It truly was a gathering of literary luminaries when literature and art magazine takahē celebrated 31 years of circulation with the recent launch of its 100th issue at, most fittingly, the Sign of the Takahē.
Current takahē chair, Jeni Curtis, introduced guest speaker and takahē founder, Sandra Arnold, whose anecdotes on the birth of the magazine were both historically intriguing and entertaining.
Aotearoa Poet Laureate, David Eggleton, then read three poems: ‘A Week in the Valley’, ‘Dear Reader’, and ‘The Burning Cathedral’ – a moving poem about the fire of Notre Dame.
Next to take the stage was local poets James Norcliffe and Bernadette Hall, followed by takahē essay editor, Andrew Woods.
Cindy Botham, from Tauranga, read her poignant poem ‘From the Settlers’ Cemetery, Akaroa’, which won the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Competition Award, 2020.
‘Strike the Pounamu’, a 100-line poem on voices of Aotearoa, was read by takahē poetry editors Gail Ingram, and Jeni.
With 84 of our country’s finest poets having contributed lines to the work – such as Vaughan Rapatahana, Sue Wootton, Karen Zelas, Michael Harlow, Siobhan Harvey, Fleur Adcock, Albert Wendt and former poet laureate Elizabeth Smither – it was, indeed, the perfect ending to a poetic night.
It was a packed room in Tūranga, Christchurch Central Library, when renowned Canterbury poet, Bernadette Hall, launched Contents Under Pressure, the debut poetry collection by poet, editor and writer Gail Ingram. Gail describes her book as a novella told in poetry.
“It’s set post-quakes, and is about a mother under pressure who sneaks out one night to graffiti an Eastgate Mall wall. She’s got two teenage children – one suffers from severe depression, the other has drug issues.”
The inspiration for the mother’s graffiti is taken from an image of grains of sand, magnified 250 times. “The mother sees each grain as something tiny but beautiful and individual – separated yet all on the same beach,” Gail says.
“It’s a metaphor for Christchurch post-quakes – we were experiencing the same things in the same time and space. The mother wants to acknowledge the beauty of individuals, but also how we’re all, in some way, disconnected and broken.”
Gail says that much like poets reach for their pens in response to trauma, graffiti artists reach for their spray-cans. “Making art is a way to try to understand what’s happening in our lives and a way that we can begin to heal. The mother’s graffiti is an expression of love for her city, but it’s also a protest against the suffering caused in times of disaster.”
All of the illustrations in Contents Under Pressure are by Gail’s daughter, Rata Ingram.
Published by Pūkeko Publications, Christchurch Contact email@example.com. For more information visit www.pukeko-pukapuka.com. Also available at Scorpio Books www.scorpiobooks.co.nz.