Monday, January 30, 2012

Gary Snyder on Ecology and Poetry Pt.1

I first read Snyder in 1980. I was twenty years old. I was very interested in Buddhism and went to meditation classes and read The Diamond Sutra and the Tao Te Ching and many suttas and sutras. It was through Snyder that I read a great deal of Asian literature and began to see that there are other stories and ways of looking at the world. So I guess I owe him something and besides I did enjoy his sense of the wild even though I lived in the city. Looking back I see how prescient he was about so many of the issues which face us all today.

More poems at
Tuesday Poem.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is this bug?

False katipo spider

Late last afternoon I was gardening when I saw a False katipo spider. Now, my knowledge of spiders is such that I couldn't readily identify the spider on sight. I knew that it looked like a Katipo spider but without the distinctive red mark on the abdomen. Besides, Katipo are rare and live by the sea. I was fascinated by its shiny jet black belly.

To find the name of the spider I went to 'What is this bug?' one of my favourite reference sites run by Landcare Research. The site is a model of simplicity and I love the drawings that communicative so much. The genius, though, lies in the brilliant architecture. You start with just four categories of bugs: all bugs must be in one of these categories. In no time at all you've found your bug. Go and have a look!

Image source: Landcare Research

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Grow Poets

Are you interested in the education of gifted children? I'm looking forward to the Friday 30th and Saturday 31st of March when I'll be attending the NZ Professional Association for Gifted Education Conference at the Amora Hotel in Wellington. The conference promises to focus on three key themes: Maori giftedness, early childhood education for gifted learners and curriculum teaching with gifted learners.

At the conference I'll be giving a 45 minute workshop presentation on 'how to grow poets' which will cover how to start and maintain a successful creative writing group within a school. I'll talk about how schools can encourage students to write poetry. Topics covered include extension exercises, the vital role a poetry competition can play in fostering student work, the role of student leaders and student designers and the importance of visiting writers for maintaining student enthusiasm. I'll focus on my experience running a creative writing group—what's worked and what hasn't worked so well. If you're interested you can find out more about the programme at the GiftEDnz site.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012



Amy, I’m waiting for the film of your life I’ll watch on a DVD as I can’t afford the movies.
I’ll wait till I can get it for a$4 a week rental.
I’ll watch the extras: the interviews with the actors (not Gaga),
the director, the accent coach, make-up artist, singing coach, tattoo expert.
I’ll hear the director say how she tried to capture you, last of the romantic artists, latest in a line of addicted seers; your father will speak as he always does,
I’ll see that shot of you in the your last month collapsed on a bench outside a Camden pub at 9.30 in the morning, pregnant with a beer gut, lost to it all

Amy, I’m waiting for the movie not to be made, for the dollars not to be laid down,
for the rights not to be sold, the actor not to be tempted by the role, for the cap
to be put on the lens, for the mourning for you and your illness to begin
with a charity concert of Back to Black played by kids on a bottle orchestra of 100,000 Smirnoffs.

Harvey Molloy

I wrote this quickly and without much thought or reflection aside from tweaking the last line.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

EEZ Bill Submission to Parliament

Today I've written my submission on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill.

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill proposes to manage activities in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone − the area of sea, seabed and subsoil from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore − and the Continental Shelf beyond. The activities covered by the Bill include seabed mining, some aspects of petroleum activities, energy generation carbon capture and storage, and marine farming.

The Bill has a number of positive features which include:

  1. Creation of the need for consent in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf that require an assessment of environmental effects.
  2. An expanded role for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)to manage the required consents.
  3. All applications for marine consents to be made publicly available.

The Bill, however, contains some serious shortcomings which could have devastating consequences for future generations of New Zealanders. We must ensure that all legislation protects the environment for our children and grandchildren. These shortcomings include:

  1. The need for sustainability to be a major concern in assessment. This is needed to balance economic development with environmental concerns.
  2. Lack of defined sense of what environmental risks are acceptable. The Bill is vague about the need for biodiversity, sustainability, protection of endangered species, etc.
  3. The need to ensure that polluters pay for the cost—or have insurance to cover the cost—of any major pollution caused by their endeavours.

I found the submission by the Environmental Defence Society to be a great help in bringing the Bill into focus as well information provided by the law firm Russell McVeagh.

Why bother writing a submission? The Bill has to contain some notion of sustainability and biodiversity in assessing environmental impact. We have to think of our children and our grandchildren when we draft legislation. We have tread more carefully.

Submissions must be received by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee by 5:00pm on Friday 27 January 2012.

Information on making a submission is available from the Green Party Aotearoa.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Summer Holiday

On Monday I returned from a great short holiday in Queenstown. The picture above is a shot of Rohan bungy jumping from Kawarau Gorge which was the first bungy jump to open for business in the world. There's something odd about not only allowing your son to jump from a bridge but also paying a handsome fee for the jump and the accompanying DVD. Still, he earned a Merit endorsement for his NCEA Level 1 and this is what he wanted as a treat. Unlike his Dad he was very cool and relaxed about the jump

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fallen Elm by John Clare

Welcome to the first Tuesday Poem for the year. Today's poem is one I've just read for the first time this week. I heard about the poem in George Monbiot's article on abuses of the word 'freedom': does 'freedom' mean freedom to exploit and abuse? Is 'freedom of speech' the same as 'freedom to pollute'? I've not read much Clare before and so I'm still finding my way into the poem; still it's obvious that Clare really loved and appreciated this tree. There's some good puns here: 'saw' and 'barked' all have more than one sense and the poem has lost none of its relevance. Happy new year!

The Fallen Elm. John Clare

Old elm, that murmured in our chimney top
The sweetest anthem autumn ever made
And into mellow whispering calms would drop
When showers fell on thy many coloured shade
And when dark tempests mimic thunder made--
While darkness came as it would strangle light
With the black tempest of a winter night
That rocked thee like a cradle in thy root--
How did I love to hear the winds upbraid
Thy strength without--while all within was mute.
It seasoned comfort to our hearts' desire,
We felt thy kind protection like a friend
And edged our chairs up closer to the fire,
Enjoying comfort that was never penned.
Old favourite tree, thou'st seen time's changes lower,
Though change till now did never injure thee;
For time beheld thee as her sacred dower
And nature claimed thee her domestic tree.
Storms came and shook thee many a weary hour,
Yet stedfast to thy home thy roots have been;
Summers of thirst parched round thy homely bower
Till earth grew iron--still thy leaves were green.
The children sought thee in thy summer shade
And made their playhouse rings of stick and stone;
The mavis sang and felt himself alone
While in thy leaves his early nest was made.
And I did feel his happiness mine own,
Nought heeding that our friendship was betrayed,
Friend not inanimate--though stocks and stones
There are, and many formed of flesh and bones.
Thou owned a language by which hearts are stirred
Deeper than by a feeling clothed in word,
And speakest now what's known of every tongue,
Language of pity and the force of wrong.
What cant assumes, what hypocrites will dare,
Speaks home to truth and shows it what they are.
I see a picture which thy fate displays
And learn a lesson from thy destiny;
Self-interest saw thee stand in freedom's ways--
So thy old shadow must a tyrant be.
Tnou'st heard the knave, abusing those in power,
Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free;
Thou'st sheltered hypocrites in many a shower,
That when in power would never shelter thee.
Thou'st heard the knave supply his canting powers
With wrong's illusions when he wanted friends;
That bawled for shelter when he lived in showers
And when clouds vanished made thy shade amends--
With axe at root he felled thee to the ground
And barked of freedom--O I hate the sound
Time hears its visions speak,--and age sublime
Hath made thee a disciple unto time.
--It grows the cant term of enslaving tools
To wrong another by the name of right;
Thus came enclosure--ruin was its guide,
But freedom's cottage soon was thrust aside
And workhouse prisons raised upon the site.
Een nature's dwellings far away from men,
The common heath, became the spoiler's prey;
The rabbit had not where to make his den
And labour's only cow was drove away.
No matter--wrong was right and right was wrong,
And freedom's bawl was sanction to the song.
--Such was thy ruin, music-making elm;
The right of freedom was to injure thine:
As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm
In freedom's name the little that is mine.
And there are knaves that brawl for better laws
And cant of tyranny in stronger power
Who glut their vile unsatiated maws
And freedom's birthright from the weak devour.