Wild Honey Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry by Paula Green is an impressive and absorbing commentary on the enormous scope of NZ women’s poetry.
It’s a hefty book of 461 pages of the text itself, 571 if you count the biographical notes, footnoted references and index. All up, this makes an excellent book to read with immense enjoyment, and then refer back to later as you absorb what you have read. I marvelled as I read of the accomplishments of these poets. I was in awe of their work and of their personal achievements against the odds. I have many of the collections of poetry referred to in the book and now have those to enjoy again and again with a refreshed view and a wider perspective about how women’s poetry fits into a larger picture.
Green writes with profound inside knowledge of the art of poetry. A poet herself, she is involved in poetry at all levels – teaching, promoting and anthologising. She has a blog: NZ Poetry Shelf. This book must have taken ages and was written at her kitchen table rather than in her study. This makes a point about how women’s poetry has been criticised as overly concerned with domestic matters. These poems show how the domestic is central to human life: it matters. It is intrinsically linked to all our personal relationships and to our relationship with self, and to the world at large.
To emphasise the point, the book itself is organised into parts of the house: foundation stones, through parts of the house, and out into the garden and the world beyond. This book is clearly a labour of love (excuse the cliche – Green’s writing is never cliched) and it is a balance of subjective and academic response. It is wonderful and beautifully written.
I could have felt angry about how women poets have been treated by critics and publishers, but this was not the tone of the book. I just felt immense admiration, pride, and awe for these poets right up to the last page.