Poetry in the Making

My friend Ruth Arnison is a dynamo with amazing energy and an awe-inspiring ability to bring large-scale creative ideas and ventures into fruition. She has been awarded a Queen’s Service medal in recognition of her achievements.

Step-Sisters’ latest Poetry on Steps project at the Anderson Bay inlet

Ruth is the person responsible for New Zealand’s Poems in the Waiting Room charity. She sees to it that bright, eye-catching pamphlets, full of poems, are donated to waiting rooms all over New Zealand. Ruth chooses the poems and arranges them, then organises their printing and dispersal – some by hand, but most by mail. A huge job. Which she does in her own time. The pamphlets go to Medical Centres, Rest Homes and prisons, among other places. It is a mammoth task completed each season efficiently and faithfully. She also arranges for some of these pamphlets to be printed in Braille.

Another of Ruth’s paper capers, is her Poems in the Waiting Room boutique project, Pocket Poetry. Pocket Poems – small cards the size of business cards with snippets of poems printed on them – are dropped off at obliging cafes; urban and suburban; for people to pick up and take away.

Along with her ‘Step-Sister’, artist Sheryl McCammon, Ruth is also behind the Poems on Steps project with the aim to surprise and delight through poems painted on to steps, benches and in places where you least expect. Is there no end to this gift Ruth has for making poetry visual and present in Dunedin, UNESCO designated City of Literature?

Overlooking the inlet towards the harbour and Dunedin city

And then there are the Lilliput Libraries. Yes, Ruth is also the instigator and driving force behind these nifty little ‘libraries-in-cupboards’ that are able to be spotted, visited and borrowed from all over Dunedin – and beyond. There is an online Lilliput Library locator map if you need to locate one in your neighbourhood, or even if you simply want to do a tour. As the word ‘beyond’ inferred earlier, these libraries are not only found in Dunedin. I believe there’s one on Stewart Island? I know there are now two in Owaka.

Son & grandchildren looking into the Lilliput Library on our street
Happy customers

And wait there’s more. Ruth has organised several art and poetry (poArtry) auctions and exhibitions – some with poetry readings to go with. At these events, artists and poets are aligned and assigned to produce pieces of art, which can then be procured by people looking to buy. Ruth also produces meal trays with poems on them for patients in hospital on New Zealand’s Poetry Day.

Looking over the inlet towards Andersons Bay

Last but certainly not least (I’m betting there are more ideas, past, present and future, that I have missed) Ruth also runs an annual poetry competition. This year’s one has a closing date of February 29th. To enter GO HERE for details


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “Poetry in the Making

  1. i LOVE the peoms in the waiting room pamphlets! what an amazing woman, i had no idea she brought other great gifts to the public as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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