a great day, wherever you are. FG


Repurposing old poems

Today the Iowa Poetry Course exercise to was to look at old lines, or journal notes or to relook at old poems. I chose Like Love, a poem I wrote over nine years ago when love was young. I’m not happy with it but it is fun to play around and reflect again on old work. Please feel free to comment and play around with ideas.

Like Love

From a distance
It looked like a brilliant
White heron
Poised and elegant in the lagoon

How magnificent then,
That on closer inspection
It was a brilliant white heron
The alps a backdrop to its timely appearance
On this, the clearest of days.

Like Love Too

From much closer
He leaves the ginger tea
Fine china
Fragrant and warm in the bedroom

How wonderful then,
that tea in a perfect cup
is worthy of a still moment
the bed a backdrop to its timely appearance
on this, a Tuesday in June.


How very lucky then
That we cycle still in tandem
To see, just at the same moment
The heron, wading by the bridge
White skirt hoisted, a cursory turn of the head
On this, the most ordinary of days
Like Love Again
Up closer
It looks like the blasted
Oven fan
Has blown finally and for good

How very warming then,
That the young electrician
Arrives to my surprise to repair and put right
On this, the greyest of days

A random line appeared today and this is what happened:


I thought you said, ” I love you darling”

but instead it was, “I love your daring”

I think I might like darling more than daring.

I dare you my darling.

I hope you have had a good day. I went to an group I once contributed to for my farewell. I felt as though I had emerged into an alien world, although it was lovely to see people. I love my new life and would not swap time for money again unless I really needed the basics of food and shelter… and movies. FG