Book review: Landfall 226

By John McCrystal

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Landfall 226.
Landfall 226.

The theme of the 226th edition of Landfall is "heaven and hell", although it is applied pretty loosely. An overt religiosity - or at least the use of religious imagery - infuses much of the work.

London is a hedonist heaven in one of Rhian Gallagher's poems, The City, and the moment he realised the priest who took his confession was more interested in rugby than ritual is a kind of biblical fall; Richard Reeve, in Canto II, a segment of a longer work in progress, takes a mixed-metaphorical journey to hell; Doc Drumheller playfully casts himself as the risen Maori Jesus in The Second Coming; Leilani Tamu mythologises her muse as a spirit between worlds in her A Tribute to the Black Ghost, and Chris Tse imagines a conversation between Nick Cave and Rilke regarding the meaning of Orpheus' fatal turn at the gates of Tartarus.

Religious iconography informs much of Liz Maw's painting (a detail of one of which supplies the striking cover), and traditional, tribal forms the work of installation artist Lonnie Hutchinson. Even Tim Corballis' award winning essay, Winter, addresses a kind of secular heaven, the utopian spring imagined by the far political left (of which he professes himself a member).

Elsewhere, you have to look harder for whatever lateral interpretation of the theme was used as a criterion for selection. Not that it matters, because the end result is a rich and varied collection of high quality creative endeavour.

This number features some excellent poetry: of particular note are Frankie McMillan's gorgeous and heart-rending The Campanology of Wishes, Joanna Preston's witty Stop me if you've heard this one before, Ruth Corkill's beautiful and brutal Oakura, and Michael Steven's haunting Terminus. Standing out from the short fiction were Tina Shaw's Turning, with its clever manipulation of time and suspense, Thom Conroy's powerful New Skaters, with its carefully managed symbolism, and Tracey Slaughter's bleak Leaving the Body, the title of which becomes a neat double entendre.

The Landfall review section is as satisfying as ever. A couple of the pieces are mini-essays from people who are or have been deeply involved with both the work under review and its creator: Liquor Makes us Buoyant, Lindsay Rabbit's lovely little piece on Geoff Cochrane, occasioned by the latter's publication of the poetry collection The Bengal Engine's Mango Afterglow, is written with the affection, insight and empathy that only an alcoholic could bring to consideration of the work of an alcoholic.

Jan Kemp's friendship for Fleur Adcock enables her to take real and evident pleasure in the poet's flights of fancy, as published in the collection Glass Wings. And
perhaps the highlight of the issue is Around and then Back Again Beginning, Nicholas Reid's wonderful, considered and erudite review of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries.

So, in consideration of the pleasure it brings, let us join together in saying: Long live Landfall, and spare it the unhappy and undeserved fate of Sport.

Landfall 226 ED. by David Eggleton (Otago University Press $30)

- NZ Herald

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