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…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:
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).
An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed. Here is the pie chart for fiction:
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.
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…
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Links to previous posts on this topic:
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.
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.”
And what about The Year of Falling?
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.”
“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.
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:
‘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!
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>
CHANT FOR THE RETURN HOME
The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.
We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.
Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.
We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.
But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.
The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.
[First published in The Ghazal Page, 2012(1).]
Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. Originally from Los Angeles, her writing has been published widely in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals. Her poetry collection Trace Fossils (first runner-up for the inaugural 2008 Kathleen Grattan award) was published by Steele Roberts in 2011 and her collection of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, in 2009. Mary was also one of four poets who co-authored Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003).
This week’s poem is a ghazal (sounds like guzzle) – originally an ancient Persian form.
The Guardian has this to say:
“The strict ghazal is composed of five or more regular couplets. The couplet is called a sher, and must be self-contained. The second line of each ends with a refrain of one or a few words, known as the radif. This is preceded by the rhyme, the qaafiya. In the first couplet both lines end in the rhyme and refrain, so the rhyme scheme is AA BA CA, etc. The last sher contains the poet’s signature, his name or a variant thereof.”
Modern poets writing in English have experimented with the form (Mary’s is a tercet ghazal with a deliberately empty line in the last stanza) but it’s probably fair to say that most consist of self-contained couplets, often exploring themes of love and mysticism.
More Tuesday poems here, where you can also watch the jointly written third birthday poem unfolding.
Mark Stephenson is a Wellington writer whose first novel No Second Chance has just been published by Steele Roberts. No Second Chance is the story of Anna, who arrives in Wellington in 1947 as a survivor of the holocaust. As well as being a story of survival, courage and betrayal, it’s also a story of love and hope. Anna forges a new life in a new place, but the past is always with her.
Mark grew up in the United Kingdom but moved to New Zealand in 1985 to work as a junior doctor in Invercargill. He has lived in Wellington since 1989 where he works as a GP and writes part time. He lives with his partner, a daughter and two dogs. Mark’s short stories have been published in JAAM, Takahe, New Idea, Viola Beadleton’s Compendium of Seriously Silly and Astoundingly Amazing Stories and Washington Square.
Recently I interviewed Mark about his beautifully written new novel, and about writing generally.
Mark, when I first met you, you were writing short stories. What led you to write a longer work?
Yeah, this novel started life as a short story, which was published in Takahe way back yonks ago. For some reason I just kept thinking about the characters and the reasons behind their actions. I gradually filled in the details of their lives and fitted them into a historical context, which wasn’t there in the original story, or not so much of it. Then I started thinking about the next generation, and the next one after that, and the consequences for them as well. So it became a story of how historical events can break apart a life, and a family, and eventually how the characters might come back together again.
What was different about writing a novel, compared to writing short stories?
It took a lot longer…!
But seriously, it’s easier in a way as long as you can stick to the task. You can develop characters and themes and plot along the way whereas in a short story it all has to be done in a few sentences, or words even. A short story is way easier to finish though.
You’ve chosen a very challenging subject. What made you decide to write Anna’s story? Is she based on a real person?
She is not based on a real person but some of the events I’ve written about have certainly happened to people. The situation and conditions in the camps are real but the characters and the way they interact in the novel are imaginary. I’ve been interested in those stories of survival since I was a teenager for some reason and have read some historical accounts. Many survivors keep their stories to themselves till they are much older, and some things probably go with them to the grave. I have often wondered what it would be like to survive, come back to a ‘normal’ life and how your mind would deal with it.
One of the most dramatic events in the book occurs in New Zealand, late in Anna’s life. This is based on an actual happening that occurred not far from here. It set me thinking… why would anybody do that? That’s really where the story came from – I started to fill in the gaps.
Do you have a regular writing routine? How do you juggle writing with your work as a GP?
Well, kind of. I have a regular bit of time off in the week when I write. Sometimes I spend most of it staring at the blank screen.
You held an NZSA mentorship while you were writing No Second Chance. How do you think that helped you?
It helped me a lot, basically by getting a lot of feedback on the text and how I was writing, seeing the recurring faults in my writing. I realised I had still a lot of work to do on the manuscript even though I thought it was already well drafted. I learnt a great deal. My mentor was encouraging while being honest about the bad bits, and there always are bad bits. She also praised the good bits, which I enjoyed more, strangely enough.
What are your writing plans now? Will you stick to novels?
At the moment I’m sticking to novels. I’ve written a draft of another one, possibly a second draft. It’s very different, though also historical, this one is set in sixteenth century Aotearoa before European contact and has a teenage boy as protagonist.
Finally, do you have any advice for first-time novellists?
I tend to think a lot and write little. I advise them to do the opposite.
No Second Chance can be bought from Steele Roberts and Unity Books, or any bookseller will order it for you if you ask.
You can read a sample of the writing at http://www.nosecondchancenovel.com
Exciting news that Cilla McQueen is NZ’s new poet laureate! The National Library function to announce the appointment was very well attended this evening, which just goes to show what a huge level of support there is for poetry in this country (and I do think Sam Hunt, Hone Tuwhare, Alistair Campbell and Jan Kemp can take some credit for that, given their wonderful touring poetry show of NZ schools back in 1979? which even National Library Minister Nathan Guy mentioned tonight.)
Cheers to Cilla, and of course to outgoing poet laureate Michele Leggott, who’s done a fine job of promoting poetry all over the country during her “reign”. (I did think that Michele should have selected the next laureate by lining up all the poets and chucking the specially carved laureate tokotoko over her shoulder and seeing who caught it – maybe next time…)
Cilla McQueen, based in Bluff, has a long commitment to NZ poetry. More about her here http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/mcqueencilla.html
She’s an interesting choice, given she’s one of the more “popular” poets and a frequent user of humour. Let’s hope Cilla hits the schools and the streets and continues to bring poetry alive!
For Wellingtonians of a poetic bent, this coming week is going to be busy! Monday 20 July has ‘Best NZ Poems’ at Te Papa at 12:15 http://tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/allevents/Pages/WritersonMondaysBestNewZealandPoems2008.aspx and the regular NZ Poetry Society meeting at 7:30pm at the Thistle Inn, featuring Lynn Davidson http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/poetrynews#nzps
Friday 24 July is, of course, Montana Poetry Day (yay!) and there are poetry treats all over New Zealand. Check out details at http://www.booksellers.co.nz/mpd_local.htm Unity Books has a great line-up of local poets reading at lunchtime – unfortunately I can’t make it, but I’m hoping to get along to the Newtown Public Library’s Open Mic session at 6:30pm. (oops – if you read this earlier, you would have seen an incorrect time – I’m told it really is 6:30pm) Unity also has a launch of Diana Bridge’s new book at 6pm.
Also, look out for Mary Cresswell’s virtual book tour later this month. I will be interviewing Mary on this blog about her latest publication Nearest and Dearest.
Poetic forms have a particular advantage. Using the restrictions imposed by a sonnet (14 lines, using a particular rhyming scheme if you like) or a sestina (6 stanzas of six lines + 1 of three with a set pattern to the end words in each line) can make a good poem better.
It makes me think of Gerard Manly Hopkins’ poem, Windhover, about a falcon (or perhaps a kestrel), where he says: “AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!” There are many ways of interpreting this, but the one I remember from school is that it referred to the falcon as a trained hunting bird, under the control of a falconer. The ‘chevalier’ also represented Hopkins’ Christ – made lovelier by his sacrifice. Hopkins himself, as a Jesuit priest, was under the control of his religion, which, while repressing him in some ways, perhaps gave him freedom in others. (For the record, I am suspicious of organised religion and think it has a lot to answer for, but that’s another story).
This is only one interpretation of the poem (and it’s just my recollection of it), but the point remains. By using the constraints of a poetic form, we can bring an extra dimension to poetry. And it’s fun, like working out a crossword puzzle. The challenge is for the form to fit the poem and not to try to force words into fitting the form. It works best when you can read a poem through, enjoy it, and only then notice that it’s a sonnet or has a set number of syllables to each line or that there is some subtle rhyming scheme at work.
Another way of looking at it, is discipline – the forces of order and control vs the forces of wildness. If you can get both into some sort of balance, it’s better than one or the other – to write, you need both wild inspiration and the discipline of sitting down and capturing it on paper/ flashdisk.
More on poetic forms here: poetic forms
The masters and mistresses of constraints are perhaps the Oulipo poets (“Ouvroir de littérature potentielle”), who use mathematical formulae in poetry or extreme constraints such as Georges Perec’s novel, La disparition, written without using the letter “e”. The wonderful Christian Bök, a Canadian poet who was here for the last Writers & Readers Festival in Wellington, uses some amazing constraints – his book Eunoia comprises five poem sequences, each using only one of the vowels. And speaking of discipline – the book took seven years to write.
Do try this at home.