Joan Fleming surveys NZ’s small presses for Cordite

Image courtesy of Limbo Agency.


Full piece here

There is a preconception that small presses, existing as they do outside the mainstream, publish poetry that is wilder, stranger, more political, and more ethnically diverse. Poetry that the university publishers have turned away, or whose genius such presses have failed to recognise. Poetry that bucks the mannered, nostalgic style that monopolizes the prizes and the media. Poetry that takes risks. No safety, no submission.

Certain small presses do, indeed, follow this brief. Anahera Press, for example, publishes Māori and Pasifika writers. Their books ‘give voice to … the intersections and spaces between cultures’ or champion writers who are ‘walking between worlds.’ A press that publishes culturally self-aware poetry, by Tangata Whenua and ethnically diverse poets, is much-needed in an environment that is still overwhelmingly white. In 2015, 91% of poetry books published in New Zealand were authored by Pakeha / Europeans; a dispiriting figure, when you consider that Pakeha make up only 74% of the population. Have a look at Janis Freegard’s ‘sad little pie chart.‘

Of course, Māori and Pasifika writers still publish within the mainstream, and are even fed into the dreaded mouths of university presses via the creative writing industrial complex. Tusiata Avia, for example, came up under the ‘straightening‘ tutelage of Bill Manhire’s International Institute of Modern Letters, so-named by the Vegas cowboy billionaire who funded its establishment. In 2016, she published her awards-shortlisted startling third collection, Fale Aitu | Spirit House, with Victoria University Press.

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