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Last year, I posted about a little survey I’d undertaken of publishers’ websites.  I looked at the gender of poets published in 2009 by AUP, VUP, Steele Roberts, Seraph Press, Earl of Seacliffe Workshop, Cape Catley, Titus Books and OUP (the ones that sprang to mind).   I was interested to discover that, of the 31 books I found, 18 (58%) were by women and 13 (42%) by men.

Well.  Subsequently, I discovered that the Journal of Commonwealth Literature very conveniently publishes (amongst other things) an annual round-up of all the poetry books published in New Zealand during the year.  This included publishers I hadn’t been aware of at the time, such as Soapbox Press.  Thanks to the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, I was able to get a much fuller picture. 

The real balance was the opposite to what I’d found: of 74 poetry books published in 2009, 42 (57%) were by men and 32 (43%) were by women.  Most of the presses I’d inadvertently excluded were small presses publishing one or two volumes apiece.  However, one publisher (Kilmog Press, which makes truly beautiful handmade books) published 12 volumes in 2009 – surpassing all other publishers on the list, for which they are to be commended.  Only one of these books was by a woman, though, which skewed the results significantly.  (Maybe Kilmog Press will have an entirely different profile for 2010, but the results aren’t available yet, so we will just have to wait and see.)

Focusing on the three major poetry publishers in New Zealand (with 8 books apiece): Auckland University Press and Victoria University Press each published 5 women and 3 men; and Steele Roberts had 4 of each.

So how does all this stack up against the previous year?  2008 looks a little different for the big three: AUP published 2 women and 6 men, Steele Roberts  5 women and 7 men; VUP 3 of each.   But if those two years are typical, the gender balance looks as though it might even out over time. 

The other publisher with significant numbers in 2008 was the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (1 woman, 4 men), followed by Headworx (1 woman, 2 men & 1 joint publication by a woman and a man); Original Books (2 of each) and Soapbox Press (1 woman, 3 men).  The grand total for 2008 was 32 books by women (36%) and 55 by men (63%), with the remaining 1% the joint publication (by Meg Campbell and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell).

What can we conclude from this?  Female poets are well represented overall with the major publishers; male poets seem somewhat over-represented with the smaller presses.  Is this because small presses are more likely to be run by men, who prefer poetry by men?  Are men more confident about putting together a collection and submitting it?  Are women more likely to do MAs in Creative Writing* and therefore more likely to approach a university press?  Who knows.  You can expect another exciting instalment of this next time I get my spreadsheets going.

* I rather think they are, which raises another interesting question – why?  Do male poets think they know it all already?  Are female poets more open to the idea that they might still have a lot to learn?  Are men more likely to take the alternative, small press route?  I think there’s a thesis in here somewhere and if someone would like to pay my mortgage for the next few years, I’d be happy to take it on….

Stranded in paradise

When we hit tarseal again
I feel like the island
had tipped up
to send us rolling down-
hill heading for home

but not even halfway
between the end of the earth and Kaitaia
we hear a noise
and a clunk, and a hiss 

We stop to check 

It’s flat 

Up ahead are houses
Cars rush past like flies
We trudge along the verge 

The sun has already melted the tar
my Paihia jandals already ruined 

Intimidated by the large white house
we try the neighbours
with the cars and the dogs
‘No landline,’ they say, ‘try the white house’ 

The white house peers down from its hill
the driveway is two lines
of white stones 

I let you go first 

They don’t ask us into the house
but bring the phone out
They tell us they once visitedWellington
like another country, this mythic south 

We phone the AA and return to our car
I am homesick
for the first time

In the hours we spend waiting
the sun climbs higher and hotter 

We sit in the car, there is nowhere else
each passing vehicle shakes us with jealousy

When the AA man comes
pulled from his family, pulled from Kaitaia
we pretend to not be embarrassed
that we can’t fix it ourselves

City folk, we can’t help it


“Stranded in Paradise” is from Helen Rickerby’s sequence of poems Heading North, published in handbound volumes by Otago publisher Kilmog Press.  It’s a beautiful book, inside and out.  The poems follow a couple travelling up the North Island to Cape Reinga and back – part road trip, part love story, with the presence of a bovine goddess in the background.  In this poem, I especially like the idea of the island tipping people up and rolling them home again.

Helen Rickerby is the author of two other collections of poetry: Abstract Internal Furniture (2001) and My Iron Spine (2008) (both with HeadworX).  She is also co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine and runs Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher. Helen lives in Wellington, works as a web editor and blogs at Winged Ink.

Happy Poetry Day, everyone!  There are more poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.

New Zealand e-publisher Rosa Mira Books has just released “Slightly Peculiar Love Stories”, an anthology of 26 love stories.  The writers come from New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong, Argentina and Athens, the UK and the US and include Tim Jones, Tina Makereti, Maxine Alterio, Claire Beynon, Bryan Walpert, Sue Wootton and Craig Cliff.  My own contribution is my short story “Mill” which won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 2001.  I’m delighted to be in this beautiful anthology, in such fine company.  Congratulations to editor Penelope Todd, who has done a wonderful job.


SPLS authors

where to buy a copy

Suite Gallery (which recently moved from Newtown to Cuba St) has a cute little gallery space in Oriental Bay, just opposite the boat sheds & Martin Bosley.  It used to be a garage.  It looks like this:

If you’re in Wellington, you have until 17th July to get down there to see some really good photos of explosions by my friend Geoff Short.  If you like staring into flames, finding shapes in clouds, or setting fire to things, you will like these.  They’ve been on display in Paris, Beijing, Switzerland, etc and now they have arrived in Wellington just in time to warm you up on a cold winter’s night.  If the gallery’s closed, you can still get a good view through the window. 

One of them looks like this, only much bigger, and consequently even more exuberant:

Untitled Explosion, Geoffrey H Short

Go and have a look.




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July 2011

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