Poetry Shelf update: the 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. 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 the Paragraph Room 3. 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 0782

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 Shelf has been around a long time now and it wouldn’t be what it is without you. A special thank you to essa may ranapiri and Jordan Hamel who recently told me to put myself first – and that new poetry books could wait. Your kindness moved me to tears. We are astonishing, vibrant, eclectic, connecting communities and we thrive on aroha as much as mahi. On the listening and sharing and that means so much. 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

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