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Update – Poetry Competition 2016

three takahePoetry Competition Update

Our Judge, Mr Peter Bland, has emerged from the mountain of words that three hundred and thirty seven poems create. He was delighted by the opportunity that ‘as a whole renewed his belief in the diversity of possibilities that poetry offer, and reminds him how poetry expresses the nature of things, it doesn’t explain them.’ ( A sneaky wee teaser from his report.)

And, yes, results are in.

We are in the process of contacting the four prize getters. In the meantime all the poems are with Joanna (our poetry editor). She is reading her way through the poems and selecting possibles for publication. (That’s two bites of the apple and just another example of how fab our competitions are!)

If you do not hear from us by 1 December you can safely send your work elsewhere. I urge you to do this. Remember art is subjective.

While I have your attention:

Please heed the call to keep a bo-peep on the blog.

Over the next week or so I will be revealing an exciting new competition.  Yes, another innovation from your forward thinking and dedicated Board.Straw effect takahe

It is something meaty to get your teeth into as your end of year worries are blowin’ in the wind. Till then, enjoy the long weekend.

 

 

Poetry selections for takahē 88 now done

weary-editorThe poetry selections for the next issue – takahē 88, due out in early December – have all been made, and the issue sent off to layout. It’s looking really good, with a couple of contributors making their first appearance in print, alongside some of the most respected names in New Zealand literature. Just what we like to see.

Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve had more male than female poets in an issue. I don’t attempt to have any sort of gender balance going on – plenty of times I have no idea of the gender of a particular contributor until they send me their author photo! – but the trend over the last few years’ worth of issues has been roughly two-thirds female to one-third male. Which is a reasonably good approximation of the overall ratio of submissions, as it happens, with the trend over the last twelve months being an increase in the number of submissions from male poets. From a geographical perspective, we’re getting a lot more submissions from overseas – lots from the USA, quite a few from Australia and the UK, and then a scattering from other places. It’s great that takahē is known so widely!

There is, however, still one place left in the issue that has yet to be filled: the winner of the 2016 poetry competition. I’m really looking forward to finding out the results, because we’ve had some spectacular poems taking it out in the past. I’ll be combing through the rest of the entries to see if there are some that I’d like to snaffle for the April issue of takahē, so even if you don’t managed to get placed in the competition, you may still hear from me.

A brief note about the reading periods for the poetry section. I read all the submissions during the first two or three weeks of each reading period, and make the selections as I go. Everything that comes in after I start selecting is held over to the next reading period. To minimise the amount of time you’ll need to wait between submitting and getting a response, your best bet is to submit in the week or two before the reading period starts. I know the times seem a bit strange, but due to the time needed in preproduction we actually have to have everything done and ready to be laid out and proofread a good eight or so weeks before the issue is published. Hence the reading period being just after the new issue comes out. But this can actually work in your favour, at least in terms of remembering to send in your submission: as soon as you’ve finished reading current issue, send in a submission for the next one!

2016 Poetry Competition is now closed

three takahethree takahe2016 Poetry competition is now closed and following on from Joanna’s blog: I’m singing the praises of poets.

What an outstanding effort:

Three hundred and thirty seven (337) poems have been subjected to a rigorous administrative procedure (can’t divulge sensitive details, but a hot soak and a few peeled grapes will go along way to restore my equilibrium). They have been parceled and are now winging their way, via pigeon post, to our judge. When I told him how many poems to expect, he was absolutely delighted and can’t wait to read them all.

As for the results, they will be published on the website in December, when the next issue of the magazine comes out. All poems entered into the competition will be considered for publication, and any selections notified by the end of November. Please note that all poems entered are free to be sent out elsewhere after 1 December 2016.

Thank you all for your entries and I wish each and every one of you the very best for the competition. Take care and keep writing.

 

Why I chose it – Matt Elliott’s “Gathering at the Shoreline”

Sometimes it can be difficult to pin down what exactly it is about a particular poem that tips the balance from hmm, yes, maybe to yes, yes, definitely yes. Other times it’s really simple. As in this case. With Matt Elliott‘s Gathering at the Shoreline it was the line ‘bodies / shaped by other bodies’. I fell in love with it, then and there. Didn’t you?

The poem itself is deceptively simple – fourteen lines, nothing longer than six syllables. Simple, descriptive, over as quickly as a first cautious toe-dip into chilly water. The original poem had some slightly different lineation, and there was one line from the first version that we both agreed could use being rewritten, but the changes didn’t amount to much more than tying up loose laces and tucking stray bits of fringe under a bathing cap.

It’s a wonderfully visual poem. These are old ladies, not just old women. It’s the sort of scene Beryl Cook would have painted – can’t you see the look of concentration on their faces as the make their way over the rough beach down to the water? Maybe they all meet there regularly, to swim together. Or perhaps they’re there on their own, individuals taking to the sea. Maybe they recognise other regulars, give them a nod of recognition. But then it’s back to the business at hand, and the waiting water.

The most obvious thing is to note how rarely it is that elderly women appear in poems, except as cliches. Women over a certain age are, in our culture, virtually invisible. If they make it in to a poem, it tends to be as dried-up old biddies embodying a Gather ye rosebuds kind of warning, set in opposition to someone altogether younger and more flower-like. Or they’re batty old things smelling of cats and stale biscuits. Either way, it’s not a positive depiction. It’s not something that you think yes, I want to be like that! We get uncomfortable thinking about the physicality of anyone much older than our own parents, so Old Women Are Not A Fit Subject of Poems (Except As Witches or Madwomen, In Which Case It’s Fine). But these women feel … real. And while there’s nothing romantic about the way Matt describes them, they’re anything but caricatures. From their tender feet to their bathing suits / and bathing caps, the description is just right. Even the deliberation of the line break – it makes you see the items of clothing as separate, like pieces of armour. The way you can imagine each item being unfolded, shaken out, put on, smoothed into place. It isn’t just a costume. It makes it a ritual.

These are not going to be women who strut and preen – that wonderful phrase, bodies shaped by other bodies. Mums. Grandmas. (Or Grandmothers – there’s a difference between the two, and given the glassy-eyed stare, the latter sounds quite likely.) Old ladies, taking some time away from the shared part of their lives. The bits of their days where other bodies make demands – family, friends, neighbours. Husbands, perhaps. All the other bodies, and their wants and needs. But this is their time away from that. We know this is a regular occurrence – they do it daily. And I can’t help seeing it as morning – it’s just them, the gulls and the sea. And they aren’t strolling down to the water’s edge, the way we do on warm afternoons. There’s no splashing, no laughing, no children and dogs and sunshine. The sea is glistening, and they stop, hands on hips for a moment, at the water’s edge. Maybe it’s cold. Or maybe they’re just sinking in to the moment, getting ready to plunge in and start swimming. Taking a breath. Whatever the reason, you can feel their focus, can’t you? (That wonderful ambiguity about who it is – gulls or ladies – who stares glassily at the sea.) I can’t help seeing these as the kind of old ladies who will swim miles and miles, fearless and seemingly tireless.

And all this from a mere fourteen lines. A gem of a piece.

Viva the elderly ladies! Long may they flourish, and may their towels be always where they left them! And may more poets sing their praises!