Opening the Archive: Robin Hyde, Eileen Duggan and the Persistence of Record
by Michele Leggott
This paper was first published in Opening the Book, eds. Williams and Leggott (Auckland: Auckland UP, 1995) at 266-93. An earlier version also appears in Hecate 20.2 (1994): 56-87.
When Gillian Boddy in 1991 quotes Pat Lawlor in 1935 quoting Jessie Mackay several years previously on the subject of her younger contemporaries Eileen Duggan and Robin Hyde, the voice on the wind seems impossibly distant. To ground Mackay’s statement and its original context is one search among many that might alter the sense we presently have of all three writers as peripheral to the founding of a canon of New Zealand poetry. Jessie Mackay—poet, journalist and critic herself—also announced in 1930 that Eileen Duggan had written poems “to lay up in heart’s lavender for ever.” Somewhere between the desire for foundation (public, communal, conditional) and the individual, partisan act of preservation lies the story of what happened to women poets and their work as literary codes were altered just before mid-century by a cultural nationalism inimical to previous competences.
Lawlor finished his 1935 cameo of Robin Hyde with a flourish of affectionate territorial droit (the book was Confessions of a Journalist, published a year after Hyde’s Journalese). Like Mackay, Lawlor was pinpointing a hope poetry had for its constitution in the 1930s that sounds odd now. We did forget. Or rather, the forgetting was carefully arranged and now seems like natural consequence, an outworn mode giving way to newer forces. But ghosts rise, and that word genius may still draw the fire Lawlor intended for it. “[T]he girl” was in 1935 a single woman of twenty-nine, author of one published prose work, two collections of poetry and a substantial body of journalism. She had also had two children, two breakdowns and two years’ residence in an extramural ward of the mental hospital in Avondale—the same institution that claimed Eve Langley in the 1940s and Janet Frame in the 1950s. What price genius in such contexts?
There is a lost matrix of women poets whose presence in our literature needs urgent reappraisal. How it was lost, and why, are absorbing questions; but more important still is the matter and nature of matrix, with its suggestions of support, nurture, and numerousness. Jessie Mackay (1864-1938), Eileen Duggan (1894-1972), and Robin Hyde (1906-1939) were prominent figures in an earlier version of generational descent in New Zealand poetry, and they were conscious of the role. They knew and corresponded with each other and with the literary editors of the day who promoted and published them—notably John Schroder, Alan Mulgan, Charles Marris, and Pat Lawlor. They were vigorous reviewers and they were eloquent in their support of a wide range of causes that had in common a compassion for the outcast, dispossessed, or disempowered. Rights for women and children, the temperance movement, reform of discriminatory legislation against Maori, the loyalist cause in Spain, Scottish and Irish Home Rule, or unemployment problems closer to home were variously part of their brief. As unmarried, educated women supporting themselves in part—or wholly in Hyde’s case—by journalism, they were culture workers who believed also in a code of social service. Blanche Edith Baughan (1870-1958) and Mary Ursula Bethell (1874-1945) span the generational gap after Mackay and before Duggan and Hyde, and suddenly we are looking at a capacity for shaping New Zealand poetry in the first half of the century as a politically alert, humanitarian enterprise, diverse in its subjects and styles but run on sympathetic and highly reticulated energies that took as their point of departure the socially progressive atmosphere of the late colonial period.
These women made deliberate choices about what they wrote and who it was aimed at. Their poems became well-known to readers also interested in the emergence (their patronage assisted it) of local literature and in its links with British tradition. The same readers could admire Hardy, Housman, Yeats or de la Mare, and find similar emotional engagement and stylistic clarity in the work of Duggan, Hyde and the others. They were not populists though they shared pubishing venues (mostly newspapers) with popular verse, for which there was a flourishing audience. In December 1935 Whitcombes had in stock 750 copies of The Perfume Vendor by seventeen-year-old Gloria Rawlinson. Hyde liked the poems and had written an introduction to her friend’s book, but she was dismayed to find that only a dozen copies of The Conquerors had been ordered by the same bookshop. However, Duggan’s readership in the 1930s was large—second editions of her Poems (1937) were printed in England and America—and Hyde’s audience was certainly bigger than the 1935 anecdote implies. Both poets were capable of the kinds of simplicity that earned them casual readers as well as those who took their work more thoughtfully.
But such distinctions are at best arbitrary in the face of the powerful effect their poetry had on individuals in its contemporary audience. I am fascinated by the trace of a recurrent story which has it that the poems of Duggan and Hyde were carried to the 1939-45 war by the fathers, uncles, brothers or friends of those who also remember that such poems were often recited from memory and/or that the book is still about at home somewhere. Physical, literal distances the poems travelled, the memory of how and why they travelled signals a most interesting kind of endurance: passionate and totemic.
Can the genius of Duggan, Hyde and the others touch us, a readership long since trained in the pleasures (and prestige) of formal difficulty? Duggan can mention democracy and magic in the same breath, sensing strategic wisdom leaping through its beholders as a set of fiery transmissions. Her scholarship is consequently tactical, blended with consciousness of a vocation almost in the tradition of the Catholic teaching orders, and (like that tradition) astoundingly reflexive. Who is Maro of Toulouse in the title of the poem where Duggan carves up Modernist predilections for obscurantism not long after excusing herself from Allen Curnow’s 1951 Caxton anthology? Who is L’Écrivisse Mère of her typescript poem, saying: “We have not feasted and we have not basked. / We had the work / And asked no quittance — / We had the work”? These two, esoteric Latinist (father) and enigmatic (writing?) mother face each other across the gulf between publication and archive, teacher and savant, presence and waiting. Who are we of L’Écrivisse Mère covenant? And what are we taught outside of it, reading and thinking about that wait?
I am working in the dark, trying to bridge the distance between their tradition and my standpoint, convinced these women have something to say that I need to hear. I am moving by a kind of textual infra-red, looking for places that make light of historical distance or heat up connections to the present. Already we are leaving exposition for the condition of poetry, its partiality, its ability to leap the abysses it opens. “Ah not as plains that spread into us slowly,” Duggan wrote, “But as that mountain flinging at the skies / And not as merchantmen which trundle in the offing / But as a privateer that boards a prize, / Let song come always at me and not to me.” The title of her poem pointedly conflates beauty with “Booty” so that its final lines realise the inherent structural pun: “For beauty like heaven by violence is taken / And the violent shall bear it away”. Or there is Hyde’s coincidental gesture, written in cold and contemplating a durable fire: “Flames shall be my jongleurs, / Flames my minstrel wights...I shall be their mad master... / Shriller, fiercer than words / Out of my golden aviary / Shall cry my burning birds.” The madness of art. The difference between cleverness and magic. I want to attend to the metamorphic, control-eluding figures Hyde and Duggan put before us as first principles of their art.
2 Hyde, and hiding
Metamorphics. This one occurs in “The Beaches,” the section that begins: “Sands, sands of my father’s town, / Of my father’s triple sea, / (Once for the eyes and twice for dream, / Thrice for memory).” A daughter who questions and receives strange answers from the “Mother” sea is caught between father’s town and mother’s town, is urged at last to hush her singing, to accept “a bed and a lamp at home.” The sea’s hypnotic whisper ends the poem:
But filial security is not the same thing as a home in this world. “The Beaches” is the first part of “Houses by the Sea,” which is more than a long poem about homing or desire for the lost world of a Wellington childhood. Folded into it, by enigma and double coding, are the narratives of emergent female sexuality, something coming the other way, determining contemporary possibility against a dream of history. Daughter and answering sea in “The Beaches” trade riddling lines:
Transfer the feminine boat to the female body it stands in for, and the code is apparent. Boat is body, the curve of it, the tamelessness of it, the smell of it. But then, amazement—that line effortlessly doing two things at once: “What makes the sweethearts quarrel? / Third mouth, pink as coral.” The interloper who separates sweethearts is third point of a triangle. But the third mouth, “pink as coral,” the one that causes trouble, is also unmistakably sexual. And there it is, a vulval image in a poem written in 1937, masked for propriety in a culture that refused all talk of the body. These and other lines wait for readers delighted by their secrecy:
Hot cream flood, peaks and shouts, coral pink mouth. Hyde hides what androcratic society will not countenance: sexuality celebrated and inscribed by a woman. Her predecessors in the attempt are Mander, Mansfield and Devanny; all prose-writers. Who does it for poetry before Hyde with her multiple strategies of concealment? Hyde is about hiding, about surviving by hiding, and she stamps the exigency as a personal signature in every part of her work. It starts with the deliberate androgyny of the assumed name but it travels also through endless references in her poems to rainbows, prisms, bridges and arcs. The rainbow is the sign of Iris, she who connects heaven and earth; Iris Wilkinson elaborated the clue of her given name, producing an exquisite tension between presence and concealment of herself in her work. There are iris flowers throughout her writing, and extensive play with the optics of eye and I. Her own eyes, Gloria Rawlinson tells us, were blue; I for one am glad of the detail.
Playfulness, doubleness, and the whiff of urgent reasons for the adoption of strategy should alert us to the scope and passion Hyde brings to the poetry of the 1930s. She is prolific, speedy in her execution, with a journalist’s pragmatism and (“my burning birds”) the conviction of a soul on fire. The combination is electrifying, its risks obvious. By 1935, poised between the worlds of convalescence (literally asylum) and literary career (the run of novels and poetry 1936-39), Hyde is already underground, a combat figure speaking under cover of poetic norms designed to retain rather than alienate readers. This is important. She saves her direct assaults on social, economic, and intellectual repression for newspapers and journals; places of first consequence in the cut and thrust of daily reading. Poetry, which she privileged above her other writing, shelters other, older ways of registering violence and beauty in its perceptors—and yet Hyde stands apart from the flagellation of self and others developed by her male contemporaries as authoritative poetic expression.
Hyde did not like chopped-back austerities of style, and she was suspicious of restricted agendas. She did not like the elevation of realism to high moral and cultural ground, and most of all she disliked the scapegoating of feminine consciousness which accompanied the installation of these values in a national literature. Assessing the local scene in 1936, she wrote: “Among the male poets of Auckland...there is a general dislike of the sentimental, a trepidation in the use of imagination, a tendency to believe that beauty is pretty-pretty...to regard the lyric mode as a weak sister in poetry”. Propagandist, she called the similarity of the individualists in their longing for economic and social change expressed as insistence on a social realist poetic (“it is intellectual suicide to determine on one mood and one intention as the be-all and end-all of poetry”). Male poets, though anti-feminist and destructive or partial in their criticism, are given credit for their literary achievement—and disingenuously reminded of its tainted heritage: “‘Well, I'm damned,’ I thought, “Of all the dear little buttercups to come across just when least expected. Listen to this...’” Her target here is Mason’s “O Fons Bandusiae”; Fairburn, Curnow, and Beaglehole also come under scrutiny, Phoenix poets emerged from their early-1930s association at Auckland University College.
Hyde was fighting a number of interconnected battles, most of them deriving from a generalised historical antipathy to women, behind which lay determinable fears of female sexuality. Antipodean puritanism and its efficient polarisation of gender had produced local variations on an ancient figure of the woman in chains. Hyde’s titles—The Desolate Star, The Conquerors, Persephone in Winter—signal her awareness of continuing struggle against oppression; the poems spell out details: “I am The Silenced. From my ageless dumb / Affronted calm, the last commands shall come.” Archetype for Hyde is folded with political protest; specifically female oppression is lodged within the rhetoric of Romanticism, so that to speak for women is to speak to other prisoners in the compound. When Hyde’s dialogue poem “Husband and Wife” was published in A Caxton Miscellany (1937) the imprint and the company it kept—Glover, Fairburn, Curnow and others—foregrounded contemporary particulars of an old battle:
She, a wife, has seen five green leaves (“Abel’s fingers stretched from earth”) put out by an oak polled for power lines, and has come back to the house where the two of them fight (“I ought to put the axe against her roots”) and love (“When I let down my hair, it covers us: / Covers our faces and the dark outside”). She unpicks his rage, demotes the divine pronoun to a lower case not unreflective of their own: “I think he meant at last...To make us bitter, tear our hearts to shreds, / Drive all the stubborn stuff to open ground / And let us fight.” She then picks out redemption, its price and her part in its design:
She is for the canticle he fears and hates, takes the sign of his hatred and covers them with the metamorphosis he fears yet knows he (or He) must effect:
Hyde sustained a series of flank attacks by her literary male contemporaries, who had also diagnosed cultural malaise but (jealous of the attention shown to her? anxious about their own market share?) were quick to label her hysterical, over-productive, formally outmoded, and part of a journo-literary mafia. Later, in ascendancy, they extended circumscribed approval to her poetry. Even sympathetic criticism of Hyde still reports from an orthodoxy that feared difference as lack or loss of control leading to hybridity, “unevenness” and emotional excess in the work. Nothing is easier to drop from a history than its compromised elements; there is no room for the faintly praised when a crush of newcomers puts systems of representation
Hyde understood what was happening. As fast as a generation of young men wrote spiritual poverty into the colonial condition, she read there a dangerous transference of guilt by association onto the female body. Leaving the country in 1938, she could do the regulation nationalist/contemplative poem (narrow-eyed, hard-edged, bloodstained) almost to the point of parody:
Which fits the story of a new land as an alien, hostile presence, female and other, to be “broken” in; the disquieting image of rape lingers in the dripping of blood between fingers. But Hyde’s view of the relationship between settler and land can be quite different. She belongs to a tradition of poets part of whose stock in trade is hope of cultural continuity—even (especially?) as they measure their own distances over time and space from its sources. Hyde, Duggan, Mackay, Baughan and Bethell all conserve and transmit a humanistic warmth (“old shoes of custom and courage”) determined by their practical commitments to social justice. It is this blend of the pragmatic and the idealistic that makes them seem curiously engaged (if not at home) here decades before the carefully anatomised alienation of the male poets wears off and allows them a measure of grace. These women are not the strident battleaxes or witless lady singers of popular parody. They do not ignore the problems of the ground or the paradoxes of homing, but their optimism and their perseverance can be a welcome respite from the gloomy young flagellants who made a point of confusing their idealism with prattle and sentimentality. A poem like Hyde’s “The Pioneers,” where a delayed revelation of gender as well as of the thanksgiving form are key factors, hardly counts as positivist naïvety, given its place in the range of her construction of femininity. And yet that homage to female forebears and its basis in handed-down stories is lost (along with Baughan's narrative poem “Early Days”; or “The Paddock,” her verse drama for three female voices) in a rumble of well-anthologised poems by men about the terror of a land of inaudible stories and unspeakable difference.
Writing women acknowledged terror but did not abandon the possibility of colloquy; and some of them literally walked out into that landscape, talking, reporting on experience. Baughan walked, climbed and wrote books 1909-1929 about travelling in the southern lakes and mountains, up the Whanganui river, through the thermal district. Historian Elsie Locke (born 1912) tells of walking the Waitakeres and the Port Waikato-Raglan coast in the early 1930s with women student friends. On the coast walk they were welcomed by local Maori and mistaken for female swaggies. Later in Wellington (she hitch-hiked there in the summer of 1933-34, after finishing her degree) Locke was editor of the communist Working Woman and its successor Woman To-day; she knew Hyde through her contributions to both papers. Hyde herself embraced the paradigm of the vagabonding woman long before she boarded the S.S. Changte in 1938.
It is revealing, therefore, to see “Journey from New Zealand” swing abruptly from rural depression (the broken land) to look at the cities. The difficulties which emerge are those of socialisation, stretched out against generic memories of community:
Hyde writes many poems engaged with the business of community. They speak to excess, there are too many of them, too many attempts to arrive at a community of words. By contrast, Modernist poetics were about schism, separation and fragmentation, with vocabularies of hardness and sharpness unmediated by softness except as something to be repressed or sacrificed. Knives on throats, axes on trees, breaking and clearing—the prescribed dramas here were of transgression and punishment, the legacy of Modernism’s union with the unresolved puritan factor. The result for women’s voices was a poetry from hell, in which you were either a handmaiden (acquiescent, diminished) or a sacrifice (obdurate, dead). Hyde’s early recognition of mortal peril for women and women who were writers, and her attempts to draw attention to the ways in which women were being excluded from the new map of literary representation being drawn up in the second half of the 1930s, are the public, articulate face of what women writers said in the margins or not at all for a long time after 1939. After 1939 the fight was lost along with Hyde’s life and the intervention of the second war. What remains to us are the poems and their codings, plus the orientations of Hyde’s essay journalism, letters and autobiographical prose. A selection of that journalism is currently in print; the poems, letters and autobiographical material are out of print or still in manuscript. Why are we so slow to read the poet who most disrupts the orthodoxy set up by the contents and introduction of A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-1945?
Hyde wrote to Glover two days before leaving New Zealand—ten pages by turns taunting and elaborately good-humoured. She had already dealt with Glover’s lampooning of women poets by writing a detailed compendium for the Mirror called “New Zealand Authoresses”(see note 29). There, as in the letter, her sense of enemy terrain is quite accurate, and she is at pains to distance herself from Glover’s Caxton which did indeed gather to itself the anthology project she foresaw in 1938.
The more I read Hyde’s poetry, the more I am struck by its allegiance to values other than those of clenched jaw and gritted teeth, and this despite her often desperate personal circumstances. It has been customary to read the poems written between October 1936 and August 1939 as “mature” work, evidence that Hyde turned to New Zealand subjects with the realisation that here was her true theme and a reason to reject the mythological elements and romantic historicism of earlier poems. To privilege later work because of a break with earlier style and subjects does disservice to the perspective supplied by Hyde’s fascination with poetic tradition. It also neglects the importance of archetype in her exorcisms of some persistent private ghosts. Glover unwittingly fingers just such territory in The Conquerors when he identifies “Outcast,” “The Forsaken,” “The Fugitive,” “The Traitor,” “Home,” and “Escape” as well-worn “poetical” subjects. For Hyde, the old world is built in as iconographic inheritance, its violent, beautiful paradoxes intact to the last, its languages especially resonant in the post-colonial psyche because so much of the conversation is about the complications of endurance. Hyde learned how to write here because of what she wrote about there, thinking through connections, transports, overlays, and slippage; finding ways to light up the distance between one tradition and herself, incipiently another. The conundrums of freedom and captivity haunt her:
Old world exotica? Or do the Wellington hills abruptly push their way through the language surfaces? “[U]pthrust like goddess-breasts” is an image with links to a deep past where a Lady of Beasts lays claim to the prowling human mind. The juxtaposition of goddess-breasts and local hills is strange only until vison doubles and we see what is before us—the geomorphic body of Papatuaanuku. Hyde revels in these old-new, here-there, visible-invisible connections. And if shape-shifting fails?
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help,” with touches of local colour; many poets have transposed the 121st psalm. But she continues:
And another metamorphic line, splitting consciousness apart in the doubling—“The hills have given me quiet breasts, / Young streams for ease in time of drouth.” A place to rest, and streams to drink from. But the literal meaning twists, the result of grammatically ambiguous giving, and the line reroutes itself into textual hyperspace. If hills can be “upthrust like goddess-breasts” and now give the speaker of this poem “quiet breasts” and “young streams,” there is no avoiding the physical sign of nurture. They are equipping her to sustain life, they are giving her quiet breasts for “days of no event but steady growth,” as another poem puts it. It is a wish or a gift, this reminder of gynocentric affinities with the place you live in. It is almost (always the difficulties) a home, and always a body. “I've come back to you, hills— / All your wet gorse gleams around me,” she wrote, and signed a living body across schemas of history: “One can be weary, hills, / And yet seem so defiant...Just for a moment, hills, / Hold me...hold me”:
3 Duggan, and waiting
This is part of another farewell made two days before Hyde’s departure (“But my letters get so silly I must swear to keep this short”); two pages rather than ten. The poem she quotes is “The Shag”; the gesture and the letter itself are partly filial, partly an assertion of independence. Writer and recipient alike knew what had been left hanging in the air between them, for the bandit shag continues: “‘But God, where all is gentle, / May weary of much meekness, / May turn unto the outlaw, / May bless the Shag, the sinner’”.
Duggan had published Poems, her third collection, in 1937, which was also the year Hyde brought out Persephone in Winter, her third collection. Both books were published in London and despatched here for appraisal and review. Hyde’s leavetaking letter reports a first glimpse of Poems in Whitcombes: “Then someone came to tell me my bill was so much, and I had to put it down, but will see it again in London, and read it slowly.” So it was New Zealand Bird Songs, the book Jessie Mackay also admired, that Hyde took with her in January 1938 when she packed the typescripts of “Houses by the Sea,” to go on refining them in the great distances implied by the poem. Bird Songs, the address of writing mother to departing child, spoke to that occasion of bonding and release:
Did Bird Songs wait out the journey Hyde made later in the year to the battlefront at Hsuchowfu, locked away for safety in Canton or Hankow along with her precious typescripts? And did Duggan’s book travel back with the final typescripts of “Houses by the Sea” after Hyde’s death in England on 23 August 1939, completing the figure of companionship and double journeys? I want to think of Duggan’s poems perhaps escorting the bandit heart home across a world blacking itself out for war.
When the suitcases arrived in Wellngton at 92 Northland Road, Nelly Wilkinson sent them to Hyde’s solicitor and literary executor, W.R. (Bill) Edge, in Auckland. He and Gloria Rawlinson began the long business of sorting the mass of papers.
Gloria Rawlinson used these lines as a postscript to her rebuttal of Glover’s 1937 arraignment of women poets. Hyde had taken them for the epigraph of her unpublished novel of 1935, “The Unbelievers,” which is set in part on a magical island called Auë, also a cry of lamentation and echo of another world, Faraway; The Godwits Fly and Wednesday’s Children were on her horizon. Hyde and Rawlinson would have seen Duggan’s poem published as “Forerunners” in Art in New Zealand eight years before its reappearance in Poems under the new title “Heralds.” “Do words matter when songs tatter / Upon the wind?” Duggan asks, and then answers herself: “For faith matters though song scatters, / Blown out of mind.” Eileen Duggan was herself blown out of mind; she is the most conspicuous absence in Curnow’s 1923-1945 survey, a poet prepared to take a long chance on the hinterlands.
“Forerunners”/“Heralds” is a poem of the 1920s doing service in the 1930s to the acknowledged difficulties of making art live in a settler culture. Another poem, “New Zealand Art,” first published in New York in the late 1920s, explores the same problem, looping through a quest metaphor balanced on an unsettling relationship between plural subject and singular comparison:
The meticulous whisper pattern addresses a sacrament—wheat, elusive holy bread, an uncrowned/unharvested head—which is glossed in other Duggan poems. One of them is practically a co-text: “Do you think that wheat is like water, / Closing again where you tread? / It is life you are trampling under / Bread and the power of bread.” That implication is literalised in the second half of “New Zealand Art” as an exact mirror (look at the placement of the simile) of the sacrament of the wheat, its other, feminine component:
Chrism (baptism, anointing) discloses the ceremony of that unswaddling under the blaze of a (rose?) window. The co-textual poem behaves as catechism: “Bread is to-day and to-morrow, / And all the yesterdays wild; / As old as the first clay oven, / As young as a newborn child”). A woman longing for “a mouth to hurt her breast” sends the story of want back to its bodily erotic, food and language-making roots.
The vision is Mariolatric, the method close-textured and typically allusive. A third poem enters the conversation, familiar iconography fabling the woman beyond the official announcement, alternate rhyming stanzas formally assembling the figure by which one kind of growing can be mapped onto another:
Rainbow eyes? Her redemptive irises, passing into lyric convention; each detail counts. But Duggan’s analogy in “New Zealand Art” to a longed-for birth was derided and the poem declared confused and excessive in its imagery when Curnow wanted to show in 1945 that the whole effect of Duggan’s work was of an emotional cliché. The exception he made was the short poem “Twilight” which is praised for touching a nerve in childhood experience (“I was nine at the time and a coward by fate”). Whether conscious or not, the editorial preference for childhood motifs over those concerned with child-bearing and fertlity (does the ambiguous “waste” of a womb signal physical specifics of menstruation?) goes some way towards explaining the ferocity with which Duggan was treated for her refusal to co-operate.
The surviving 1943 correspondence between Duggan and Curnow over her representation in the 1945 Caxton anthology does not get as far as discussing which poems Curnow wanted to print. Duggan’s biographer Grace Burgess indicates that Duggan was quick to turn down the initial requests because she was unsympathetic to the project and to its editor. John Weir records evidence that Curnow was refused permissions again in 1948 when the 1951 enlargement of the Caxton book was being planned. More serious negotiations over quantity and selection occurred 1956-1960 as Curnow prepared The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse. Duggan and Curnow/Penguin Books (London) reached the point of a legally negotiated demand that she see proofs of the Penguin Introduction after withdrawing her poems from the book. Page proofs were supplied in June 1960, and Duggan was (with reservations) prepared to accept the Introduction as it subsequently appeared, and to drop further action against the book’s publication. The four-year duel and its forty-odd pieces of associated correspondence culminated in two lines at the close of Curnow’s Introduction in which Duggan’s name otherwise appears, each time as part of a list, just twice.
Twice removed. A thorn in the flesh. How did it happen? Two years previously in June 1958, and with galley proofs of the anthology in hand, Curnow had informed Duggan that her selection had been reduced to four poems. Three of these (including “Twilight”) were not in the original six cleared in 1956 as a consequence of John Reid’s intervention after Duggan had initially declined to enter. Duggan was clear about her position and Curnow’s selection: “one I had particularly asked him not to include and the others were changed to two lyrics of three or four verses for which he had no consent at all. I had not agreed to their inclusion nor do I wish to be judged by my slightest rather than my best.” Editorial prerogative and contributor’s rights promptly collided head-on. Duggan withdrew her work in July 1958, then in September called in Colin Patterson, the lawyer who began negotiating her possible re-entry into the anthology, represented by the six poems agreed on in 1956. More importantly, after the experience of Curnow’s 1945 remarks and the recent contretemps over consents, Duggan seems to have been looking for fair dealing in the Penguin Introduction — whether or not her poems appeared in the book. Colin Patterson, later prominent in commercial law and first head of the Securities Commission, was aware of Curnow’s desire to have the poems if at all possible, and in effect used ongoing negotiations over their appearance to first see and then secure some control over what Curnow planned to say about Duggan's work in his introductory essay. When the poems were finally excluded (November 1958), the fact that Patterson found Curnow’s criticism of her defamatory kept proceedings open. Penguin was reluctant to publish while the threat of a lawsuit hung over the book; the offending paragraph of the Introduction was eventually removed altogether and not until 12 July 1960, after she had seen the final version, did Duggan withdraw her complaint.
Around June 1958, when Duggan first learned of her reduced selection, Alistair Campbell, James K. Baxter and Louis Johnson had managed get hold of a set of galley proofs, and were all three threatening to withdraw their selections from the Penguin. They stayed in, but Duggan fought Curnow to a standstill over issues of representation that for a moment in the late 1950s united older and younger generations in an interesting if uncoordinated pincer movement against what each perceived as an unwelcome prescriptiveness in the Caxton–Penguin line. Between them they delayed the Penguin’s appearance two years.
Duggan issued More Poems in 1951. The unassuming title can be read at this remove as a jibe—Poems (1921), Poems (1937), and More Poems (1951)—aimed at those who wished its author would in her exclusion from the new establishment roll over and play dead. More Poems was in fact her last book but Duggan was only beginning her campaign of loud silence. A year later came Hyde’s posthumous collection Houses by the Sea from Caxton, who had also published Mary Ursula Bethell's posthumous Collected Poems in 1950. In 1953 came the single and singular volume by Mary Stanley (1919-1980) entitled Starveling Year. Its arrival completed a pattern of oppositional pegs dug into the terrain by women poets (and their women editors) at the beginning of the inhospitable 1950s. From the last-dated of Duggan’s manuscript poems issues the voice of L’Écrivisse Mère (her identity still escaping scholarship) addressing “Brothers” who have ploughed and sowed:
The hidden, archived voice yearns for the land, a place to stand constantly overlaid by multiple issues of dispossession. The woman on land or sea, singular and persevering, starts out a straightforward proposition soon complicated by transferrals and contract; colonist soon colonised:
The ballad gathers aggregates of image and syntax that deliberately overload the genre's capacity for practical wisdom. Down she goes, leaving the morning flux, mourning her separation from the (feminised) world of light:
Persephone’s flowers are impossible; no release, no rest from drudgery, she has vanished permanently from the face of the earth. Every fourth line has provided a disruptive end to the stanza but the final unit is spectacularly convoluted:
That pearl, undersea, lodged (by the desire of the poem for a rhyme) in the shell where it was produced, records disturbance beyond the standard transformations of grit by beauty. It is intact in the flesh (not spoken of) which made it, and the long fretting of nacre and mucous membrane waits under the surface of the pearl’s appeal as ornament or inlay. Duggan was looking for a simile for mute feminine sorrow; the languages of the poem oversupplied her with a through-road into the psychosexuality of female experience. Perhaps the overload (and the reason the poem remained in typescript) was perceived by Duggan as a literary offence, a straining after effect—but it is precisely in that strain and the roughnesses it produces that other stories begin to break through. The pearl, one step off clitoral (or foetal) analogy, and the “third mouth, pink as coral” or the blue tide of smooth canticles are all part of the offshore where women establish for themselves languages adequate to the task of calling out consciousness of that condition and possible colloquy with others. Duggan measured out the enormity of the undertaking: “I have made throats of thoughts and dreamed they sang. / So the court fool might leave his little stool, / To creep into the empty daÏsed throne, / Dreaming his motley into cloth of gold.” By this measure a singing woman—gold-wet, with rainbow eyes—looks with scant regard for chronology at Iris Wilkinson dreaming the embrace of hills covered in gleaming wet gorse flower. The same poetic delights in rhyming “wild” with “child,” “word” with “bird,” and regularly juxtaposes “woman” with “human.” Duggan’s dreaming fool wakes to laughter in court and finds “the air afleer with lights, / Himself still fool in jerkin, cap, and bells.”
She laughed and laughed, knowing more of the story than those wanting to honour the poet—who wore a gold evening gown with matching velvet jacket to Government House for the investiture, and could not have been unaware of the old rhyme in doing so. It is that costume, the beggar’s golden velvet (fool’s cloth of gold?), that catches exactly the paradox of public honour and mendicant self as Duggan sits for the series of studio portraits which form our strongest visual impression of her. Gown and jacket still exist, part of another kind of archive altogether, made by the poet and gifted in 1984 by her friend Grace Burgess to the Wanganui Museum. The various custodians of this non-literary archive knew what they were looking at, to judge even by the museum’s receipt of acquisition:
Who defined the colour of the voile dress? Was the same person responsible for the not quite chronological sequence of items? Custodial readers become in time expert respondents. When Julia McLeely made funeral arrangements in 1972 for Eileen Duggan, her friend and living companion of forty two years, the card asking mourners to pray for the repose of the deceased soul had on its obverse a picture of the Virgin and Child. Tip this to the light and the halos of mother and sleeping child are suddenly interlocking lines of gold, her yellow hood (corn-coloured, with a pattern of—roses?) is double-edged with gold—and a multitude of gold stars covers her blue cloak. There she is—Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, blue and gold and holding the baby:
A Catholic woman could image herself upon the mother of a living god. She could also note the instance of unwed pregnancy reconfigured (once) by the Fathers as virgin birth. She could (unfooled) keep one eye on her faith, another on its complex romance with the world and the text. But for Hyde in the mid-1930s — unmarried, distant from all orthodox theologies, boarding out her living son and carrying the memory of the first, her “little dead baby,” in the name of her writer self — the relation of world to text could only be multiple collision. Hyde’s baby poems are deeply hidden and obliquely expressed but they do exist. An unsigned typescript for many years in the possession of printer Ron Holloway searches the psychic landscape of grief for a dead child. It is written (in cold) in the first person but titled in the third: “She has Lost Her Watch in the Woods.” It calls to an unnamed second person: “Where are you lying in the dark wood now / With the sad leaves falling?” The images of of loss and unmarked burial are standard but the doubled rhyming refrains (“calling” / “falling, falling”; “tiny cry” / “the sky, the sky” etc) haunt a surface already collapsing past standard conceits:
Here another tragedy intervenes as overdetermined echo: “I am dying, Egypt, dying” (Antony and Cleopatra, IV.xv.41)—the address of lover to lover (Harry Sweetman dead in England in 1925 without Iris Wilkinson’s knowledge) or the address of son to mother in the impossible grievous out-of-time space where life did not proceed. Hyde knew the play intimately: “All but four [poems of The Conquerors] were written here [at the Grey Lodge], when I was blind and mute and deaf with illness—didn’t care for any human creature, but read over and over again the pages of Antony and Cleopatra.” We recall Cleopatra brushing aside Antony’s desire to speak of her safety: “No, let me speak; and let me rail so high, / That the false housewife Fortune shall break her wheel, / Provok’d by my offence”(IV.xv. 43-45). At one remove, almost the last, Hyde could write: “Sometimes fighting and dying are better than anything else”; at another, earlier: “I am for peace, against the gates of Hell.” This is not contradiction but persistence.
Ghosts like Hyde’s never leave entirely though they may be made over. Another poem, in a section of her manuscripts marked as verses for children, tears reading apart again:
the poem was to be published on a children’s page somewhere, its autobiographical
specifics muffled by the conventions of genre. Perhaps it was part of
a projected book of children’s verses, The Littlest Moon, which
Hyde and Rawlinson compiled in 1935 and were going to send to Angus and
Robertson. And perhaps it was read to her blue-eyed, fair-haired son
by the writing mother who could not own both roles but stole them anyway.
How shall we construct her here? How shall we construct her, Duggan, or
any of them between silence and noise, presence and waiting, bandit and
beggar, writer and mother, at home and vagabonding—except by continuing
to perform that and offered by the textual proliferation of poems,
and pieces of poems, in the places where thay have been gathered together
or written as markers into the writing of others. Hyde knew the value
of fragment (“Who [now] could...throw into space just one of the thousand
splintered stars in Shakespeare?”) or she wouldn’t have called attention
to the Sapphic fragments as she sensed an iron sea closing over women
poets in her own time. Record itself is obdurate; fractured but
finally (the term is Mary Stanley’s) irrefrangible. Now we should turn to the manuscripts collected with utterly
partisan care by Julia McLeely and Grace Burgess, by Bill Edge, Gloria
Rawlinson and Derek Challis, and begin to read.
 Quoted in Gillian Boddy, “The Life of Robin Hyde,” in Disputed Ground: Robin Hyde, Journalist eds. Gillian Boddy and Jacqueline Matthews (Wellington: VUP, 1991) 30.
 Mackay, rev. of Duggan’s New Zealand Bird Songs, Christchurch Times (11 January 1930): 33.
 Pat Lawlor, Confessions of a Journalist (Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1935) 214.
 Eileen Duggan, “Shades of Maro of Toulouse,” More Poems (London: Allen & Unwin, 1951) 17.
 For details of the publishing careers of Mackay, Baughan, Bethell, Duggan and Hyde, see individual entries in John Thompson’s Bibliography in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature ed. Terry Sturm (Auckland: OUP, 1991). I have addressed the matter and nature of the matrix in “‘But don’t forget the girl is a genuis’: Re-reading New Zealand Women Poets,” a five-part radio series broadcast on Concert FM, 29 July-26 August 1993.
 Gloria Rawlinson, The Perfume Vendor (London: Hutchinson, 1935); rpt. 1936, 1937. Robin Hyde, The Conquerors and Other Poems (London: Macmillan, 1935). The figures and Hyde’s reaction are recorded in a letter of December 1935 to Mary Smee quoted in Disputed Ground at 59.
 Duggan, Poems (London: Allen & Unwin, 1937, 2nd ed. 1939 [1500 copies]; New York: Macmillan, 1938, 2nd ed. 1939). Available figures show print runs between 1000 and 1250 for Duggan’s earlier and later books; see F.M. Mackay, Eileen Duggan, New Zealand Writers and Their Work (Wellington: OUP, 1977) 51-52.
 Duggan, letter to W.F. Alexander, Turnbull MS Papers 423, Folder 6; quoted in Mackay at 55.
 Duggan, “‘Dit L’Écrivisse Mère . . .,’” Selected Poems, ed. Peter Whiteford (Wellington: VUP, 1994) 103. Whiteford’s notes on this poem and “Shades of Maro of Toulouse” indicate the scope of Duggan’s literary referencing; the term “écrivisse” remains unidentified.
 Henry James, “The Middle Years,” in Selected Stories, vol.2, ed. Gerard Hopkins (London: OUP, 1957) 139.
 Duggan, “Booty,” Poems (1937) 20. See also Matthew 11.12 [Douai Rheims Version]. Flannery O’Connor’s novel The Violent Bear It Away (1960) owes its title to the same Bible; my thanks to Peter Simpson for pointing out the connection.
 Hyde, “Written in Cold,” Persephone in Winter (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1937) 22.
 Hyde, “The Beaches,” section IV, “Houses by the Sea,” in Houses by the Sea ed. Gloria Rawlinson (Christchurch: Caxton, 1952) 116.
 Hyde, “The Houses,” section II, “Houses by the Sea,” Houses by the Sea 120-21.
 Rawlinson, Introduction, Houses by the Sea 18.
 Hyde, “The Conquerors,” The Conquerors 5.
 Hyde, “Journal 1935: An Autobiographical Work,” 12 May 1935. Typescript copy in Auckland City Library, NZ MS 837. Hyde is quoting part of Roy Campbell’s epigram “On Some South African Novelists”; see Selected Poems ed. Peter Alexander (Oxford: OUP, 1982) 20.
 Hyde, “Poetry in Auckland,” Art in New Zealand 9.1 (September 1936): 29-34.
 Hyde, “Woman,” The Conquerors 14.
 Hyde, “Husband and Wife,” Houses by the Sea 65-69.
 Recent research gathers the specifics and contextualises the attacks: see Elizabeth A. Thomas, “Appropriation, Subversion and Separatism: The Strategies of Three New Zealand Women Novelists: Jane Mander, Robin Hyde and Sylvia Ashton-Warner,” PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 1990, 133-99; Susan Ash, “Narrating a Female Subjectivity in the Works of Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde, Janet Frame and Keri Hulme,” PhD thesis, University of Otago, 1990, 8-23; Mary Paul, “The Politics of Reading: Mander, Mansfield, Hyde and Campion,” PhD thesis, University of Auckland, forthcoming, chapter 5.
 Hyde, “Journey from New Zealand,” Houses by the Sea 133.
 Hyde, “The Pioneers,” Houses by the Sea 47.
 See for example Allen Curnow, Introduction, A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-1945 (Christchurch: Caxton, 1945) 24; Denis Glover, The Arraignment of Paris (Christchurch: Caxton, 1937); or Glover and A.R.D. Fairburn, Poetry Harbinger (Auckland: Pilgrim, 1958).
 Baughan, Shingle-short and Other Verses (Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1908) 71-76; 137-205.
 See entries on Baughan in New Zealand National Bibliography: 1890-1960 ed. A.G. Bagnall (Wellington: Government Printer, 1969-85).
 Elsie Locke, Student at the Gates (Christchurch: Whitcoulls, 1981), chapters 11, 22, and 23.
 See Boddy, Disputed Ground 51.
 Disputed Ground gathers much of this writing, including “The New Zealand Woman in Letters” (April 1936), “Woman Today” (April 1937), “Women Have No Star” (June 1937), and “New Zealand Authoresses” (February 1938). Thomas discusses the importance of “Poetry in Auckland” (see note 21 above) at 161-63.
 Hyde, letter of 16 January 1938. Turnbull MS papers 418, Folder 22.
 Denis Glover, rev. of The Conquerors, Tomorrow (18 March 1936): 12.
 Hyde, “Zoological,” Houses by the Sea 43-44.
 Hyde, “The Dusky Hills,” Houses by the Sea 46.
 Hyde, “Young Knowledge,” Houses by the Sea 60.
 Hyde, “The Hillside.” Unpublished typescript in University of Auckland Manuscripts and Archives, Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14. The collection contains several hundred manuscript poems which were sorted and inventoried by Gloria Rawlinson in 1959.
 Hyde, letter of 16 January 1938. Quoted in part in John Weir, “Five New Zealand Poets: A Bibliographical and Critical Account of Manuscript Material,” PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 1974, 72. Duggan’s literary papers, hereafter referred to as Duggan Estate, are housed in the Archdiocese of Wellington Archives.
 Duggan, “The Shag,” New Zealand Bird Songs (Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, 1929) 29.
 Duggan, “The Tui,” New Zealand Bird Songs 13.
 Duggan, “Heralds,” Poems (1937) 13.
 Rawlinson’s quotation is recorded in Disputed Ground at 66; she substitutes “wanderers” for “stumblers.” “The Unbelievers” is described in Hyde’s 1935 Journal; extant drafts are part of her literary estate and are described in Patrick Sandbrook, “Robin Hyde: A Writer at Work,” PhD thesis, Massey University, 1985, at 364-67.
 Duggan, “Forerunners,” Art in New Zealand 2.5 (September 1929): 17.
 Duggan, “The Wheat,” New Zealand Poems (London: Allen & Unwin, 1940) 31.
 Duggan, “New Zealand Art,” Poems (1937) 47. Whiteford notes a cutting with author’s inscription: “Commonweal N.Y. 1926? 1929?,” Selected Poems 148.
 Duggan, “After the Annunciation,” Poems (1937) 26.
 Curnow, Introduction to A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-1945, 25.
 Duggan, “Twilight,” Poems (1937) 30.
 Curnow, Introduction to A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-1945, 25n.
 Grace Burgess, A Gentle Poet: A Portrait of Eileen Duggan, O.B.E. (Carterton: Burgess, 1981) 84-87. Burgess quotes from and paraphrases letters in the Duggan Estate; she was the first sytematically to sort the bulk of Duggan’s papers which were then deposited with the Catholic church according to instructions in Duggan’s will. See Grace Burgess, letter of 11 December 1994 to Michele Leggott, in University of Auckland Mss and Archives, Grace Burgess Papers.
 Weir, 109. Weir does not document the Penguin anthology negotiations, but Anne French lists and summarises them in her MA thesis, “Georgians and New Zealand Georgians: A Study of Eileen Duggan and R.A.K. Mason,” Victoria University of Wellington, 1979 at 130-32.
 Colin Patterson to Penguin Books, 12 July 1960, Duggan Estate. The file consists of copies of letters made in the lawyer’s office and sent to Duggan for her information as the correspondence proceeded.
 Curnow, Introduction to The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960) 67.
 Duggan to Sir Stanley Unwin, her publisher, undated carbon (after 25 June 1958). Duggan’s signed draft letter of 5 July 1958 to Curnow itemises the history of these choices. Both items in Duggan Estate.
 Patterson was in 1958 a partner in Barnett Corry Watts and Patterson, later Rudd Watts and Stone. See “A Battler for Fair Disclosure,” obituary in the New Zealand Herald (8 February 1990).
 See W.H. Oliver, James K. Baxter: A Portrait (Wellington: Port Nicholson Press, 1983) 78; also Peter Simpson, “Ways to the Museyroom: Poetry Anthologies in the Fifties,” Landfall 185 (April 1993): 95-105.
 Duggan, “Absence,” Selected Poems 94.
 Duggan, “‘Dit L’Écrivisse Mère . . .,’” Selected Poems 104 and note. See also Weir at 97 where a probable date of 1951-52 is given.
 Duggan, quoted in Weir at 77; manuscripts described at 97. French (145) lists a letter of 24 October 1932 from Nettie Palmer to Duggan which discusses the poem. Letter and manuscripts in Duggan Estate.
 Duggan, “Song,” New Zealand Poems 41.
 Mackay, letter of 2 January 1937, Duggan Estate.
 The receipt is an enclosure with the Wanganui Regional Museum’s letter of 18 December 1984 to Grace Burgess. Copy in University of Auckland Manuscripts and Archives, Grace Burgess Papers.
 Duggan, “Bequest,” Poems (1937) 28. The funeral card is part of the Grace Burgess Papers at Auckland University.
 Mackay, letter of 6 April 1929, Duggan Estate.
 Hyde, “Autobiography,” Auckland City Library, NZ MS 412A; also, from the same source: “But they let me see him, though not to hold him, after he was dead [. . .] He was very dark, the little face I touched was warm, the mouth turned down, the hands were square [. . .] They wouldn’t let me see him again, —morphine and sleep instead,” quoted in Disputed Ground at 22.
 Hyde, typescript in University of Auckland Manuscripts and Archives, Holloway Press Archive.
 Hyde, 1935 Journal, quoted by her son Derek Challis in his introduction to Hyde’s A Home in This World (Auckland: Longman Paul, 1984) at xiv.
 Hyde, letter of 21 August 1939 to Gloria Rawlinson, quoted in Rawlinson’s Introduction to Houses by the Sea at 33; entry of 15 June in 1935 Journal.
 Hyde, typescript in University of Auckland Manuscripts and Archives, Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14.
 Hyde, entry of 12 May in 1935 Journal. The seventeen children’s verses grouped together by Rawlinson in 1959 seem likely to have been part of this project.
 Hyde, quoted in Rawlinson’s introduction to Houses by the Sea at 15; “Women Have No Star,” Press (5 June 1937), rpt. in Disputed Ground, 201-05.
 Stanley, “The Widow,” Starveling Year and Other Poems (Auckland: AUP, 1994) 35.
BIO: Michele Leggott lectures at Auckland University and is currently developing the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Center with Brian Flaherty. She is the editor of two works by Robin Hyde, “The Victory Hymn” 1935-1995 (Holloway Press, 1995) and The Book of Nadath (Auckland UP, 1999). She co-edited Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975 (Auckland UP, 2000) with Alan Brunton and Murray Edmond, and Opening the Book: New Essays of New Zealand Writing (Auckland UP, 1995) with Mark Williams. She is also the author of Reading Zukofsky’s “80 Flowers” (Johns Hopkins UP, 1989). Her poetry collections include As far as I can see (Auckland UP, 1999), DIA (Auckland UP, 1994), and Swimmers, Dancers (Auckland UP, 1991).