for Ben Hazlett and NICS


The showering, brushing of teeth, careful

straightening of hair into sharp smooth planes

gives her order and containment like certain yoga

poses. She removes the odd eyebrow hair, which


grows outside the row like a weed. She bends

to water each plant individually. She visits the

local beautician. The first hairs waxed off her leg

leave a long clean strip like a runway. They


discuss yesterday’s plane crash – it ran out

of fuel and went into the water near Headstone,

only half had time to get out their life jackets –

she thinks of them in the cold dark, that wide


trough of panic. Her fingernails are buffed into

neat pink shells and her careful makeup

presents a front as solid as Captain Cook’s

Monument. She wonders what it would


feel like to discover an island. Who will

remember her flat little life, its 50 minute

segments? She stands in front of another

class and is struck by the acceptance of


imperfection which has crept up like the formation

of wrinkles. She used to enjoy stuffing little heads

full of information until they were bursting like

suitcases. Her expectations have been replaced


by a pervasive feeling she has been let down

by something or someone. She has forgotten

hope – how it feels to rush headlong into the

future: a plane as it lands, the brakes straining,


pushing out, pushing through

In 2009, Norfolk Island Central School was visited by Australian poet Elizabeth Allen for an intensive residency of five days. Elizabeth worked with Years 5-6 primary students and across Years 7-9 in the secondary school. Over a week on the island, Elizabeth discussed her experiences as a poet, publisher and poetry workshop member, the importance of the Toilet Doors Poetry project in her work's development, and gave readings of her poetry to the students and wider community.

The students undertook guerrilla poetry exercises and others from the Toilet Doors learning resource, such as chalking public spaces on the island. Reflecting the interests and influences in her own poetry, Elizabeth focused on ekphrasis and the pairing of painting and poetry. An old, demountable classroom was occupied for displaying the students' work, and was showcased at the island's annual festival in February 2010.

During her residency, Elizabeth composed notes to new poems and prepared this poem, 'The School Teacher', for the school and the island's arts community.