Helen Innes

Helen's creations are set in the bush & include the weird & wonderful world of 'warblish' - birdsong vocalisations often found in folklore and birding guides.

PhD awarded 2021

Helen is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry who has taught English in Ireland, England, Japan, China, and New Zealand. She lives in Lower Hutt and freelances as a copyeditor, editor, writer, and teacher of academic writing.

Helen's publications include a novel And the birds fled to the bush (2023), a very small book Into the Woods (2022), a co-authored novel Oracles & Miracles & Zombies (2021), and work in Plate in the Mirror poetry anthology (2016), Turbine|Kapohau (2012), and FishHead magazine (2010). She was runner up in the Eat your Words Café Poetry Competition (2010), and twice runner up in the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Awards (2008 & 2009).

Helen writes: 'For my critical component I wrote a comprehensive guide to warblish (the interpretation of birdsong as language). New Zealand examples include the morepork/ruru asking for more pork, and the grey warbler/riroriro declaring riro riro/gone, gone. Warblish appears in many cultures and languages around the world but is often not explicitly named as a phenomenon nor grouped together with other examples. I found more than 1500 far flung examples in over 60 languages and discussed what these contribute to society.

'My creative component consisted of a short story, novel, and children's book. The children's book Sparrows say, "Cheer up! Cheer up!" showcases how warblish can be used in a story. The short story Into the Woods is an autofiction account of how birds help a woman journey through the stages of grief. The novel And the birds fled to the bush is set in a New Zealand suburb that uses the destruction of infrastructure in an earthquake as an opportunity to create a new society. However, when a young researcher arrives to study the local birds he is regarded with ire or indifference by all except for Timothy, a weird loner living in the bush, whose speech is odd and behaviour odder.'

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