Poetry Shelf review: ‘like a heart’ – poetry by Louise Wallace, paintings by Anna Perry

(… ) this is the sound of your voice
/ sounding off at the sound / at fascination / the sound of
learning / of signals / the sound of so much potential / this
is the sound of light / and need / this is how it sounds to be
tender / this is the sound of your own skin

Louise Wallace, from ‘talk to your baby’

like a heart is a slim chapbook that accompanied a collaborative exhibition between Louise Wallace and Anna Perry. It was held at Bowen Galley in Wellington during VERB Readers & Writers Festival 2022.

The chapbook is an exquisite compendium of the mundane and the marvellous, through both image and word. It includes a terrific introduction by Sarah Jane Barnett. Daily life is a starting point, a launch pad into the intricate and the complex. Here I am at home occupying the domestic space, the bush, the country roads, and the only real travel beyond these margins is by way of reading and writing. like a heart is both anchor and travel. It is domestic space and it is beyond domestic space.

I am holding the catalogue, standing in the “gallery” with helter-skelter ideas and slow paced absorption. Here I go musing on how poetry is painting and painting is poetry, on how you get a still life that holds you still, and then fills you with body movement: the bowl of fruit, the vase of flowers, a chequered table cloth, bathroom basin, half-open window curtained, the half-drunk cup of tea. There is ripple, reaction, and of course memory. Floods of memory. Heart.

The paintings bring to mind the work of Berta Hansson (1910 – 1994), Frances Hodgkins (1869 – 1940), Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964), Maya Kopitseva (1924 – 2005). I am led to the poetry of Jenny Bornholdt, Blanche Baughan, Alison Wong, Ian Wedde, Fiona Kidman, Cilla McQueen, Sue Wootton, Jill Chan, Angela Andrews, Michele Leggott.

The paintings (oil on wood) are warm, sensual, textured, colour rich, utterly alive. Confessional.

The poems are nuanced, steady-rhythmed like a heart beat, quiet, vital, exposed and exposing, utterly alive. Confessional.

There are gaps and there are bridges, within poem, within painting, and between the one and the other. The domestic space exudes life, physical detail that unlocks anecdote, anecdote that heightens physical detail. Mood swells. I feel like I am holding the collaboration in the palm of my hand, and the travel is glorious.

Bowen Gallery page

Anna Perry is an Elam School of Fine Arts graduate who has exhibited in a range of Aotearoa venues. She has been a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards and the Parkin Drawing Prize. She currently lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin where she works as an early childhood teacher and mother.

Louise Wallace has published three poetry collections with Te Herenga Waka Press, with a new book due May 2023. Louise founded and edits the online journal Starling, and was the 2015 Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. She lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin with husband and young son.

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