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This review is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

PERSEPHONE Robin Hyde, Selected Poems, edited by Lydia Wevers (OUP, New Zealand) £10.50 pb.

Until I saw Robin Hyde's name in the Oxford University Press catalogue I had never heard of her, and I suspect my ignorance is widely shared in this country; an unfortunate fact about this selection is that its price tag will frighten off buyers. If a women's house had marketed it at £3.95, the poetry would have been likelier to fnd purchasers (though the chances are they would have approached the page in a spirit of sectarian humbug). Heigh ho. Either way, it is Robin Hyde's loss.

In a clear and useful introduction, Lydia Wevers describes Hyde's short and unhappy life. Born Iris Guiver Wilkinson in Cape Town in 1906, of Anglo-Australian parentage, she grew up in Wellington and, after leaving school at seventeen, had her first job there, writing for The Dominion. Physical and mental breakdowns dogged her; repeatedly she attempted suicide; a first child died soon after birth. After further journalistic work, the birth of a son in 1930, and a spell in an Auckland mental hospital, Robin Hyde left New Zealand in early 1938 for England, but in Hong Kong changed her mind and went to China to cover the war there. Finally arrived in England, she succumbed to illness and depression and took her own life on 23 August 1939.

Aside from novels and reportage, Robin Hyde produced four books of poetry. Selections from The Desolate Star (1929), The Conquerors (1935) and Persephone in Winter (1937) occupy thirty of this volume's ...


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