© Image by Caroline Forbes

Fleur Adcock

(b. 1934)

"Art's whatever you choose to frame." - 'Leaving the Tate', Fleur Adcock

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • Strangers on a Tram
    'Strangers on a Tram' is taken from Fleur Adcock's 2010 collection Dragon Talk, which deals with the first 20 years of the poet's life. Here she reads it for the Guardian, on YouTube.

Select bibliography

  • The Eye of the Hurricane, New Zealand, Reed, 1964 - out of print
  • Tigers, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1967 - out of print
  • High Tide in the Garden, Oxford University Press, 1971 - out of print
  • The Scenic Route, Oxford University Press, 1974 - out of print
  • The Inner Harbour, Oxford University Press, 1979 - out of print
  • The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry (editor), Oxford University Press, 1981 - out of print
  • The Virgin and the Nightingale: medieval Latin poems (translator), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1983 (new ed. 1997)
  • Selected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1983 - out of print
  • Hotspur: a ballad for music, Bloodaxe, 1986 - out of print
  • The Incident Book, Oxford University Press, 1986 - out of print
  • The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry (editor), London, Faber & Faber, 1987
  • Grete Tartler: Orient Express, Oxford University Press, 1989 - out of print
  • Time-Zones, Oxford University Press, 1991 - out of print
  • Daniela Crasnaru: Letters from Darkness (translator), Oxford University Press, 1991 - out of print
  • Hugh Primas and the Archpoet (editor and translator), Oxford University Press, 1994
  • The Oxford Book of Creatures (editor with Jacqueline Simms), Oxford University Press, 1995 - out of print
  • Looking Back, Oxford University Press, 1997 - out of print
  • Fleur Adcock in Context, by Julian Stannard. The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, 1997
  • The Poetry Quartets 2, Audio Cassette, The British Council/Bloodaxe Books, 1998
  • Poems 1960-2000, Bloodaxe, 2000
  • Fleur Adcock Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Fleur Adcock by Janet Wilson. Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 2007
  • In Person 30 Poets, Edited by Neil Astley / Films by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, Bloodaxe Books 2008
  • Dragon Talk, Bloodaxe Books 2010
Fleur Adcock (b.1934) is a New Zealander by birth but spent part of her childhood in England, returning to live in London in 1963. She worked as a librarian until 1979 before becoming a freelance writer. She is the author of ten books of poetry and a collected edition of her work, Poems 1960-2000, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000. Recipient of a Cholmondeley Award in 1976 and a New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, she was awarded an OBE in 1996.

The influence of Fleur Adcock's migratory childhood can be traced in her work's exploration of identity. In her poem 'Immigrant' this is specifically an issue of voice as she practices her newly adopted English accent. Several of the poems here examine roots and rootlessness: as she puts it in 'Chippenham', a poem recalling her status as the odd one out in an English classroom, "Who did I think/I was . . .?" Identity is also an issue of gender: in 'The Russian War' a returning uncle claims he'll "be a thing called oral history" but Adcock is acutely aware of those female ancestors whose stories have disappeared, like the silent labouring woman in 'Water'. Her poems often bring to light women's lives that might otherwise be marginalised or forgotten, as in the poignant vignettes of suffering in 'The Soho Hospital for Women'. However, her poems have no air of stridency: her characteristic tone is restrained, rational, conversational. Adcock herself has talked about this poetic strategy: "The tone I feel at home in is one in which I can address people without embarrassing them; I should like them to relax and listen as if to an intimate conversation". ('Not Quite a Statement', Strong Words, Bloodaxe Books, 2000).

Certainly this quality of intimacy is to the fore in her Archive recording. Her reading voice is clear and distinct, striking the consonants with precision and just the faintest hint of her original accent. A particular pleasure are her generous explanations of the poems and the insights she gives into her creative process: apparently "the bath is a very good place for getting inspiration."

Her recording was made on 13 June 2001 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1961 Festival of Wellington Poetry Award

1964 New Zealand State Literary Fund Award

1968 Buckland Award (New Zealand)

1968 Jessie Mackay Prize (New Zealand)

1972 Jessie Mackay Prize (New Zealand)

1976 Cholmondeley Award

1979 Buckland Award (New Zealand)

1984 New Zealand National Book Award

1988 Arts Council Writers' Award

2006 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

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