Ursula Bethell (Mary Ursula Bethell) (pseudonym, Evelyn Hayes) Biography
(1874–1945), (Mary Ursula Bethell) (pseudonym, Evelyn Hayes), From a Garden in the Antipodes
New Zealand poet, born in Rangiora near Christchurch, educated at schools in Oxford and Geneva. From 1890 until 1908 Bethell worked with the poor and underprivileged as a member of an Anglican community in London and returned to New Zealand after the First World War. At the age of about 50 she began writing. Her poetry is characterized by a plainness and spareness (as well as freshness of image) which distinguishes it from the more ornamented verse the country had previously produced. From a Garden in the Antipodes (1929) was originally composed as letters to a friend, and, as in Bethell's other collections, Time and Place (1936) and Day and Night: Poems 1924–1935 (1939), the domestic focus is combined with religious belief and a broad range of general and classical reference. Her work has also been seen as part of the construction of a national identity. In her lifetime all collections were published under a pseudonym, but Bethell herself was a considerable literary figure in the Christchurch of the day and mentor to the younger Caxton group, notably Denis Glover and Allen Curnow. Her posthumously published Collected Poems (1950) was republished in 1985 with an introduction by Vincent O'Sullivan.