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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!

 

Poetry Competition 2016 – deadline looming

three takahePOETRY COMPETITION 2016

ONLY THREE WEEKS TO GO (GIVE OR TAKE THE ODD DAY!)

Riemke Ensing, our 2015 Judge made the following comment in her Judge’s report:  One wants a poem to ‘say’ something and grab one by the throat. Yeats’ lines – ‘two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle’ kept coming into my head.

Of the winning entries she said: They kept one’s attention throughout. As I read them aloud, I listened to Robert Frost telling me ‘the ear is the best reader.’ And in conclusion she reminded us that: You are all winners in the sense that with Ulysses in Tennyson’s poem, ‘all experience is an arch wherethro’ / Gleams the untravell’d world.’ – Keep striving and keep at it.

Straw effect takaheOf course you have to enter to be a winner – that’s how these things work.

One of the fab things about competitions is that you will never be rejected  – we welcome your entry and don’t forget that every entry will be considered for publication, which by my reckoning is value for money.

The good thing is there is still plenty of time to send in a couple (or more) of your best.

Do a Robert Frost, read them to your cat, your bestie, the postie (well, maybe not the postie), fold with care, stuff in an envelop and send them to:

Takahe Poetry Competition, P O Box 13-335, Christchurch 8141, New Zealand.

Nothing ventured …

 

 

Countdown to takahē 87 online

Wherever you are in the world, join us in celebrating the launch of the first  online issue of takahē by logging onto this website on the evening of       

t87 coverWednesday 10 August.

Discover whose mother had been educated in a German boarding school in Transylvania; what the bitter ovary said; what Karen Healey’s shadow-self may or may not think about the American elections; how our reviewer felt about Love as a Stranger; and the results, judge’s report and winning stories from the 2016 short story competition.

Tell us what you think of takahē online – love it, hate it, give up a week of hot dinners for it? What would you like more of? What would you change if you could?

Have your say. We want to hear from you.