New year, new Metro (sort of).
The issue you hold in your hands marks the completion of my first year as editor of Metro. And, being released into the world on the second day of not just a new year, but a new decade, it seems fitting that it marks the end of some parts of the magazine and the beginning of some others.
Firstly, it is the last issue for a year with our treasured art director (and longest-standing editorial staff member), Jess Allen, who is taking a break from us to raise a small child. So things will look a little different for a while until she comes back a slightly new person, in which case things will continue to look different but in new and unexpected ways. We wish her way more than luck.
Also, long-time critic David Larsen — who has been reviewing films for Metro since 2015, but wrote about classical music before that — is also leaving us, but not temporarily. In his “state of the cinema” sign-off (“See you at the movies”, page 102), he writes that after 12 years, he’s “running out of fresh ways to say things” and would like to stop before he becomes a “bore”. The operative word there is “before” — David’s writing remains resoundingly alive with style and taste, and we’ll miss having it in our magazine.
Similarly, Anthony Byrt, who has written Art City since its inception in 2014, has filed what may turn out to be his last take on Auckland contemporary arts. Well, for us anyway. I got to know Anthony when we both went to write about Simon Denny’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale for Metro in 2015. Anthony covered the serious stuff while I went off drinking and eavesdropping. When I read our pieces side by side, as they appeared in the magazine (his first), I was envious of his depth of engagement with the work and its socio-political and art-historical tangents, and it’s been my pleasure to receive his latest tangents in my inbox over the past year. (Not to mention his continued growth as a current-affairs feature writer — publishing Anthony’s piece on the breakup of the Pride Board and the end of the Pride Parade is one of my highlights of my first six issues.)
Ruth Spencer, who has written the funny stuff on the last page on and off for most of the decade, has also called it a day. Ruth’s sharp observations about Auckland life have given us an odd lens with which to take a good hard (and funny) look at ourselves for as long as I’ve been closely following the magazine.
The New Year is not just a good time to look forward, but a perfect opportunity to look back and accept our failings, and one of mine last year was changing Metrolols (as the page become known in 2015) into a satirical social-media feed full of memes and made-up Twitter arguments between newsworthy New Zealanders. Apart from a couple of highlights, it didn’t really work and that’s on me.
But, in the spirit of renewal, it gives me immeasurable pleasure to introduce Metroscopes (page 114) in its place. Metroscopes is our take on astrology, written by Hera Lindsay Bird, one of my favourite writers and someone I’ve quietly wanted to shoehorn into the magazine since I started. When I mentioned commissioning a horoscopes page to a longtime contributor, she told me the idea had been floated a few times before but, for various reasons (one of which being the distaste of a couple of previous editors), had never happened. “Why don’t we ask Hera if she wants to do it?” I said ridiculously, as if one of the country’s preeminent poets would want to write about the ups and downs of Scorpios and Geminis. (I then said maybe we could ask Eleanor Catton, if Hera didn’t want to — editors are, essentially, fantasists seeing what they can get away with.) I’d half-remembered Hera tweeting wittily about astrology once or twice, but when I looked it up, I found she’d deleted her account, so I trusted the vague memory and asked her anyway.
Hera’s perfectly formed glimpses into our stars are paired with illustrations by the celestially talented, and equally witty, Sarah Larnach. It’s rare, but sometimes things just come together exactly how you hoped they would. This is one of those times. And I, for one, am choosing to take it as a positive omen for the year and decade to come.
So here’s to 2020 and the 2020s. (Finally, we’re back to a decade we can all agree on what to call it.) Here’s to things coming together. New year, new decade, new you, new me, new us.