Image by Caroline Forbes

Fleur Adcock

b. 1934

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

The Russian War

Fleur Adcock

Leaving the Tate

Fleur Adcock

The Ex-Queen Among the Astronomers

Fleur Adcock

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About Fleur Adcock

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.

Additional material and useful links

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...


1961 Festival of Wellington Poetry Award
1968 Buckland Award (New Zealand)
1968 Jessie Mackay Prize (New Zealand)
1972 Jessie Mackay Prize (New Zealand)
1979 Buckland Award (New Zealand)
2006 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

Selected bibliography

Dragon Talk, Bloodaxe Books 2010

Fleur Adcock by Janet Wilson. Northcote House Publishers...


Fleur Adcock in Context, by Julian Stannard. The Edwin...


In Person 30 Poets, Edited by Neil Astley / Films by...


Fleur Adcock Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry...

Poems 1960-2000, Bloodaxe, 2000


The Poetry Quartets 2, Audio Cassette, The British...


Looking Back, Oxford University Press, 1997 - out of...


The Oxford Book of Creatures (editor with Jacqueline...

Hugh Primas and the Archpoet (editor and translator),...


Daniela Crasnaru: Letters from Darkness (translator),...

Time-Zones, Oxford University Press, 1991 - out of print


Grete Tartler: Orient Express, Oxford University Press,...

The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry (editor),...


The Incident Book, Oxford University Press, 1986 - out...


Hotspur: a ballad for music, Bloodaxe, 1986 - out of...

Selected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1983 - out of...

The Virgin and the Nightingale: medieval Latin poems (...


The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry (...

The Inner Harbour, Oxford University Press, 1979 - out...

The Scenic Route, Oxford University Press, 1974 - out of...

High Tide in the Garden, Oxford University Press, 1971...

Tigers, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1967 - out of...

The Eye of the Hurricane, New Zealand, Reed, 1964 - out...


Fleur Adcock Reading from her poems

1A Surprise in the Peninsula

2Stewart Island

3Country Station


5The Ex-Queen Among the Astronomers

6The Soho Hospital for Women



9Piano Concerto in E Flat Major

10Street Song

11Leaving the Tate

12Scalford Again


14The Telephone Call

15Cattle in Mist

16The Russian War


18Anne Welby

19Swings and Roundabouts

20Willow Creek

21For Meg

22From Kensington Gardens: Droppings

23From Kensington Gardens: Handful

24From Kensington Gardens: Checking Out

25From Kensington Gardens: Goodbye

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Jean Sprackland's tour

There are so many good poems in the Children's Archive, it's hard to know where to start! I'd like to share with you...

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