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….