Paula Harris


As a child, one of the frequent punishments my mother would dish out was to take all paper and pens away from me. It’s not that I was a particularly bad child (although no angel either), more that she had a short temper and unrealistic standards; there were worse punishments, but I would always find myself lost when I was left without paper.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true – I’ve always written. The quality of the writing may be questionable at times, but poetry is how I work through what is happening in my life. The words sing out inside my head, playing within my brain until I get them down. My best and most prolific writing periods are whenever I’m in a state of rapturous happiness (or, to put it another way, getting laid and laid well) or in post-heartbreak wallowing.

My only brush with university life was in attending Victoria University’s Poetry Workshop paper – which was a brilliant struggle. Brilliant, in that every week I needed to arrive with a new piece of writing, and have it read and re-read and re-re-read; brilliant, in that I realised my writing strengths and weaknesses; a struggle, in being in a room filled with others poets who wrote in abstract concepts while I wrote about sex and desire and heartbreak (and used the f word a lot in my work). But I came out the better for it.

These days poetry falls into the cracks between my work as a naturopath and Pilates instructor and the 1074 other things I do (short attention span – hence poetry works for me, as I wouldn’t be able to stay focused long enough to write even a short story!). The words lose out more often than not in the juggling act, but when they come to me, they are glorious. I still have paper and pen on the floor beside my bed and tucked at the foot of the couch (the two main places I write). Life still makes more sense when there is a poem to help me process what I’m feeling. Life is always a bit saner when I’m happy enough or miserable enough to be writing…

My favourite place – Hmmm. Not so much a place as an experience – whenever I drive or fly back into Palmerston North, seeing the city’s lights spread out before me at night always makes me feel joy and makes my heart lift a little. They’re beautiful and they mean I’m home. And being able to see the mountains that wrap around Palmy always gives me a sense of calm and grounding – they even form part of the moko on my forearm, giving me strength when I need it.

And a poem —–

(re)finding inspiration

I spent months and
not writing anything,
and then


came back into my life

just long enough

to provide me with the
of happiness

and misery

that makes the words
so quickly
and smoothly

that I feel sane



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