U3A Talk on the unfolding of her writing life by Pip Griffin


Last Friday 9th February 2024 , poet and friend,  Pip Griffin led a very enjoyable and informative morning,
as U3A speaker for the month, at the Leichhardt Library.  Pip shared with us the unfolding of  her writing life, the challenges of writing a verse novel and with a vivid and colourful set of slides took us through the inspiration and process of writing three of her many books.  There was a great gathering of more then 30 people who came to support and hear Pip’s very interesting journey.  And we had a great celebratory lunch afterwards with some friends to cheer Pip’s very successful morning.


Pip introduced us to her earlier and highly acclaimed verse novel Ani Lin: The Journey of a Chinese Buddhist Nun.  The slides of her actual journey in China and on the edge of  Tibet where she found the inspiration for her Buddhist Nun were excellent and she thanks her son John for his assistance in this. 

As the dust jacket informs its readers: “In 1892, 18 year old Lin enters a mountain nunnery, where she begins a journey that will take her on a difficult spiritual and physical path.  Her dream is to work for equality for women in the Buddhist world.”  In her Afterword Griffin announces that this is an imaginary tale: “In 1874, my imaginary nun, Lin, was born in a village near Yunnanfu (capital of Yunnan Province and renamed Kunming in the 1920s).  She died in 1939, the year I was born.  Her story was conceived in 1985 when I first travelled to Guilin (Guangxi Province) and experienced feelings of déjà vu in the spectacular karst landscape.”

Pip’s opening poem “Coming home from the market” exemplifies the ethos behind the poem novel as she introduces the young girl to her readers:

 I ride my bicycle
 on the bumpy road
 through hazy landscape
 patchwork gardens illuminated
 by the setting sun
 stacked mountains layered
 against orange sky
This is a work laden with possibilities that result out of an engagement with people, places and landscape, real but also mythically-charged.  And as her reviewer, Patricia Prime, wrote a little while back.

“The journey is beautifully evoked by Griffin as the girl traverses rivers, mountains, sacred peaks, sanctuaries and a visit to the Mu household where, in the poem “Visiting the Mu household” “Prince Mu has asked us / to take tea with him.”

Griffin’s poem novel is activated by small moments unfolding from the fragments of daily minutiae: a sense of miracle, bliss is localized, transcendence is brief and raw, insight comes from focusing on the elements of Lin’s journey, the playing of her flute, wandering in the lamasery garden, meditating, eating and drinking. “ 

Next Pip spoke of her research and writing  of  her verse novel, Margaret Caro : The Extraordinary Life of a Pioneering Dentist, New Zealand 1848-1938.  This is the story of her great aunt  and  pioneer in New Zealand, first female dentist in NZ, a convert to Seventh-day Adventism  and social reformer . A towering figure she and her husband  Jacob (a Physcian )  worked in many difficult places including in NZ goldfields .

Lastly Pip spoke of her highly acclaimed and award winning verse  novel, Virginia & Katherine: The Secret Diaries  . It is well summed up in the following from the SWW web site.

… K & I had our relationship, & never again shall I have one like it – Virginia Woolf, October 1924
In January 1923, Virginia Woolf noted in her diary that Katherine Mansfield had promised two years earlier to send her diary to her. She was perplexed and hurt that she had not, not knowing how ill Katherine had been. The ‘secret diaries’ – Virginia’s begun after Katherine’s death in 1923, Katherine’s begun in 1920 are written in lyrical poems inspired by the friendship (and intense rivalry) of the two women. Virginia and Katherine recognised that they were ‘both after the same thing’ in their compulsive, innovative work of ‘writing their lives’.  The book presents a fresh dialogue that also suggests a tantalising possibility.
Pip Griffin, with meticulous research, creates biographical, poetical fiction that is fascinating and intriguing, filled with wonderful quotes and speculation. A pleasure to deeply dive in – jenni nixon, poet
Publisher: Pohutukawa Press
ISBN:  9780980318456
AUD 20.00 plus postage available from:
The author pipgriffin8@gmail.com
Wheelers Book www.wheelers.co.nz
James Bennett Pty Ltd www.bennett.com.au


1.Ani Lin: The Journey of a Chinese Buddhist Nun, Pip GriffinPohutukawa Press, Leichhardt, N.S.W. 2014, Australia.  

2.Margaret Caro : The Extraordinary Life of a Pioneering Dentist, New Zealand 1848-1938.  Pohutukawa Press, 2020

3. Virginia & Katherine: The Secret Diaries   Pohutukawa Press, 2021