Poetry Box update: my blog and health

The brand new information kiosk at Te Henga Bethells Beach

On Saturday June 11th I am due to be admitted to Auckland Hospital for a stem cell transplant (the date can change, especially if I get a cold!). For the past months I have been having millions of tests and scans to make sure I am match fit. It is a high-risk high-reward procedure that can save lives. I am feeling immeasurable gratitude to an an anonymous stem cell donor. Beyond the words a poem might hold for example.

I will be in hospital for four to six weeks all going well, and then have multiple weekly visits. My Covid vaccines will be back to zero and I will be steering clear of people and shops for the rest of the year (and book launches and writers festivals!). I have no idea how things will go, and there are loads of forks in the road, but I will take and love each day as it comes.

Writing and reading have been my go-to place since childhood. I find strength and happiness when I write, devour books, and do both my blogs. I cannot imagine what it will be like ahead of me, but I have created a clearing in the bush. I am taking two beautiful notebooks to hospital and I may or may nor write a word on a page, or string five together, or leave a sequence of pages silence (Sarah Scott).

My blogs will both go on hold – bar four poems I have lined up to post automatically on Poetry Shelf. And this is a very strange feeling, after all this time, after all this glorious Aotearoa poetry blog time. It’s never a chore, never hard work creating a space for poetry communities. But for now, I will be ignoring requests to do this or post that or read this (unless you are recommending the perfect book to read in body battering conditions – or movie, or tv show, or podcast, or puzzle).

I liken this adventure to climbing Mt Everest and I am currently at base camp in training. I am packing my emotional and physical bags with things to help me through. And that includes lines from Poetry Shelf’s Paragraph Room 3. The wonderful cat and dog poems you sent me. Your kindest messages.

Some of you have asked me what you can do to help. I know that what is ahead of me is unspeakably tough – some people hate to remember it in fact – but having such supportive poetry communities matters so much.

I came up with an idea (you know me!). Write a card, put a poem you love in it by you or someone else, and mail it to me with a stamp. I can only have two named visitors, as the ward is ultra filtered from outside bugs – not even flowers get in! So Michael can deliver cards that I can open when I need a poem lift.

PO Box 95078 Swanson Waitākere 0653

My stem cell transplant team at Auckland Hospital, my heaven-sent transplant nurse Mia, my Doctor, and the rest of the staff on Motutapu and Rangitoto wards are extraordinary. Think warmth, compassion, empathy, diligence. If I had the words, they would get the best thank you poem ever. A bouquet of better pay and extra staff, and some divine pastries.

Finally thank you: Poetry Box has been around a long time now and it wouldn’t be what it is without you. A special thank you to all the children who sent kind messages with your cat and dog poems. Your kindness moved me to tears. Poetry is aroha as much as mahi. It is the listening and sharing and that means so much. Young poetry writers your poetry is a gift. I am packing it in my bags. I am carrying poetry with me as I climb the steep mountain – along with children’s books, picture books, novels, puzzles, beautiful teas and juices.

Just writing this – fills me warmth and strength, happiness and light.

with love

Paula x

1 thought on “Poetry Box update: my blog and health

  1. Jo Van Dam

    Dear Paula, I have lost my words. All I can think of is how incredibly generous with your time and energy you are when facing your Everest. Most people would be concentrating on themselves, but you continue to inspire and encourage young writers all over New Zealand. I always say thank you, but this deserves an even bigger thanks and appreciation. I admire you and your strength immensely and look forward to hearing that you have been to the top, and conquered your Everest, and are back at base camp recuperating, as soon as you can be. I feel your faith in your medical team, and from experience, I know they don’t make decisions to go ahead with procedures unless they have confidence they will be successful. Go well Paula, and thank you once again for your amazing support of young writers (and old!). I look forward to bombarding you with more poems from my tamariki, when you are feeling up to it again. Kia kaha, with warmest wishes, Jo

    Joanna van Dam Librarian Westmere School Auckland 1022


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s