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This week, our Meow Gurrrls feature poet is the wonderful photographer and poet Mary Macpherson, with her poem ‘Litter’. We’d love you to subscribe to our Youtube channel if you want more Meow Gurrrl poems.

 

The Meow Gurrrls are a group of Wellington/Kapiti/Wairarapa-based women who meet regularly to share poetry, often at Meow cafe.

Who are the Meow Gurrrls, I hear you cry?

The Meow Gurrrls are a group of Wellington & Kapiti Coast poets who have been meeting for some time now to share poetry, wine, food and fine company, sometimes at Meow cafe in Wellington.

So, what’s new?

The Meow Gurrrls are launching a YouTube channel, whereby you can access quality short poems delivered by a Meow poet on the device of your choice any time you goddamn please. New poems will be added over the weeks and months to come. You’ll love it.

This is cool. what can I do?

We would love you to subscribe to our channel, like and share our posts, and tell your friends.

Do the Meow Gurrrls really need all those rrr’s?

Why, yes we do.

Are there any actual cats?

Sure. Meet Polly. Don’t be fooled by those fluffy good looks. Hobbies include destroying door frames and random savage attacks on her staff.

Polly Oct18

But she looks so sweet. Anyhoo, where is this alleged YouTube channel involving the Meow Gurrrls of which you speak?

Here you go. Meow Gurrrls Youtube channel

And here’s me, with a love poem. Because, you know, poetry. The poem also appeared on the Wellington City Library blog on National Poetry Day 2018. http://www.wcl.govt.nz/blog/index.php…

 

How come your lipstick looks crooked?

Because our bathroom mirror looks like this:

IMG_3085

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Hope to see you there!wild words

…and here is the breakdown of fiction published in New Zealand in 2015, by the gender and ethnicity of the authors (as far as I can make out).

In terms of gender, women dominate in the fiction stakes, with 44 fiction books by women published in 2015 (59% of titles) compared with 30 men (40%). The ‘Other’ category refers here to a book jointly authored by a man and a woman.

Here is the pie chart:

gender fiction 2015

In non-fiction, the proportions are reversed, with 13 titles (62%) by male writers and 8 (38%) by female writers (see below). So it kind of balances out. If you add fiction, non-fiction and poetry together, 82 titles were by women, 83 by men and one by both. Yay, right? (Note: I’ve left out a few categories, like Drama and Criticism, but included Letters & Autobiography).

NZ Non-fiction by gender

An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed.  Here is the pie chart for fiction:

2015 fiction by ethncity

Yep, that’s right, with 68 titles, Pakehā writers got 91% of the pie; Māori writers and Asian/Indian writers got 4% each with 3 titles apiece and Pasifika writers got 1%, with a single title (ie Albert Wendt wrote a book).

By way of comparison, in 2014, 88% of fiction titles were by Pakehā writers, 7% by Māori writers, 5% by Asian/Indian writers and none by Pasifika writers.

And for non-fiction, 85% of titles (18 in total) were written by Pakehās and 5% (1 title each) by a European/Jewish writer, a Māori writer and a Pasifika writer.

Non-ficiton by ethnciity 2015

How do I know what ethnicity everyone is, I hear you cry. Well, I don’t know for sure. I visit at least 3 websites (author pages and so on) and look for clues. So there may be some undercounting. If a writer does not describe themselves as Māori, Asian or Pasifika and does not mention an iwi affiliation, I have counted them as European/Pakehā.

One last pie: all fiction, non-fiction & poetry titles for 2015. 90% of titles were by Pakehā, 4% by Māori and 2% each by European/Jewish, Pasifika and Asian authors. What a lot of pie…

All titles 2015

For the record, I’m female and Pakehā (I was born in the UK and grew up in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was twelve.) Two of the books published in 2015 were mine.

I put this analysis together because it matters to me. Fairness matters. Having a national literature that represents our national population matters. Being able to read a diverse range of voices matters. Also, I’m curious (in more ways than one) and like playing with spreadsheets 🙂

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Previous posts on this subject can be found here:

https://janisfreegard.com/2017/01/07/nz-poetry-2015-by-gender-ethnicity/

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

https://janisfreegard.com/2015/12/30/poetry-published-in-new-zealand-by-gender-ethnicity-to-2014/

https://janisfreegard.com/2016/02/08/nz-fiction-non-fiction-by-gender-ethnicity-2014/

Every year I spend several days hunched over a spreadsheet doing a bit of a round-up of who had a poetry book published in New Zealand the previous year, so you don’t have to. I’m interested in whether our national literature can be seen as representing the diversity of our population, because I think it should. I look at gender and ethnicity, based on how people describe themselves (or are described by others) on their websites, author pages, etc. Generally I try up to 3 websites and a quick check of who’s in Puna Wai Korero and if I don’t find any mention of ethnicity, I assume the poet is Pakeha/European. It’s not an exact science, but it gives a rough idea.

Now I’m up to 2015 (the most recent information readily available) and, well frankly, this is embarassing. Only two of the poetry books published in 2015 were by poets with Māori heritage and two more mentioned Pasifika heritage. Two further poets mentioned mixed European and Jewish heritage. Everyone else, as far as I could make out, was Pakeha/European. There were no Asian poets with collections published in 2015.

Here is a sad little pie chart:

poetry-ethnicity-2015

By way of comparison, only 74% of people described themselves as Pakeha/European in the 2013 census (15% Maori, 12% Asian, 7% Pasifika, 1% MiddleEastern/Latin American/African – it doesn’t add to 100% because people can indicate more than one ethnicity).

Things are a bit more egalitarian on the gender front, but men were published more (57% of books compared with 43% by women), down from the heady days of 2012 where numbers equalised. Here’s how it looks over time:

poetry-by-gender-to-2015

Total numbers of poetry books are looking reasonably healthy, with 70 titles published in 2015 (compared with 73 in 2014). Victoria University Press were the winners in terms of overall quantity (10 titles), with Wellington’s Original Books in second place (7 titles) and Auckland University Press, Mākaro Press, Otago University Press and Steele Roberts joint third (6 titles each). Various small presses made up the rest of the list.

You can read previous posts on this subject here:

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

https://janisfreegard.com/2015/12/30/poetry-published-in-new-zealand-by-gender-ethnicity-to-2014/

https://janisfreegard.com/2016/02/08/nz-fiction-non-fiction-by-gender-ethnicity-2014/

and if you have read it yet, here’s the link to Brannavan Gnangalingam‘s Spin-off article on subtle racism in New Zealand literature.

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. I’ll get around to fiction in due course. And if you were wondering about reviews (whose books get reviewed), data for 2015 are still trickling in from an intrepid band of volunteers and I’ll try to do something on it when I can.

 

This Saturday, I’ll be at LitCrawl. If you’re in Wellies, you should be too.

I shall be reading at Hashigo Zake 25 Taranaki St at 6pm with the stunning line-up of Chris Tse, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

Here’s our blurb:

When you write from a minority perspective, whether it’s your sexuality, your gender, your mental health or something else about you, there’s an expectation you’ll perform those parts of yourself.

We choose what parts of ourselves we offer, reveal and share. We decide what we gift of ourselves to the audience. We’re not just queer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just genderqueer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just mentally ill writers. We’re writers. We’re all of these things and none of them. Come along to hear some writing loosely organised along non-heterosexual lines across genders and experiences.  We’re wrapping up ourselves as gifts and we’ll rip the paper too.

Featuring Chris Tse, Janis Freegard, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

There are rumours  that at least one cape may be involved and I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of a hat. But hey, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are are many other exciting LitCrawl options to choose from and you can read all about them here:

http://www.litcrawl.co.nz/litcrawl.html

100_1085

Since 2008, I’ve been looking at the numbers of poetry collections being published in New Zealand, by gender, and more recently, by ethnicity. I was a bit slow getting to the 2013 stats, but here they are, along with the figures for 2014.

So what’s changed?

In 2013, publications were evenly split between male and female authors for the first time since I’ve been looking at them. Men were a little ahead again in 2014 (55%), but it’s still markedly different from 2008, when close to two-thirds of poets with collections published that year were men.

Poetry by gender to 2014

What’s really exciting is that after a steady decline from 2010 to 2013, the overall numbers of poetry collections is starting to increase again.

poetry books 2008 - 2014

The publisher landscape has also changed quite a bit. In 2008, the three “big” poetry publishers in New Zealand were Steele Roberts (12 publications), Auckland University Press (8) and Victoria University Press (6).  Other outfits to put out more than one publication that year were the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (5), Headworx (4), Original Books (4), Soapbox Press (4) and Chihuahua Press (3).

In 2014 however, romping to the lead is Lyttleton’s Cold Hub Press with 20 titles to their credit. Stalwart Steele Roberts came in at 14, Victoria University Press at 11 and Auckland University Press at 8. Wellington’s Makaro Press, if you include the 6 books published under their Submarine imprint, published 9 collections.

What’s the same?

Poets with published collections are overwhelming Pakeha, way more so than we would expect if we looked at the population breakdown from the latest census. (Note: doesn’t add to 100% as people may have multiple ethnicities.)

census data ethnicity 2013Poetry by ethncity 2014

Only 5% of poets who published collections in 2014 were Maori (whereas Maori made up 15% of the NZ population), 3% were Pacific (cf 7% of the population), 1% Asian (cf 12% of the population – no pressure, Chris Tse) and 1% Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (cf 1%). Yes, Pakeha have an ageing population and are therefore more likely to produce published poets than more youthful sub-populations, but that’s not enough to account for the disparity.

Who cares?

Well, I do. I want to see a rich, diverse published literature that more closely reflects the range of poetic voices of this country. Also, I care about equity of access to goods and services and that includes access to being published (wait – didn’t someone sign a Treaty way back when?)

But surely it’s all based on merit? And women have got the vote now – what more do youse sheilas want?

Merit is subjective. If it’s only Europeans judging the merit of poetry, then there’s a chance we’ll miss something that a different group would find meritorious or inspirational or recognise their own lives in.

Whatevs. Where do the figures come from?

I rely on the Journal of Commonwealth Literature which includes an annual round-up of the literature of Commonwealth countries.  I copy the list of published poetry collections from there into an Excel spreadsheet and bake it into pies (just kidding – I don’t bake). The journal comes out late in the year that follows the year in question which is why there is a delay. I can’t be certain the list is complete, but I feel sure that the good folks who compile it have done a thorough job.

How do you know everyone’s gender and ethnicity?

Ah, I’m not promising this is 100% accurate. I go to at least 3 websites (eg author pages on publisher websites and the NZ Book Council writer files) and I try to work it out from that. If there is nothing at all to suggest that a poet is not European/Pakeha, I count them as Pakeha. I do this because I figure when you’re part of the bigger group, you are less likely to identify yourself as such. I think it’s a reasonable assumption. Only a handful of poets actually say they are Pakeha, but some say they were born in the UK or US or mention that their ancestry is Irish, so I go by that.

Why is it just collections? Why don’t you look at poetry in journals and so forth?

Because I have a day job. But, you know, you should totally go for it.

Have you thought about looking at reviews?

Funny you should ask. I am part of an intrepid bunch of volunteers who are trawling through 2015’s many and varied reviews of NZ books as we speak (and not just for poetry ). If you’d like to join our merry band, please do leave a message on this site.

Wishing you all a merry 2016, filled with poetry and wonder.

Janis Neil Roberts 013

Photo: Fleur Chalmers

 

Links to previous posts on this topic:

https://janisfreegard.com/2010/02/06/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing/

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

 

2015 is feeling like the year of anthologies. I’m very pleased to have work in these three little beauties:

‘Sunset at the Estuary’ is a tribute to the late Dianne Beatson who, with her husband, Peter Beatson, offered writing space in a lovely house in Foxton, as well as founding the Foxton Fellowship. The book contains a selection of poetry and prose from some of the many writers who have benefited from their generosity, including Sue McCauley, Chris Else, Alison Wong, Adrienne Jansen and Mandy Hager. It’s published by Rangitawa Publishing and edited by Dorothy Alexander and Joan Rosier-Jones. Over the years, I’ve spent a number of productive long weekends with writing groups at the Foxton house, which I’m very grateful for.

 

 

Also released recently is ‘Of Paekakariki’ – poetry, prose and illustrations about (you guessed it!) Paekakariki. It’s edited by Sylvia Bagnall and published by Michael O’Leary’s Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop. Contributors include Roma Potiki, Dinah Hawken, Apirana Taylor, Sam Hunt, Frances Cherry and Leon Uris (who was stationed there during the war).  I read my contribution along with many others at a very enjoyable launch in St Peter’s Hall.

Of Paekakariki

Cover illustration by Alan Wehipeihana.

 

And finally, there is ‘The Poetry Bug’ from Parthian Press in Wales. It’s an anthology of poetry about insects, collected by butterfly expert John Tennent. The collection offers much humour and rhyme and the poets range from Horace and Virgil to Pam Ayres. Quite exciting to have my little cockroach poem from ‘Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus’ rubbing shoulders with offerings from the likes of Tennyson, Rossetti, Whitman, Goethe and Dickinson.    Also, it’s in hardback, which is always nice.

 

 

Later today the Poetry Conference starts in Wellington – programme here.  It fits nicely around LitCrawl too. Looking forward to both.

https://janisfreegard.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/c21d6-cimg1337.jpg?w=607&h=456

Henry Clayworth                       Photo by Julian Hermann

The Old Man and the Sea

Sun, sea, salt, fish stink,
Blood, fish scales and petrol fumes,
“Sea’s like piss on a plate,
She’s fresh as a fart in springtime.”
We strain pulling nets into the boat,
Laden with green, red and orange weed,
Doggies, snapper and a stingray or two,
“Fishing’s not what it used to be.”
Probably never was,
The old man goes apeshit,
“Come on, pull, you useless bastard,
You’re like a one-armed paperhanger,
Useless as tits on a bull.”
Gleaming sky turns grey,
Tangaroa gets restless,
And Tawhirimatea a bit stroppy.
“She’s blowing like 40 bastards,
Sea’s coming up rough as guts,
Rain’s coming down as fast as whores’ drawers.”
The old man laughs at the waves,
And we’re off with a hiss and a roar,
Then it’s down the pub for a few quick ones,
“A few beers and a bit of a yarn.”
The old man at the bar,
A Pakeha Maui
In his plastic sandals,
A nylon net
For his grandmother’s jawbone,
A string of obscenities
For his Karakia.

 

by Peter Clayworth

from Otago University Students Literary Review Centenary Edition 1888-1988

Dr Peter Clayworth is a Nelson-born historian, researcher and writer who now lives in Wellington. Peter is also my partner. He wrote this poem – about fishing trips with his dad – many years ago. Last week he read it out at his dad’s funeral in Nelson. Peter’s father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, while he was over in Golden Bay white-baiting – doing something he loved in a place he loved. He was 83. Rest in Peace, Henry Clayworth: mechanic, fisherman, whitebaiter, spinner of yarns.

 

https://janisfreegard.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/7c8cf-cimg1357.jpg?w=565&h=424

Henry Clayworth                                                      Photo by Julian Hermann

 

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Wordle: janisfreegard.com

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