Poetry and Gender in New Zealand Publishing – the latest

Since 2008, I’ve been looking at all the poetry books published in New Zealand each year and reporting on the gender balance. That first year, a little over a third (36%) of the poetry books published were by female authors, but there has been significant change over the five year period and women are now responsible for almost half (47%) of NZ poetry books. Here is a graph showing how things have changed.

poetry & gender graph

The quality’s not great, sorry. For a better version, click on this link: poetry & gender graph

Another way of looking at it is that men (green in the graphs) were getting almost two thirds of the poetry publishing pie in 2008 and this was down to just over half in 2012 (mmm – pie).

poetry & gender pies

Click here for a clearer version: poetry pies.pdf

(Disclaimer: yes, I realise this is a very binary way of looking at things, but if anyone on the list is intersex or does not see themselves as either male or female, I wasn’t aware of it. I have made assumptions around gender according to whether the poets look male or female to me or have male/female-sounding names.)

Now, I don’t know the ethnicity of all the poets published in 2012, but out of the 55 poetry books published, I only noticed one that I know was written by a Māori poet, two written by Pasifika poets and none by Asian poets. So what’s with that? There are obviously plenty of Māori poets, as evidenced by AUP’s Puna Wai Korero – An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English. I look forward to seeing a body of poetry that better reflects our population make-up.

What is perhaps most alarming about the trends over the past few years is how few poetry books were published in 2012 – 55, compared with 88 in 2008.

poetry books graph

Better version here: Poetry books

The three main publishers of poetry in New Zealand remain Steele Roberts (13 titles in 2012, similar to the 12 published in 2008), Victoria University Press (12 titles in 2012 compared with 6 in 2008) and Auckland University Press (5 titles in 2012 compared with 8 in 2008).

My source, as usual, is The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (December 2013 48: 541553, Kirstine Moffat and Larissa Schumacher). The list includes a handful of books by New Zealand poets that were published in other countries. Thanks to Rebecca Pilcher for helping me source the latest information.

 

6 comments

  1. Thank you for taking the time to do this. It’s important information and needs to be in front of us, preferably waved loudly around. (Yes, one can wave loudly.) I don’t know how it would be possible to assemble a list of Maori, Pasifika, Asia poets, since going by name only will leave people out. Perhaps asking people to nominate their favourite poets of [specific] ethnicity would work – even as a one-off, this would be interesting and could be repeated in five years. Book Council? Poetry Society?

  2. Kia ora Janis
    Yes, thank you for this. I found similar data around Maori publishing when I was researching my PhD, though I was looking at fiction, which I fear may have even worse stats than poetry for Māori & Pasifika. Published plays were slightly better. There are multiple reasons for this, though my research also identified a lack of any real indigenous literary studies in New Zealand (no courses at tertiary level, limited commitment to indigenous literatures in high schools), and few Māori literature scholars. I think if the commitment were there from the universities, and Māori saw themselves represented in the study of literature, the numbers would increase. There is certainly plenty of interest out there, and plenty of writers, but I don’t think the current systems in place allow full engagement (so, we’re working on it!) I’m pleased to see anyone pointing this out and making sure it doesn’t slip off the agenda, which I think it has in recent years. Me Rongo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s