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.