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Tessa 2023 and Elizabeth 2017- Now and Then

Earlier this year, we tracked down writers who had their first publication with Write On Magazine and we buddied them with current students.

Elizabeth Ayrey (she/her) is an Ōtautahi-based poet. She was a 2021 winner of the NZ Poetry Society’s international competition and, in 2022, was selected to be the featured student poet for 'a fine line'. Her work can be found in collections such as ReDraft, fingerscommatoes, and Tarot.

"I think my very fIrst published piece was a haiku about the apple slices in my lunchbox. After that I started attending the weekly classes and I have so many great memories of the friends I made, the wonderful tutors, all our inside jokes, and of course the writing that came out of it."

Tessa, aged 13, is a voracious reader and attends Saturday Classes at Write On School for Young Writers. She has been published in Write On magazine and was a winner of the Memories and Milestones poetry competition for Years 7&8.

Her new piece was inspired by Liz's piece, The Paintings's Perspective, written in an Ekphrastic Poetry Workshop with Gail Ingram. Tessa is currently in Gail's Saturday class :) It all goes around!

Venus de Milo

by Tessa


She is made entirely of marble, pale and bathed in a cool light from the large window nearby. Her robe has slipped - and covers only her lower half. She stands atop a pedestal, staring at me, unblinking.

Her most striking feature is her arms or lack thereof. My guidebook tells me that they have been missing since the statue was found, dug up by a farmer and French naval officer on the Greek island of Melos in 1820. She might have been holding an apple spinning thread, it says and was possibly adorned in jewellery and painted to look real. Though little is known about her creator, archaeologists believe she represents Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

Despite her looks, the crowd of onlookers around me seemed unimpressed. Sure, there is the occasional art nerd or scholarly professor staring up in admiration, but the majority are just jetlagged travellers, lost in the maze-like layout of the Louvre or here because TripAdvisor recommended it as a bucket-list item. Many aren’t even looking at her, too busy with whining toddlers or phone calls. I stifle a yawn as I shuffle through to the next room. I shoot the sculpture one last glance as I leave and turn back to my map.


The next museum-goer to meet my gaze is more curious than the rest, Then she walks away, glancing back at me before moving on to the next room.

On the same day, countless people follow the same path. Uncaring eyes scour my body, disappointed faces and Is that all? comments. I can’t turn my head, but I can feel their scepticism. I am stuck in a never-ending cycle of judgement, considered the pinnacle of beauty, yet criticised.

Blemish-free and beautiful. That’s what the restorers wanted me to become. No dirt, no pockmarks, no cracks. A perfect image of grace and elegance, showcasing the mastery and refinement of the Greek golden age. Ironic, considering I have no arms.

People want me to be the same as I was thousands of years ago, no ageing, no faults, a passive-aggressive reminder to women everywhere that they must never grow old, never be ‘ugly’. That they are only interesting if they are young and pretty. That people will only ever like them if they are unique but like everyone else at the same time.

As the tourists file in and out of the room, staring, yawning, rubbing their eyes, unconsciously repeating actions performed by nearly centuries of people, I wonder, and not for the first time, if they will ever realise this blinding truth the world is keeping from them.


You can read The Paintings's Perspective by Elizabeth and an interview between Tessa and Elizabeth here:

Thank you to Plains FM for support with the recording of the voices and to Copyright Licensing NZ for a funding grant that allowed us to archive 30 years of magazines and to develop this project.

The funding from Copyright Licensing NZ also went towards the redesign of our print magazine Write On 60: Memories and Milestones. It is a beautiful new design for our anthology. Copies are still available to order HERE

(c) Write On 2023


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