Ursula Bethell New Zealand poet #lesbian

#iNeedFeminismBecause #intersectionality #lgbt #idlenomore

Ursula Bethell from New Zealand is called a garden poet. Think of a garden that stretches out for miles like the French Kings’ or wild with a backdrop of mountains and a garden small sleepy that holds all the quiet:

dark old pond
a frog plunks in

(Basho, haiku)

Dr. Alison Laurie, the Gender and Women’s Studies Programme Director at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, wrote a fascinating piece on Ursula Bethell’s life. The poetess had a common law wife: Henrietta Dorothea ‘Effie’ Pollen. They were private in public, and open in their circle of friends and together for over 30 years until Effie’s sudden death.


‘Established’ is a good word, much used in garden books,
‘The plant, when established’…
Oh, become established quickly, quickly, garden
For I am fugitive, I am very fugitive –

Those that come after me will gather these roses,
And watch, as I do now, the white wistaria
Burst, in the sunshine, from its pale green sheath.

Planned. Planted. Established. Then neglected,
Till at last the loiterer by the gate will wonder
At the old, old cottage, the old wooden cottage,
And say ‘One might build here, the view is glorious;
This must have been a pretty garden once.’

From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1929)


When you wrote your letter it was April,
And you were glad that it was spring weather,
And that the sun shone out in turn with showers of rain.

I write in waning May and it is autumn,
And I am glad that my chrysanthemums
Are tied up fast to strong posts,
So that the south winds cannot beat them down.
I am glad that they are tawny coloured,
And fiery in the low west evening light.
And I am glad that one bush warbler
Still sings in the honey-scented wattle…

But oh, we have remembering hearts,
And we say ‘How green it was in such and such an April,’
And ‘Such and such an autumn was very golden,’
And ‘Everything is for a very short time.’

Mary Ursula Bethell

Buy the Faber Book of 20th Century Women’s Poetry, ed. Fleur Adcock, from an indie bookseller here.

Established in 1970, Glad Day Bookshop is the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore and Toronto’s oldest surviving bookstore. In 2012, a group of 23 community members pooled their funds and bought Glad Day Bookshop to save it from closing.

“Our best strategy for survival is adding new revenues streams like food and drink – which means a larger space.
We’ve picked out a great spot on Church Street that would allow us to be a bookstore & coffee shop during the day and a bar at night.
It is wheelchair accessible, with an accessible washroom.

It has a cute patio, a small space for performances and walls for art.

We will be a space where everyone feels welcome, sexy and celebrated.

We will be a queer-owned, indie place on Church Street. We will amplify the love, creativity, sexuality, diversity & liberation that Glad Day Bookshop is known for.”

“Reconciling Life With Death,” Early Verses by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, ship’s doctor.

Early Verses by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, ship’s doctor. Loose translation by me.

Autumn comes with storm and gusts of wind around the forests
Those, moaning, shake their leafage loose,
Make bunched-up-fruits cascade from branches,
Over-ripe summer fruit plop down to earth,
In moist soil-layers silently forming,
Composting into elemental matter:
All life obeys the seasons.
This then is reconciling life with death:
That all harvests are rooted in decaying matter;
That drab gray grounds paint roses blushing red;
That out of moulding thickets; out of the unwanted,
A Freedom will arise, a blossoming laden with fruit.

— Eerste Verzen. J.J. Slauerhoff

Herfst komt met storm en floersen om de bosschen
Die van hun loover kreunend zich verlossen,
Doet vruchtentrossen uit de takken storten,
Het vooze zomerooft ten gronde ploffen,
In vochtige bodemlagen stil verworden,
Verteren tot oorspronkelijke stoffen:
Het leven is gehoorzaam aan seizoenen.

Dit is het leven met den dood verzoenen:
Dat alle oogsten wortlen in het doode,
Dat grauwe gronden rozen overrooden;
Uit de vermolmde woeker, het verfoeisel,
Zal Vrijheid stijgen, een volvruchtig bloeisel.

Eerste Verzen. J.J. Slauerhoff. Working on translation.

Eerste Verzen. J.J. Slauerhoff

[…] Dit is het leven met den dood verzoenen:
Dat alle oogsten wortlen in het doode,
Dat grauwe gronden rozen overrooden;
Uit de vermolmde woeker, het verfoeisel,
Zal Vrijheid stijgen, een volvruchtig bloeisel.

Mijn teedre vreugden zijn gevormd in porselein,
Anders dan zeer bezorgd raak ik hun randen niet;
De azuren geurwolk die mijn blonde thee ontvliedt,
Ontvoert vervluchtend ‘t leed en houdt mijn zielsrust rein.