Marie Le Lievre – our featured artist for Issue 91

Coming very soon….Dr Maria Walls, interdisciplinary fine artist and writer, writes about the work of artist Marie Le Lievre, whose work features on our beautiful front cover.

“There is a flash of live energy, an atmosphere of announcement, which must surely reflect Le Lievre’s own sense of defiance in making such work. These paintings are such essential reductions – intrepid colours, audacious shapes – yet all the elements unite to spawn knotty emotion.”

Charm Lore (Panel) graphite, oil, gesso. ink on wood panel 600 x 600mm

Format Aside

Just one more sleep before the launch of the latest issue – takahē 88! Even if you can’t make it to the launch party at the Woolston Hop tomorrow night, I hope you’ll raise a celebratory glass with us to mark the occasion. Or perhaps lift a mug of coffee in salute as you brighten your morning by browsing the samples that will be posted online. Or tap a biscuit against a mug of tea as you flick through the pages of your subscriber’s copy, fresh from its wrappers.

Discover … who won the 2016 Takahē Poetry Competition, and why; what happens in the the Embassy of ’Waiki; which body part our guest poet has penned an ode to; whether Gavin’s gift of pancakes had the desired effect; the extent of sheep’s awareness of the music of Joan Armatrading; why Julia Holden painted 1000 portraits of actor Geoffrey Rush; and what exactly another poet says she could prove “if I had another life / and another husband”.

These and many more poems, stories, essays, articles and reviews await your pleasure in the pages of takahē 88.
Go on, you know you want to.

A little taste of 88

The Artist: Margaret Stoddart (Hannah Beehre) (2016) C-type print, 700mm x 560mm. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Julia Holden The Artist: Margaret Stoddart (Hannah Beehre) 2016. C-type print, 700mm x 560mm. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

With our next issue rapidly winding its way through the processes of layout, proofing and printing, it’s time for a sneak peek at the arts content. Takahē 88 features an interview between art historian Petrena Fishburn and local artist Julia Holden, which concentrates on Holden’s distinctive brand of ‘performance painting’. Several of the accompanying images were created for a new project, Lyttelton Redux, which will be launched tonight in Lyttelton (more details here). More than twenty local identities, including artist Hannah Beehre (as shown above) and Adam McGrath, frontman for the acclaimed band The Eastern, have been painted – literally covered in paint – by Holden to resemble a host of historic characters with connections to the township. These include legendary Canterbury flower painter Margaret Stoddart, notorious sheep rustler James McKenzie and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. The resulting photographic portraits will be displayed in businesses around Lyttelton until March and a map of their locations is available from 50 Works Gallery at 50 London Street.

 

 

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!

 

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.