I don’t know how I missed the publication of Paula Green’s book Wild Honey. Particularly given that the magnificent cover of this charming and comprehensive guide to poetry by New Zealand women is by none other than artist and writer Sarah Laing. It was Laing’s painting of a group of Kiwi women poets (some whose faces you’ll see regularly at our writers and readers festivals, local book launches, and poetry readings) picnicking together, sharing honey cake, surrounded by manūka and beech, a hive hanging overhead, that instantly drew me in while I was browsing the shelves of my local independent.
In the introduction, Green delves into and deconstructs the image of the bee hive with respect to women writing poetry. She writes: “The hive is a container of dark and light, and of activities that are both in view and hidden from view. The transformation of nectar to honey is akin to the transformation of words into poetry; not necessarily sweet, not at all, but fluid and fluent, and highly textured... The hive is also a house of endeavour: bees collect, build and transform.” In the pages that follow, Green takes the reader by the hand and takes a turn about the rooms of the house she has built in the writing of this book, which was to help us “taste the delights of wild honey” and get to know the many (specifically, 201) women who have helped build our country’s literary canon.
For lovers of poetry, it is the best kind of home – inviting, comfortable, and filled with the best and brightest company. Paula Green - as a lifelong reader, poet, reviewer, anthologist, blogger – is a thoughtful architect who has designed Wild Honey to be more than groupings of poems. More than the “corrective to the neglect and misreading of women poets from the past” she wants it to be. More than literary lodestar, or reference book with margins awaiting endless scribbling.
Le Corbusier believed architecture to be “the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light”. Green has sifted through the published poems of our country’s writers, past and present, panning for the words and the women who wrote them that are most lustrous. Words that reveal why in writing poetry “We sit and we dream; we rebel and we pay homage; we sing and we hold things in reserve; we make connections and we dare.”Support Villainesse