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On poetry

As a child, I loved poetry. My first experiences of it were via nursery rhymes and children’s books: Oranges and Lemons, Lynley Dodd’s Hairy McClary from Donaldson’s Dairy, A.A. Milne’s Winne the Pooh. I liked the way the words tripped off my tongue, the shape they made in the air, the fun of anticipating the next rhyme.

As a pre-teen, my knowledge of poetry expanded. I discovered the self-deprecating humour of Pam Ayres, the melodramatic imagery of Robert Frost and the nuggets of wisdom of Rudyard Kipling. I would memorise poems and recite them whenever I thought I could get away with it. I can still recite all of If from memory, and large chunks of The Walrus and The Carpenter, not to mention several others.

Then I hit high school and non-rhyming poetry and it all started to unravel. I was bewildered by this non-rhyming world. I didn’t understand how it worked, or – if poetry didn’t need to rhyme – what counted as not-poetry.

Poetry started to make me feel stupid. I remember being asked simple questions in English exams like ‘what is this poem about’ and not having the faintest clue where to start. There was poem with a line about a girl hiding behind the chrysanthemums, and I answered the question with something along the lines of ‘it’s about a girl in a garden’; it turns out the poem was about death.  

And so I’ve left poetry alone for many years, consigning it to the mental ‘things-that-I-do-not-comprehend-but-view-with-deep-suspicion’ box, along with contemporary art featuring urinals.

But this week, I came across a couple of lines from a relatively modern poet. Here they are:

And I

should know you

by the lick of you

if I were blind

They’re from Hone Tuwhare’s Rain. It’s an old-ish poem, written in the 1970s I think, and very famous. Even I have heard it before, but I hadn’t truly registered it until recently, when some part of my brain woke up and said, ‘Huh, that’s beautiful’.  I went and hunted down the rest of it, which is equally beautiful. The words resonated with me.

So I’ve taken this as a sign – a sign that I need to open myself up to more modern poetry and put away the childish reaction of ‘but if it doesn’t rhyme it’s wrong!’


I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I really don't. Apparently some libraries over in America have  banned the book 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. I found this great comment in this article: http://www.inquisitr.com/232608/fifty-shades-of-grey-banned-from-florida-countys-libraries/  

“We felt the book didn’t meet the criteria for what we put on our fiction shelf, that being because of the perceived pornographic nature of it.”

Now, I haven't read this book, but from my brief perusal of it on the shelf and my review reading, it looks dreadful for any number of reasons. Banning a book for any reason makes me mad, but banning a relatively light-weight, fanfic-based, badly written erotica novel for being pornographic is so frickin ridiculous I just sat here giggling for five minutes after someone linked me to a similar news article to the one above.

From the Oxford Dictionary Online:




  • printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.

As an exercise in curiosity I wanted to see what else the library that made the comment above (Florida's Brevard County library) stocked. Let's see:
  • Green by Jay Lake, which contains lesbian bdsm and also bestiality (and this book is also dreadful, although not just because of the sexual content).
  • Pretty much the entire works of Laurell K Hamilton, also known for their chapters upon chapters of badly-written porn, bestiality, rape and all-round fail.
  • 246 pages worth of search results for the key word 'Harlequin' (admittedly not all of these will have explicit pornographic content, but a lot of them will). Have these people never taken a walk through the romance shelves? What do they think the very naked people on all the covers are doing? Yoga?
Yup, I can see they're definitely serious about saving people from that icky pornographic stuff. I know this kind of censorship should be hitting my beserk-o-meter button really hard right now, but I just can't stop laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

On Cover Design

Recently I’ve been thinking about the elements of good and bad cover design, mostly because of a project I’m working on as part of my course. I’m not a designer so I don’t have any expert knowledge on the subject, but a lot of the things about cover design seem to be basically common sense. The rant below is me trying to put my thoughts in a logical and coherent order rather than me having world-changing insights on the subject.

The Purpose of a Book Cover

I think that a book cover has a dual purpose:

1.      To attract the attention of people likely to buy the book.

2.     To help convince people considering the book to buy it.

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An Example - Hit List by Laurell. K Hamilton
I've chosen Hit List as an example because the cover is simply so hilariously bad:

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On Love Triangles and Why I Hate Them

I hate love triangles. More accurately, I hate the poorly executed and overdone love triangles currently infecting the YA paranormal genre. If I could wave my magic wand and remove a single trope from the currently popular tropes pile it would be – well, actually it would probably be the jerkass boyfriend who’s only ‘virtue’ is his hotness, but love triangles would definitely make my top ten list of tropes-I-would-like-to-delete-from-YA.

I think a good part of the reason I hate love triangles so much is to do with the way they’re usually done. I’m sure it’s possible to do a good love triangle, but I think it’s a tricky thing to get right, and so they should be used only sparingly. The problems I have with love triangles include but are not limited to:

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Although the fantasy genre is becoming increasingly popular and more mainstream, I’ve noticed there’s still something of a stigma attached to reading it in certain circles. Remarks from non-readers don’t particularly ruffle my feathers (I’ll clearly never understand them anyway), but frequently I’ve found myself forced to defend my preferred genre to other readers. Often this segues into a combined defence of the Romance genre (another one I also enjoy, particularly when combined with Fantasy). Defending Romance to I-only-read-high-brow-literature people is an even more challenging task than defending Fantasy, and when you combine the two it starts to seem impossible.

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On Breaking Dawn Part 1

Last weekend, my sister and I went to see ‘Breaking Dawn’.  We saw it on a Saturday morning and it was pretty quiet, considering it was only a week after it opened. There were maybe 20 people in the theatre, tops. We went in with very low expectations, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been and sadly there were far fewer inadvertent lols than I hoped for. It was mostly just…meh. Most of it was a bit dull, with very little action, reinforcing the lunacy of chopping a book where very little happens in half.

I have made a list of what I liked and didn't like.Collapse )

On being totally freaked out by "Blink"

Last night, as part of working our way through Dr. Who, the Flying Monkey and I watched the episode "Blink". It scared the pants off me. I generally avoid horror, and get freaked out easily, but this was by far the most terrifying thing I have seen all year. Maybe in the last two years. I had to cling to the Flying Monkey like a frightened limpet for the rest of the evening, and needless to say I did not sleep well.
And then I thought listing the scary things would help. Silly me...Collapse )

Glad The World Cup Is Over And We Won

Well, I am glad that we won, mostly because it means I don't have to deal with a bunch of grumps at work tomorrow. I am also glad because the final represents the end of the Rugby World Cup 2011, which means I can stop hearing about it ALL THE TIME. If I have to listen to one more person tell me I'm not patriotic and not a real New Zealander because I don't care about the rugby, I may have to scream.

This cartoon by Tom Scott after the injury of a key player (Dan Carter) describes what being in NZ for the last six weeks has been like quite nicely:

Dan Carter
This year I discovered Buffy. Turns out I’m a little late to the party; I hang my head in shame at how long it has taken me to achieve this geek milestone. I realise that Buffy has long since been analysed, discussed, squeed over etc. by the vast majority of geeky people but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, so I’m going to shout my belated squee to the world. To me it is new and shiny and I want to rant at length about it, so I will.

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On Writing Cover Letters

I hate writing job applications. Faced with such a task, my brain tries to wander off and I have to wrestle it into submission. By the time I’ve gotten all three of my brain cells lined up and pointing in the same direction, whatever train of thought I previously had is gone. The minute my focus shifts as I  try and remember what on earth I was going to write, one of my damn brain cells will make a break for it and then I have to repeat the entire process again.
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