A Most Fruitful Period
The achievement of these writers, and of some of their contemporaries, was summed up in an important anthology A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–45 (1945 and 1951), edited with a critical introduction by Allen Curnow – probably the most important volume of verse yet published in New Zealand. It contains work of great seriousness (relieved only by the humour and satire of Glover and Fairburn), considerable technical proficiency, and a frequently restless energy. The restlessness arose (and continues to arise) from a feeling of alienation, in part from contemporary society, a feeling of isolation, personal as well as geographical, a feeling that nothing (apart from the poetry itself and personal relations) could be taken for granted. This was well attuned with the contemporary mood of the country: the early 1930s saw prolonged depression, the later 1930s a drift to war – insecurity was national and international. The personal despair which prompted Mason in the 1920s, took, in the next decade, an added, social dimension, one that is of great importance in the satire of Fairburn, the lampoons of Glover, and the historical myths of Curnow. Brasch and Bethell were a little apart – more private, yet also concerned with a context of time and place. In yet other, but still related ways, Dowling, Hervey, and Duggan, all three notably religious and even moralistic, probed into the nature of their situation. From all this anxiety, this idealistic yet open-eyed seeking, emerged a small body of carefully shaped verse, which, a quarter century later, marks the most fruitful period in the history of New Zealand poetry.