Poetry Shelf celebrates Katherine Mansfield with ‘Pic-Nic’ (1918)


When the two women in white
Came down to the lonely beach
She threw away her paintbox
And she threw away her note book
And down they sat on the sand
The tide was low
Before them the weedy rocks
Were like some herd of shabby beasts
Come down to the pool to drink
And staying there – in a kind of stupor
Then she went off and dabbled her legs in a pool
Thinking about the colour of flesh under water
And she crawled into a dark cave
And sat there thinking about her childhood
Then they came back to the beach
And flung themselves down on their bellies
Hiding their heads in their arms
They looked like two swans.

Katherine Mansfield (1918)

“Mansfield’s poetry is unlike other local poetry of the time, in its distilled clarity, its intimate self revelations, its occasional child-like playfulness, its vivacious tones that at times seem conversational. In that sense, she was foreshadowing the writing contours to come.” Paula Green, Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry

Poems of Katherine Mansfield Vincent O’Sullivan, ed. and intro. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)

The Collected Poems of Katherine Mansfield, Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison (eds) (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016)

Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, 1888-1923) was born in Wellington and educated at Wellington Girls’ High School, and then at Fitzherbert Terrace School, Wellington. After a seven-year relationship, she married John Middleton Murray, and they moved between the literary circles of England and Europe. In 1917 she developed tuberculosis and eventually died in a sanatorium in Switzerland. Her literary reputation grew with the publication of In a German Pension (Stephen Swift, 1911), her collection of short stories. She published a number of short-story collections in her lifetime and, after her death, her husband published her letters, journals and poetry. In 1988 Vincent O’Sullivan edited an anthology of her poetry, and Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison edited a more comprehensive collection, including newly discovered poems, in 2016.

1 thought on “Poetry Shelf celebrates Katherine Mansfield with ‘Pic-Nic’ (1918)

  1. Jan FitzGerald

    Claire Harman has also just published a biography on KM called “All sorts of lives.” Promises to be very interesting.



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