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Fleur Adcock

Born Kareen Fleur Adcock
10 February 1934 (1934-02-10) (age 87)
Papakura, New Zealand
Occupation Poet, editor
Alistair Campbell
(m. 1952; div. 1958)

Barry Crump
(m. 1962; div. 1963)
Children 2

Fleur Adcock CNZM OBE (born 10 February 1934) is a New Zealand poet and editor, of English and Northern Irish ancestry, who has lived much of her life in England. She is well-represented in New Zealand poetry anthologies, was awarded an honorary doctorate of literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and was awarded an OBE in 1996 for her contribution to New Zealand literature. In 2008 she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature.

Early life

Adcock, the older of two sisters, was born in Papakura to Cyril John Adcock and Irene Robinson Adcock. Her birth name was Kareen Fleur Adcock, but she was known as Fleur and legally changed her name to Fleur Adcock in 1982. She spent eight years of her childhood (1939–1947) in England.

Adcock studied Classics at Victoria University of Wellington, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1954 and a Masters of Arts in 1956.


Adcock worked as an assistant lecturer in classics and librarian at the University of Otago in Dunedin between 1958 and 1962, and as a librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington between 1962 and 1963.

In 1963, she returned to England and took up a post as a librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. She had already had poems published in a few literary journals in New Zealand at this time. Her first collection of poetry, The Eye of the Hurricane, was published in New Zealand in 1964, and in 1967 Tigers was her first collection published in Britain.

In 1975, Adcock returned briefly to New Zealand for the first time since she had left for London, and on returning to London in 1976, she became a full time writer. She was the Arts Council Creative Writing Fellow at the Charlotte Mason College of Education in Windermere from 1977-1978, followed by the Northern Arts Literary Fellowship at the universities of Newcastle and Durham from 1979–1981.

Since 1980, Adcock has worked as a freelance writer, living in East Finchley, north London, a translator and poetry commentator for the BBC.

Adcock's poetry is typically concerned with themes of place, human relationships and everyday activities, but frequently with a dark twist given to the mundane events she writes about. Formerly, her early work was influenced by her training as a classicist but her more recent work is looser in structure and more concerned with the world of the unconscious mind. The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature (2006) notes that her poems are often written from the perspective of an outsider or express a divided sense of identity inherited from her own emigrant experience and separation from New Zealand family.

In 2006, Adcock won one of Britain's top poetry awards, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, for her collected works, Poems 1960-2000. She was only the seventh female poet to receive the award in its 73 years.

Personal life

Adcock was married to two notable New Zealand literary personalities. In August 1952, she married Alistair Campbell (divorced 1958), and in February 1962 she married Barry Crump, divorcing in 1963. She has two sons, Gregory and Andrew, both with her first husband.

Adcock's mother Irene Adcock is also a writer, and her sister Marilyn Duckworth is a novelist.

Poetry collections

  • 1964: The Eye of the Hurricane, Wellington: Reed
  • 1967: Tigers, London: Oxford University Press
  • 1971: High Tide in the Garden, London: Oxford University Press
  • 1974: The Scenic Route, London and New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1979: The Inner Harbour, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1979: Below Loughrigg, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books
  • 1983: Selected Poems, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1986: Hotspur: a ballad, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books ISBN: 978-1-85224-001-1
  • 1986: The Incident Book, Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1988: Meeting the Comet, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books
  • 1991: Time-zones, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1997: Looking Back, Oxford and Auckland: Oxford University Press
  • 2000: Poems 1960–2000, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books ISBN: 978-1-85224-530-6
  • 2010: Dragon Talk, Tarset: Bloodaxe Books ISBN: 978-1-85224-878-9
  • 2013: Glass Wings, Tarset: Bloodaxe Books and Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press.
  • 2014: The Land Ballot, Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, Tarset: Bloodaxe Books.
  • 2017: Hoard, Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, Hexham: Bloodaxe Books.
  • 2019: Collected Poems, Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, Hexham: Bloodaxe Books.

Edited or translated

  • 1982: Editor, Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry, Auckland: Oxford University Press
  • 1983: Translator, The Virgin and the Nightingale: Medieval Latin poems, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, ISBN: 978-0-906427-55-2
  • 1987: Editor, Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry, London and Boston: Faber and Faber
  • 1989: Translator, Orient Express: Poems. Grete Tartler, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
  • 1992: Translator, Letters from Darkness: Poems, Daniela Crasnaru, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • 1994: Translator and editor, Hugh Primas and the Archpoet, Cambridge, England, and New York: Cambridge University Press
  • 1995: Editor (with Jacqueline Simms), The Oxford Book of Creatures, verse and prose anthology, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Awards and honours

  • 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 (United Kingdom)
  • 1979: Buckland Award (New Zealand)
  • 1984: New Zealand National Book Award for Selected Poems (1983)
  • 1984: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • 1988: Arts Council Writers' Award (United Kingdom)
  • 1996: Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for services to literature, in the 1996 New Year Honours
  • 2006: Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry (United Kingdom) for Poems 1960-2000
  • 2007: Honorary Doctor of Literature from Victoria University of Wellington
  • 2008: Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature, in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours
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