Helen was born in Waitara, Taranaki in 1972. She has lived in London, Bristol, Wellington and currently resides in Palmerston North where she writes and tutors creative writing at Massey University. An avid journaler, Helen has kept a diary since she was a child. When asked at a poetry reading whether or not she would keep writing if she was the only person alive she replied ‘Of course. I love writing. It wouldn't bother me if no one else was going to read it.’
Helen’s first book of poetry, The Comforter was published by Seraph Press in 2012. The Comforter made the Listener’s Best 100 books of that year which described the book as burning with the pressure of 'what it’s like to be she who comforts. Honest about the way domestic responsibilities deflect adult fears and longings, it excels at capturing suburban claustrophobia, the enraging tedium of chores, the comedy of clashes between adult’s and child’s eye view. There is a clinched energy here; the poetry fizzes with ironies.’ Sarah Jane Barnett described the collection as ‘heartfelt, relatable, and authentic.’ She writes ‘Lehndorf’s words are chosen carefully. Sound and rhythm are strengths of the collection, and it’s one to read out loud.’ The opening poem in the collection, ‘Wabi-Sabi’ was also selected for Best New Zealand Poems.
Helen’s second book, Write to the Centre was published by Hanui Press in 2016. Write to the Centre is non-fiction that Helen describes as 'being ok about her lifelong habit of keeping a journal.’ The book offers ‘colourful excerpts’ from her own journal as well as writing ideas.
Helen has stated that she had been toying with the idea of writing a book about her own journal writing for a few years but had worried over whether people would find it interesting. Her decision to go ahead with the book was assisted by the approval from a board who gave Helen a grant to complete her manuscript. Paula Green described the book as functioning as ‘a patchwork memoir’ with its ‘lifts of colour and brave admissions’ while simultaneously acting as a ‘guide to journal writing’ as the reader encounters ‘the sticky questions and the practical suggestions that will set you on a writing path or help you refine and rattle the one you are already on.’
Her work has also appeared in anthologies such as Kaupapa: New Zealand Poets, World Issues (2007), Swings and Roundabouts: Poems about Parenthood (2008) and Poetry Pudding a delicious collection of rhyme and wit (2008). Her essay ‘The Sensory Seeker’ was also published in ‘Home’ an anthology, edited by Thom Conroy, Massey University Press in 2016. She has also had work published in journals such as Sport, Landfall, JAAM, and 4th Floor.
The Comforter: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/the-comforter.html
Write to the Centre: http://www.haunuipress.co.nz/write-to-the-centre.html
The Listener’s 100 Best Books of 2012 https://www.noted.co.nz/archive/listener-nz-2012/the-100-best-books-of-2012/
Sarah Jane Barnett reviews The Comforter: https://sarahjanebarnett.com/2012/01/24/tuesday-review-the-comforter-by-helen-lehndorf/
Sarah Jane Barnett reviews Write to the Centre: https://sarahjanebarnett.com/2016/12/09/write-to-the-centre/
Paula Green reviews Write to the Centre https://nzpoetryshelf.com/2016/11/28/to-journal-or-not-to-journal-helen-lehndorfs-write-to-the-centre/
Interview with Pip Adam https://betterreadnz.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/sketchbooks/
Jack Ross reviews The Comforter https://www.landfallreview.com/closedown-hibernate-restart/