Story: Poetry

Denis Glover, about 1950

Leo Bensemann's portrait of his good friend Denis Glover captures Glover in his late 30s, just before some of his most famous poems were published, including the Sings Harry (1951) and Arawata Bill (1953) sequences. Glover had met Bensemann in the mid-1930s and Bensemann joined Glover as a partner in the Caxton Press in 1937. Some of the Sings Harry poems first appeared in 1941 – the same year that Glover published probably his most famous poem, 'The magpies'. 'The magpies' begins:

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed,
And Quardle oodle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

The poem ends:

The farm's still there. Mortgage corporations
Couldn't give it away.
And Quardle oodle wardle doodle
The magpies say.
(Jane Stafford and Mark Williams, eds., The Auckland University Press anthology of New Zealand literature. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2012, p. 356)

Listen to Glover read his poem 'Towards Banks Peninsula: Mick Stimson', which concerns a former sailor and beachcomber, and was published in Landfall in 1955.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: G-059
Oil on canvas by Leo Bensemann

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

Courtesy of Leo Bensemann estate

Sound file from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero (Denis Glover reads his own poems, 1978/Reference ID31422)

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How to cite this page:

John Newton, 'Poetry - The Caxton poets', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 September 2023)

Story by John Newton, published 22 Oct 2014