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Making Canons and Finding Flowers - A Study of Selected New Zealand Poetry Anthologies

This thesis analyses the poetry contained in anthologies published between the 1940s and 1980s in New Zealand and that of some later anthologies that retrospectively covered the same period. I wanted to find out what subject matter preoccupied poets during these times, to monitor changes in the content of that poetry and to observe what techniques were used and the evolution of styles. Complimentary to the study of the poetry is an evaluation of the intentions of the editors of the anthologies and how much their selections were directed by their tastes and knowledge to form a kind of 'construct', or representation of the publishing of poetry. From my reading, I conjectured that the literary canon with regard to poetry was formed in New Zealand by the mid-1970s, on the strength of publications from Penguin and Oxford University Press. The 1945 and 1960 anthologies by Allen Curnow were extremely influential - particularly the second of these two - and the editors of future anthologies from the larger publishers diverged comparatively little from his choices. Curnow's anthologies are the subject of Chapter One, and in Chapter Two, I look at Vincent O'Sullivan's series of three anthologies for Oxford (1970, 1976 and 1987), which confirmed and expanded that canon. However, from the mid-1960s, and especially in the early 1970s, new trends emerged in New Zealand writing, linked to a consciousness of post-modernist literary theory. Some of the new trends, together with material that supplemented existing perspectives on poetry, are discussed in Chapter Three. The greater degree of acknowledgement of writing by women poets - which began in the late 1960s in smaller literary journals - reached a point where the first anthology of women's poetry, Private Gardens, could be published in 1977. The first major anthology to be edited by a woman appeared five years later. The gradualness of these changes is stressed, however, with regard to women's poetry included in the larger anthologies themselves. A new bias emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s in favour of work from the University presses. Nevertheless, anthologies that presented some alternative point of view on our literary history proliferated at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Taken together, the anthologies Big Smoke and Real Fire form a more holistic picture of what went on in the 1960s and 1970s and are discussed in Chapter Four of this thesis. Concluding remarks focus on the prejudices that appear to have guided the publishing of poetry in New Zealand anthologies, the influence of major poets, and the possibilities for further study of this body of literature.
Type of thesis
Bullock, O. F. (2007). Making Canons and Finding Flowers - A Study of Selected New Zealand Poetry Anthologies (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2255
The University of Waikato
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