Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry


‘In writing this book, I built a house. I moved through the rooms — collecting, building, recouping, revaluing — in order to travel through a broad range of published poetry. The doors and windows of the poetry house are wide open, because these are readings of discovery, making new connections between poets, poems and ideas.’ — Paula Green

Poet and poetry champion Paula Green has been reading, thinking, writing and blogging about poetry for decades. She has also been percolating her ideas about the unwritten story of New Zealand’s women poets, and their deserved place in our
literary canon.

Her remarkable new book Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry, published in August by Massey University Press, is wide-ranging, engaging and affecting. Ranging over the work of 201 women poets, it is timely, generous and a
vital homage.

On many levels it is also a corrective. Historically, the male adjudicators and guardians of New Zealand’s poetry canon wrote off the voices of women poets on the grounds that their poetry featured too much feeling and intimacy and was too
tied to the domestic sphere.

Green was determined to right the balance. As she says, ‘This book is about the endeavour of New Zealand women poets over one hundred and fifty years of published poetry. Some of these women have slipped from public view, and many were not paid the honour they were due in their lifetimes.’

She celebrates and makes connections between these women poets across time. The pioneers of women’s poetry — Jessie
Mackay, Blanche Baughan and Eileen Duggan — emerge from the shadows alongside forgotten women poets such as Lola
Ridge, emerging poets, prize-winning poets and household names.

‘Familiar poets, such as Fleur Adcock, Robin Hyde, Ursula Bethell, Nina Mingya Powles, Karlo Mila, Hinemoana Baker,
Tusiata Avia, Alison Wong, Fiona Kidman, Emma Neale, Anna Jackson appeared in surprising new light as I lingered over
their work. I wanted to write whole books about each poet. I loved the work of Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan, unfamiliar to me,
but was disappointed I could find only one book published in 1978. I wanted more!’ says Green.

The glorious cover image by writer and artist Sarah Laing shows a group of barefoot women poets picnicking outdoors:
Anna Jackson is reading in a tree; Tusiata Avia and Hinemona Baker are conversing, as are Alison Wong and Ursula Bethell,
and Robin Hyde and Blanche Baughan. Selina Tusitala Marsh is stretched out gazing at the sky; Jenny Bornholdt and
Jessie Mackay are daydreaming; Michele Leggott is hugging her guide dog; Elizabeth Smither, Airini Beautrais and Fleur
Adcock are mid-conversation.

‘I love the mood and I love the connections,’ says Paula Green of the cover. ‘It references the way I have been musing and
conversing (taking tea) with women’s poetry over the past four years.’

Wild Honey is published to coincide with Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day #NZPoetryDay.

Paula Green MNZM is a poet, reviewer, anthologist, children’s author, book award judge and blogger. She has published twelve poetry collections, including four for children. In 2017, Paula was admitted to the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Poetry and Literature and she was also a recipient of the coveted Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Her book 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, co-written with Harry Ricketts, was shortlisted for the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards. She runs two blogs: NZ Poetry Box and NZ Poetry Shelf. She edited the much lauded A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children (Random House). The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems (Scholastic) won Children’s Choice at the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

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