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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

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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

 

It’s National Poetry Day in New Zealand on Friday and there are poetry events across the country. Here’s the full calendar of events and a link to the Facebook page.

I will be reading at an event in Lower Hutt on Friday evening. Here’s more:

Poems of Place; Landscape Poetry and Open Mic
We live in a land of hills, river and sea. We experience wild changes in our weather and our remoteness affects who we are as a people in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Much of our literature and poetry reflects our unique landscape. This National Poetry Day event held in Lower Hutt will feature writers reading their landscape poetry and reflecting on what this means for them. There will be an opportunity during the open mic for people to read their own or their favourite author’s poetry on the subject of nature, landscape and the environment. Everyone is welcome, poets, poetry-lovers and those interested in the local environment. Featuring the poets Anne Powell, Harvey Molloy, Kerry Hines, Keith Westwater, Tim Jones, Adrienne Jansen, Kerry Popplewell, Keith Johnson and Janis Freegard.

Entry Details: Free. Open to all ages. Sign up for the open mic on the night.
Date/Times: 28 August, 7.30 – 9.30pm.
Location: St Marks Complex 58 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt. Opposite the Lower Hutt Library

Further Info: www.facebook.com/events/667972266672138/

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Te Rerenga Wairua / Cape Reinga

A number of people have kindly enquired as to the wellbeing of ‘The Year of Falling’ and ‘The Glass Rooster’, so I thought it might be time for an update. I do feel as though I have released hand-reared orphaned wild things out into the world to seek their fortunes and I’m very much hoping they don’t fall into a ravine or get eaten by bears.

glass rooster cover

So how’s The Glass Rooster?

Thank you for asking. He’s been somewhat elusive lately, but is no doubt striding about happily somewhere looking for hens to impress. There was a sighting on Beattie’s Book blog in June, where Elizabeth Morton gave the book a very nice review which starts:

“Grab your knapsack. Pack for all conditions. Janis Freegard wants to be your travel companion, and she has a cross-country junket in mind. ‘The Glass Rooster’ takes you through forests and oceans, deserts and space, all the while chaperoned by the eponymous bird who ‘was nothing if not well-travelled’. An unlikely tour guide, perhaps, but he will strut and call and pose for photographs like the best of them.”

Novelist and poet Helen Lowe was also kind enough to feature a Glass Rooster poem as one of her Tuesday poems, which you can read here.

If you’re interested in roosters (mostly glass), you might want to have a look at my Glass Rooster Pinterest page,  There is also a Glass Rooster cannery in Ohio which I may have to visit one day.

 

 

Year of falling small

And what about The Year of Falling?

A little busier, actually. The lovely Helen Lowe let my three narrators – Selina, Smith and Quilla – take over her blog for an interview recently.

There have also been some lovely reviews. Emma Bryson on Beattie’s Book Blog, said:

“Quirky, funny and inspiringly touching, Freegard has a knack for writing scenes which are painfully human. I watched as Selina’s life start to drift away from her, and screamed in frustration as she ‘reasoned’ her way into further trouble. And I became a silent observer (albeit slightly tearful) as the stoic Smith dealt with the heart-breaking complexities of losing a friend, raising a child, and caring for a sister.”

Felicity Murray on the Booksellers blog said:

“This is a story of searching for one’s self, trying to identify and then hold onto the important things, and finding a place to call home whether it be a physical place, or simply in your own head and heart. There is hope, forgiveness, joy and love. It is a wonderful story, I very much enjoyed reading it. I really hope this book gets widely read and promoted, because it certainly deserves to.

And Catherine Roberston said in the NZ Listener: “…the pace and assuredness quickly increase, building layers of tension and pleasingly ambiguous characterisations that hold interest to the end.”

I’ve also had some very nice emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook messages from people saying they’re enjoying the novel or were up all night reading it, or they really like one of the characters, which is exactly what any writer loves to hear when wondering whether anyone will ever read the book you spent years fretting over.

 

Where can I buy them?

Indie bookstores like Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), University bookshops, Page and Blackmore (Nelson), Almo’s Books in Carterton and some Paper Pluses (like the one in Coastlands on the Kapiti Coast). They’re also available directly from AUP and Makaro Press and online retailers like fishpond.

I was chuffed to see both books squeaked into the Indie Top 20 list for 20 June 2015, which means I am on a list with Patricia Grace, Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright, Atul Gawande, Helen MacDonald and other great writers.

Many thanks to everyone who’s bought, read or plans to read the books, who’s requested them from their local library, reviewed them, rated them on Goodreads or told me they enjoyed them. Makes it all worthwhile.

Janis Freegard poster Aug 2015 (2)

Looking forward to reading some Glass Rooster poems and extracts from The Year of Falling in Carterton on Sunday 2nd August 2015. It starts at 3pm at the Carterton Events Centre. I believe there’s also an open mic, so I’ll get to sit back and enjoy other people’s poetry too.

Two things!

Thing 1:Poets for Peace

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The… um… white bird of peace…

Poets for Peace is an evening of poetry on Saturday 18th April 2015 where I will be reading with these other lovely people:

* Teresia Teaiwa * Maria MacMillan * Sophia Tara * Ali Jacs * Martin de Jong * Meg Hartfield * Vivienne Plumb * Tim Jones * Madeleine Slavik * and more, with a musical interlude by Mighty Ukes for Peace.

From 7pm to 9.30pm at the St Andrew’s Conference Centre, 30 The Terrace (entry via the pathway on the right hand side if you’re standing on The Terrace facing the church).

Entry by donation, all proceeds to a West Papua peace and justice initiative.

Poets for Peace is part of the ‘Remembering war / ending war: Challenging militarism and building peace’ weekend – an antidote to the militaristic myth making fervour around the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli invasion – details at https://www.facebook.com/events/972037769491199

For more information, please contact Peace Movement Aotearoa, email pma@xtra.co.nz

Thing 2: Projected Fields Community Picnic

On Sunday 19 April from 12-3pm, there will be music, poetry and activities in MacAlister Park (Vogeltown). Jodie Dalgleish and I will be reading a few poems.

Norwegian-born artist Siv B Fjærestad, with Letting Space and in partnership with Wellington City Council, is creating an enormous artwork on the fields of MacAlister and Liardet Street Parks, Berhampore.

Her painting has been inspired by field markings, and the stories and activities of the people who use the parks and their dreams for its future. Over 2014 Fjærestad and volunteers surveyed the local community and park users to inform the painting’s design and how it might be activated.

11am Pre-picnic Tai Chi by Tai Chi Associates on MacAlister Park

11.50 am Join a dog walkers parade to top of park (meet at Berhampore dog zone off Stanley Street) – off lead, on lead, off lead.

12noon  Bring a blanket and food to share. Spoken word and poetry, Acroyoga, Hula Hooping, Zumba, DJ Kedron Parker.

2.15pm    The game of Ki o rahi – guided instruction (on Adelaide Rd side).Have a go at painting the field blindfolded – bring old clothes.History Booth –  Bring along stories of the area and talk to co-author of the forthcoming Berhampore History, Kerryn Pollock. Bring photos to be scanned and added to the archive.Kite making and flying

Rain day: Sunday 3 May

Contribute to discussion about the parks at this Facebook page.

Learn more about the artist’s process at the Projected Fields Blog.

More info here: http://www.lettingspace.org.nz/projected-fields

Bring your friends, neighbours, work mates, cousins, children, parents, dogs; some kai to share and something to sit on.

Oh look! I still have a blog! A sadly neglected blog. 😦

These past few weeks, when I am not at my day job, I have been running very fast in my little hamster wheel getting two books ready for publication. This is the poetry collection with a great cover by Keely O’Shannessy:

Freegard_the-glass-rooster

‘The Glass Rooster’ is coming out in May, published by Auckland University Press. It’s arranged in eight sections (or ‘echo-systems’) which are a mix of natural ecosystems (deserts , the alpine zone) and other types of places (like cities and outer space). Each section is introduced by a triolet (a French poetic form with repeated lines) and the other poems are arranged in pairs, each echoing something about the other.

It also features a glass rooster – who appeared in my last AUP collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus. You can read sample poems here.

But wait – there’s more! Much of my hamster activity of late has involved The Year of Falling, a novel, which will also come out in May. It’s being published by Wellington-based Mākaro Press. More on this to come!

White face roborovski dwarf hamster

Photo By Sy (Own work) [<a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0″>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AWhite_face_roborovski_dwarf_hamster.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>

 

 

 

 

 

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Wordle: janisfreegard.com

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