A Habit of Writing

Helen Jacobs
The Cuba Press


In her eighth collection, Helen Jacobs asks  “are you, to whom I talk always, anyone I know?”

Writing at 91 years old, and through the viewfinder of a Christchurch retirement village, Jacobs conveys a sense of being cloistered by place and body, while the spirit roams, “I push my wheeler and, tap my toe, tap and hum, the dance of the young’’.

Aloneness is conveyed through solitary subjects: a geranium, a glass jug, a spider. Poems are rendered like still life drawings.

Room-focus is juxtaposed against wider frames, “my balcony, my pots, the trees distant’’. Physical presence during lockdown comes from trees, “touch lightly the mottled bark, of the curbside tree trunks”.

In the later section of the book, poems of Patea, the language changes, burgeons: “Like glass it reflects, absorbs, taking moods from the suspended soil.”

This teaming vein of memory is intriguing placed next to retirement village scenes. Memory like a river courses through a soul who moves, solitary in an arid landscape. The author becomes both a plant needing care, and the bearer of water.

Kirstie McKinnon is an East Coast Otago poet

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