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Sport 39: 2011

Allen Curnow: Poems of a Christchurch Childhood

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Allen Curnow: Poems of a Christchurch Childhood

Extracts from a forthcoming literary biography of Allen Curnow

Allen Curnow as a young child. (Courtesy Jeny Curnow)

Allen Curnow as a young child. (Courtesy Jeny Curnow)

In October 1945, during a visit Allen Curnow made to his parents’ vicarage home in Kaiapoi, near Christchurch, his mother Jessie showed him some early childhood photographs which had come to light while she and her husband Tremayne were preparing to vacate the house and move to Auckland, where they planned to retire. One photograph in particular caught Curnow’s eye, of ‘myself when young (about 4 years old I think)’:

Surprised to see myself looking such a small creature, with a timid & imploring look—how I have covered over that surprised & timid little person, & never quite stopped feeling it. But forward one must go, however battered, & that child might have been a lot less lucky & happy.1

Curnow was born in 1911, so the photograph would have been taken in 1915, when the family was living in the vicarage at Belfast, a township on the northern outskirts of Christchurch. The poem Curnow wrote about the photograph—a sonnet entitled ‘Self-Portrait’— reflects on the moment of surprised self-awareness which the image of himself when young has given him. It is as if the strangeness, otherness, of the image he sees unlocks new perceptions of himself as an adult, and thus, paradoxically, confirms the connection between the child and the adult:

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The wistful camera caught this four-year-old
But could not stare him into wistfulness;
He holds the toy that he is given to hold:
A passionate failure or a staled success

Look back into their likeness while I look
With pity not self-pity at the plain
Mechanical image that I first mistook
For my own image; there, timid or vain,

Semblance of my own eyes my eyes discern
Casting on mine as I cast back on these
Regard not self-regard: till the toy turn
Into a lover clasped, into wide seas,

The salt or visionary wave, and the days heap
Sorrow upon sorrow for all he could not keep.

The image of the child which the poem constructs is more complex than Curnow’s initial, perhaps somewhat sentimental, reaction to the photograph might suggest. The look is not only ‘timid and imploring’, but possibly ‘vain’. There is a sense that the child is already learning to ‘cover over’ such feelings, as he clutches his toy, refuses to invite ‘wistfulness’, and ‘stares’ back at his older adult self. There is also a sense of self-containment about the child which masks resolute determination and desire as well as vulnerability, insecurity and selfprotectiveness. It is as if the child-self is already aware that whatever personal or public failures and successes life holds in store for him, they will always carry with them a sense of dissatisfaction over what is not achieved and sorrow for what, inevitably, will be lost.

‘Self-Portrait’ was one of many poems which Curnow wrote from the mid-1940s onward—many of them appearing in the collections Jack Without Magic (1946) and At Dead Low Water (1949)— in which, as he later put it, he ‘turned away from questions which present themselves as public and answerable, towards the questions which are always private and unanswerable’.2 A number of these poems also turned directly to childhood and family memories for their occasions. Indeed, from this point on—right through to poemspage 39 in his last volume, The Bells of St Babel’s (2001)—such memories provided one of the main sources of inspiration for many of his major poems. The poet’s family background and childhood thus constitute an unusually important part of his literary biography.


Curnow’s earliest childhood memories belong to the parish of Belfast, to which his parents moved in June 1913 when he was two years old. It was in fact the third move the family had made since his birth in Timaru on 17 June 1911, and was Tremayne’s first appointment as vicar, at St David’s Church. The family (which included Curnow’s brother, John, 13 months older, and his grandmother on his mother’s side, Rose Letitia Maria Gambling) spent six and a half years at Belfast, until the end of 1919, their first reasonably settled period. Belfast, as Curnow later spoke of it, wasn’t then the suburb of Christchurch it was later to become:

It was a freezing-works township of a few hundred souls, scattered along a mile of the Main North Road. … [It] lay between the little river Styx and the great river Waimakariri, the Cashmere Hills rose 1500 feet a few miles to the south-east, the Southern Alps 50 miles to the north-west. The nearest tram was Papanui, it took you to Colombo street and the Avon River.3

He left one detailed memory of life in Belfast, in a piece (entitled ‘A Colonial At Home’) which he wrote for radio broadcast in 1937:

I remember the six-roomed wooden vicarage at Belfast—I have never quite rid myself of the impression that Belfast, Ireland, lies along a dusty road between Brown’s Grocery Store and the hotel a mile away at the corner—and I remember the two cherry-plum trees by the sunny north side of the house. Almost at the back was the bleached wooden skeleton of a windmill wh[ich] pumped out water from a deep artesian well. On hot summer days my father would go with a great appearance of ceremony to the foot of the mill to draw off the ice-cold water from a tap below the pump; it was a ritual which delighted me; the bright water stood in a yellow Doulton jug on the dining-table, a rich, rare drink of our own special kind, because we had a tap at thepage 40 bottom of the windmill. I have thought since that this fine luxury of drinking has carried over into habits of mine in which my father does not share my pleasure.4

It was to be another half century before some of these memories— the windmill, Gordon Brown and his Grocery Store, the immediate landscape and distant skyscape—were to find their way into the two poems, ‘A Raised Voice’ and ‘A Sight for Sore Eyes’, in which he explores his earliest childhood memories at Belfast. From the perspectives of 1937, Belfast is vividly remembered as a self-sufficient, richly sensuous—almost ‘pagan’—world for the young child, and the sense of the child’s remarkably acute powers of observation of everything going on around him remains strong in both the later poems.

There were some aspects of the family dynamic during these Belfast years to which the young child was unusually sensitive, which are perhaps reflected in the photograph of the ‘timid and imploring’ four-year-old in ‘Self-Portrait’. This sensitivity is also evident in the later poem ‘A Raised Voice’, which recalls his father preaching authoritatively from the pulpit at St David’s, and ends on a note of anxiety, registering a child’s first inklings of loss—not so much loss of religious belief, though that is hinted at, as loss of the certainties and securities that parents provide for the young child:

I’m looking into my thought

of my father, my certainty, he’ll

be safe, but what about me? What else?

A voice descends, feet scrape, we all

stand up. The scent my mother wears is

vera violetta. That can’t be it.

Even his mother’s reassuring scent does not satisfy the curious question, ‘What else?’ The sense of deeply felt, unanswered questions in this poem is similar to the enigmatic, unreadable ‘look’ Curnow discerns in the seemingly self-possessed face of his four-year-old self staring back at him from a photograph in ‘Self-Portrait’. A poignantpage 41 aspect of ‘A Raised Voice’ is its sense that the child’s deepest feelings and insecurities are entirely internalised: they remain unspoken, secret.

The strength of this ‘interior life’, a matter early on in his life of astonishing sensuous alertness, precocious intelligence, and sensitivity, is central to any understanding of Curnow’s personality, of his ways of engaging with others throughout his life, and of poetry’s role and importance to him. Poetry was his means of releasing, though always with a sense of self-exposure and vulnerability, insights into the ‘questions which are private, and unanswerable’,5 the only questions, in the end, which mattered to him. His later memory-poems might be read as attempts to document key formative moments in the development of this sensibility during his childhood.

Other late poems which return in memory to Curnow’s Belfast years are ‘An Evening Light’, based on a stay with his grandmother Curnow in Christchurch around 1917, when it was thought that his older brother John might have contracted diphtheria, and ‘The Survivors’, in which, lifted onto his father’s shoulders, he recalls as a child observing the scene of victory celebration in Hagley Park, Christchurch, at the end of the First World War.


In January 1920, when Curnow was eight, the family moved from Belfast to Sheffield, in the parish of Malvern, with its delightful Mountfort-designed church of St Ambrose, sixty kilometres west of Christchurch on the mid-Canterbury Plains. They made the trip in a small Model T Ford car, its folded roof stacked with many of his mother’s precious roses nurtured in the rich alluvial soil of Belfast. In a lecture which he wrote in the later 1940s Curnow drew on his memories of this journey when seeking a parallel to Katherine Mansfield’s account of her childhood journey to Picton, in her story ‘The Voyage’. He recalled travelling in the back seat with his brother John in the heat of a nor-wester ‘getting tired of the endless brown plain and the unchanging Torlesse range ahead’ and

crouch[ing] down on the floor to shelter from the heat, the wind, and the dust. We were brought up, like many New Zealand children, onpage 42 tales of an English countryside, and those images of populous scenes and farm nestling against farm, mixed with images of sentimental coaching and wayside scenes quite out of our time and country, were more real in our imaginations than what lay around us. …6

Sheffield itself was a small, isolated settlement, and Curnow attended the small primary school at Waddington, two kilometres to the east, walking the distance each day along the metalled main road, parallel to which ran a railway line and a water race. It was from here that he stored up a memory of a spectacular winter’s morning sunrise, with the light rising from the Pacific Ocean, gradually illuminating the snow-capped Torlesse mountain range to the north west and creating a kaleidoscope of colours in the newly ploughed and mown fields along the roadside—a memory he would draw on sixty years later for the poem ‘A Balanced Bait in Handy Pellet Form’.

Although he skipped Standard Two, moving straight into Standard Three, his experience of school was marred by a traumatic incident in which he was falsely accused by an older boy of making an obscene drawing on the lavatory wall. The boy blackmailed him over several weeks into stealing money from home for the boy to buy sweets. The suspicious local dairy store owner reported the blackmailer’s excessive spending to the headmaster, and the tale came out. Curnow’s father and mother were told, and the scene which followed—his father’s anger, his mother’s efforts to console him, his sense of guilt, in which while admitting to theft he could not bring himself to mention the phallic graffito in the lavatory nor explain that he was being blackmailed— left an indelible impression on the young child.

In the later 1930s he attempted to write about the event in a short fictional sketch,7 perhaps intended for publication in the fortnightly magazine To mor ro w, to which he contributed a number of sketches at this time. Initially drafted in the first person, and then presented in the third person under the fictional name, Joe, the sketch was never completed, but it is nevertheless highly revealing about the traumatic nature of the experience, especially the encounter with the sexual taboo at its centre.

The country school in Curnow’s poem, ‘Country School, North Canterbury’, is not Waddington School, though the poem contains apage 43 number of elements transposed from the traumatic experience he had written about in the sketch. Like several others in the volume Island and Time (1941), this poem records with surprise the swiftness with which time has transformed and eroded what seemed (and was) new at the time the speaker attended the school as a child. What loomed large in scale during his childhood, now appears reduced and distant, evoking a mixture of nostalgic affection (‘O sweet antiquity!’) and sadness.

However, the traumatic earlier event shadows allusions in the poem, transformed as they are into general images of mutability. A once ‘scantling’ ‘Pinus’ (surely an unconscious Freudian slip) now ‘stands mature’, ‘with rank tufts topping / The roof-ridge’, and the poem concludes with a buried allusion to the drawing in the dunny:

Look, the stone
That skinned your knees. How small
Are the terrible doors; how sad the dunny
And the things you drew on the wall.

If Sheffield provided Curnow with the most traumatic experience of his life up to that time, it also provided him with the most exhilarating, the subject of a poem he wrote in 1987, entitled ‘A Time of Day’, which recalls a flight over Canterbury in an Avro 504K biplane when he was eight. It is the richness of the remembered and imagined detail that carries the poem’s central meaning—that yesterday’s new age is today’s old hat and tomorrow’s museum relic, that what remains constant is the ‘load’ of time-bound and place-bound ‘things’, unique and rich in their multiplicity in whatever so-called new age or new era, untranscendable.

Sheffield was also the scene of one of Curnow’s best known late poems, ‘Early Days Yet’, an intimate, humorous and moving portrait of his father, as he fills the petrol tank of his Model-T Ford with Big Tree ‘spirit’, goes through the elaborate ritual of crank-starting it, and drives with his son along a dusty road in ‘a high / head wind, unhingeing / nor’west slammer’ during one of his pastoral rounds of the Malvern parish, reciting snatches of poetry in tune with the motor’s rhythms.

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A companion poem, ‘A South Island Night’s Entertainment’ portrays an overwhelming feeling of isolation and remoteness, as it is registered by the child in his ‘ninth year’. Arriving at the ‘shed of a hall’ the family discover that they have mistaken the day and are ‘shut out’ of all the excitements promised by the technology of the Hollywood movie, just as the blackness of the night has locked them out of the cosmic dramas associated with the naming of the stars. The poem concludes with an image of the family trudging home in the darkness, each, it seems, entirely locked into his or her own thoughts:

Only our feet go
crunch-crunch in and out

of step as they fall,
all the way home.

Like ‘A Raised Voice’, the poem isolates a moment—with the lightest of references to a Fall—in which the child becomes aware of the world not only as a place where expectations are likely to be disappointed but where he is essentially alone.


Curnow was ten when the family moved in September 1921 to the parish of West Lyttelton, with its church of St Saviour’s, also designed by Mountfort. Two years after the move, the third of Tremayne’s and Jessie’s sons, Anthony [Tony], was born in October 1923. The vicarage, built in 1896, was in Curnow’s words ‘a two-storey big box’,8 the living area (including Tremayne’s study) downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs, and at the top of the stairs there was a landing from which Grandmother Gambling would look out at the ships arriving and departing from the wharves below.

As a child Curnow seems to have been unusually self-possessed, as well as being unusually fascinated, anxious and occasionally guilty about what could not be spoken about in the family. He later recalled that as a boy he was:

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in the parish but not quite of it… a common situation for a vicarage child. At school I was drawn to other kids. I also went home to a different, separate sort of life.9

There is a remarkable group of three ‘Lyttelton’ poems from the late 1980s (‘The Pug-Mill’, ‘A Busy Port’ and ‘An Unclosed Door’) in which one of the central themes is the child’s almost voyeuristic discovery of ‘taboo’ moments, having to do with death, violence, and secret access to a world outside that of his parents. All of the poems record these experiences in an entirely inward way: they remain secret to the child himself, and remain especially powerful because of that. The impression to be gleaned from his early family life is that the dominant aim of the parents, hardly unusual for its time, was to protect the children from unpleasant or unsettling knowledge, to avoid discussing matters which might be personally upsetting or too selfrevealing. What this suggests is a kind of tacit understanding, which all of the children quite quickly picked up, that certain things were not to be spoken about. To a child as sensitive and alert as Curnow was, such tacit silences or taboos constituted crucially formative moments in the growth of his personality.

During his childhood Curnow sometimes accompanied his father, when, in his role as port chaplain, he visited ships in the harbour. However, the occasion of ‘A Busy Port’ was a special one, the fulfilment of a promise by his father to take him sailing for his eleventh birthday on the small 50-ton steamship (the SS John Anderson) which delivered supplies to remote bays of Lyttelton Harbour and the peninsula. The event made an indelible impression for a quite different reason: as he arrived at the wharf he was shocked to eavesdrop unwittingly on the master of the boat, Bob Hempstalk, silently weeping, and to overhear subdued quayside voices referring to the reason for Hempstalk’s grief—the death of his wife. In the final version of the poem this central incident is much more compressed than in earlier versions (and framed within a broader image of his father’s and his own mortality, both walking down ‘the steep gangplank’ towards death):

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A man’s tears. Obscene to me

caught looking. Too late now. The time-ball
drops. Quayside voices (not for my ears)
discuss the dead, bells repeat

ding-ding across the wharf.

In earlier versions the poet can be seen gradually working towards this complex sense of the child’s conflicted feelings about the event. He began with a relatively simple statement of fact: ‘The day I first saw a man crying it was because / he was crying for his dead wife / I heard what they said on the quay.’ There are then numerous versions which attempt to convey the child’s sense that death is not something people wish to talk about, or not in front of him, and that because he felt guilty at eavesdropping on the man’s tears he might be somehow responsible for them. In one: ‘What does it mean, the quayside voice pitched that half- / notch below speech lost his wife, to the small child, / something he did or something somebody did? Was it me?’ In another, the child becomes dimly aware that the nature of speech itself, its inadequacy to deal with bereavement, is at issue:

from the quayside are too indistinct,
only the tone people catch
from the death-angel, that notch

below speech possibly could
have taught my idiotic
childhood what the words could not
then or now. His wife, his child,

spilt milk. Is there anything
else worth uselessly crying for?

In yet other versions the emphasis falls on his feelings of guilt— even self-accusation—at being ‘caught looking’ by Bob Hempstalk (‘Ipage 47 hear myself / cry childishly please I didn’t mean to’), or on his efforts to resist such feelings, as if he were an adult:

[T]his is my birthday, [eleven] years old today,
and I’m accused by a strange fat man’s tears.
I know all about crying and all

about birthday treats. [There’s no excuse for me.] His grief, her death,
my guilt make
up the bottom line of a happy life.

What happened during the process of revision was that the original, intensely personal focus on the details of the memory gradually shifted to a more impersonal focus on its interpretation and the way its deeply unsettling effects are resolved— or, at least, able to be accepted within a broader sense of bereavement as part of life—though the drama of the child’s encounter with death and bereavement remains wholly internal, wholly unknown to the father accompanying him on his birthday outing.

Part Two of the poem, in which the steamship has left port and is underway ‘pitching like a beer-can’ in heavy seas, was a later development during the process of composition. However, if the experience on the wharf continues in the second part to produce an upheaval in the child’s world (‘out of my depth, deeper yet…’) the poem concludes with the fact that Hempstalk survives the apparently traumatic nature of his grief, his identity merged with an image derived from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Eyes that last I saw in tears’, as he expertly guides the ship towards the Heads:

Eyes that last I saw in tears can read
abstruse characters of waves, on course
between them, our plunging bows.

Within a couple of months of completing ‘A Busy Port’ at the end of 1990 Curnow was at work on another poem from the time of his later primary school days at Lyttelton, about an old abattoir located on the point between Corsair Bay and Cass Bay, discharging its waste over a cliff into the harbour. The poem recalls an event in whichpage 48 Curnow with his school friend Bob Crawford, on an after-school cycling escapade, spy on the activities inside the abattoir through a crack in an unclosed door at the precise moment when a slaughterman is cutting the throat of a lamb.10

Curnow’s first title for the poem was ‘The Abattoir’. His revised title, ‘The Unclosed Door’, was more specific about the hidden nature of the shocking knowledge, of bloodshed and violence, to which the boys gain secret access. The door was not ‘open’; it was a door that was meant to be closed. Again, in the early drafts of this poem, there is a strong emphasis on the secret, taboo nature of the knowledge the two boys gain, which leaves them fascinated, appalled and silent. ‘This is what we came for,’ the poet writes in one version, ‘what goes on here out of school. … up on our toes we can’t take / our eyes off the action’. Even stronger is the sense that what has been glimpsed is something that will never be spoken about, either to each other, or to parents. ‘[T]he nothing we shall ever say to each / other is the nothing we won’t tell them at home’.

The final version, as in ‘A Busy Port’, is much less specific about the immediate thoughts and reactions of the children, much more concerned with interpreting the memory in the light of later reflection on it. The sense of shock the poem conveys is not simply the shock implied by the ‘silence’ of the two children during the course of the violent scene they witness (that is, it is not simply contained within their thoughts and feelings). It is also conveyed by the sheer vividness of the poem’s description of the natural setting (‘[f]reshened by any wind, sanitized / with pine and cypress’), the comparison of the slaughterhouse to a church, and the description of the act of killing itself in the disturbing musical metaphor of a bass viol, ‘the bowing hand slash [ing] / deep! in blood stepped in so far will up / to the eyes or the ears be enough!’ The violence thus presented seems part of an ‘incorrigible music’, permanent and unchanging in human nature: ‘Nothing’, the poem concludes, ‘alters this.’

The processes of revision discernible in both ‘A Busy Port’ and ‘The Unclosed Door’ demonstrate the poet struggling against the undertow of the memory, removing or modifying or transforming those elements which might lock the poem into the specific parental and childhood traumas which generated them, and in this sense releasing him frompage 49 their power ‘to nag one for years’. It is in this sense that they function at a profound personal level, in the poem’s (and the poet’s) present.

‘The Pug-Mill’ was another Lyttelton-based poem from the same time (1923), set in the same vicinity as the abattoir. Sending a copy to C.K. Stead, Curnow invoked Yeats’s later forays into memory:

I suppose this is my way of trying to climb Ben Bulben’s back, without WBY’s genius for splendour in nostalgia. I hope I haven’t done it once too often, but at least it’s a different scene & scenario.’11

The process by which Curnow’s childhood memory became the central focus of the poem—watching Mr Prisk make bricks in his underground pug-mill dug out of the hillside above Governor’s Bay— provides a remarkable example of the truth, as least for Curnow, that the process of writing a poem is a process of finding its true subject, or of waiting on the poem to declare its own true subject.

In the early drafts Mr Prisk was a relatively minor presence in the poem, making an initial appearance in a rapidly written prose note: ‘When Mr Prisk pulled on the cord the horse above us pulled on a beam & plodded around causing the clotted clay to extrude by an orifice over his bench. [R]eaching for a wooden mould he shaped another wet brick & another & another & pulled on the cord causing the horse to stand still.’ At this point the poem’s focus was quite different: on the rapidly changing Auckland city skyline during the spectacular expansion of high rise building construction in the later 1980s, producing ‘cruciform lattices of steel’ stretching up into the sky. ‘Will filling clouds with steel / improve our natures?’ he asks, in one version. In other versions the meditation expands to include references to historic towers, now abandoned or in ruins—desert watchtowers, the Pharos, the tomb of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Stonehenge and, especially, the Tower of Babel.

It took numerous further drafts, during which all these architectural motifs gradually receded and disappeared, for the poem to yield its true subject, the memory of one of his visits to Mr Prisk at his pugmill as a twelve-year-old.

At this point, refining the details of the memory—of Mr Prisk himself, of the way the pug-mill worked, and of himself as a child—page 50also involved numerous further drafts. However, although the broader historical and geographical perspectives of the poem disappear, they have clearly shaped the way in which Mr Prisk is presented. He is the archetypal man-as-builder, his bricks the ur-types of all human building blocks (including the steel structures of high rise towers). All such building blocks, whatever self-aggrandising high-rise aspirations are expressed through them, are subject like the Tower of Babel to decay and destruction. There is nothing outside ‘the system we inhabit here’, only the empty blue of the sky and sea, which at the end of the poem ‘baffles’ the steepening hillside as the child runs home.

Curnow emphasises the ‘instinctive’, almost ‘unconscious’, nature of Mr Prisk’s brick-making (each brick doggedly patterned from ‘the one / thought baked in the bones of his wrist’), as if defying time, though he is aware of his ‘hands of clay’ and the presence of ‘a child looking on’. There is admiration for his persistence, despite the irony of the description of each brick as ‘one more circle squared’ and ‘one more brick the desert will keep.’ An unobtrusive connection is also made between the activity of the brick maker and the activity of the poet, whose building blocks are the components of language itself, a connection strongly built into the Tower of Babel biblical story which appeared in earlier versions of the poem. Almost every detail of the poem carries an acute comment on the nature and motivation and purpose of poetry.

Curnow also took considerable pains with the poem’s ending, which (like so many of his poems of childhood) involves the secret nature of the knowledge he has gained and his unwillingness or inability to share it with his parents. There is a suggestion, in his ‘running barefoot home’, that he will be in trouble for lateness, and the poem concludes with his effort to find a suitable excuse: ‘They are asking Where- / ever have you been? I tell them Helping Mr Prisk.’ In an earlier version he writes: ‘when I get there they / will say Wherever have you been? I shall answer / Helping Mr Prisk, that’s my story now.’ In yet another: ‘When I get home & they say / Wherever have you been I shall answer / Helping Mr Prisk—Will he help me now?’ ‘Helping Mr Prisk’ is delightfully apposite, functioning, at the child’s level, as a hoped-for way of deflecting his parents’ anxiety or censure, but, in terms of the broader concerns of the poem, identifying thepage 51 poet with Mr Prisk, who ‘helps’ him in the sense that he is engaged, as a poet, in the same kind of enterprise.

The poems which Curnow later wrote about his years at West Lyttelton tell us a great deal about the expansion of his interests beyond the protected confines of vicarage life, about his growing sense of independence and insatiable curiosity about the broader world he lived in. The happiest years of his childhood were spent there, and Lyttelton always retained a special ambience for him, a place to which he regularly returned on weekend visits or brief holidays with his young family during the 1940s. Out of his fascinated encounters with unusual events and people in the port, the beaches and bays nearby, and the surrounding landscape of the Port Hills, some of the key preoccupations which defined the kind of poet he was to become and the kind of poetry he was to write entered his maturing consciousness and imagination.


Before his death in 2009, Terry Sturm completed a full draft manuscript of his literary biography of Allen Curnow. The manuscript is currently being edited for publication by Linda Cassells.

1 Allen Curnow to Betty Curnow, n.d. [October] 1945. Betty Curnow Papers, ATL 86-101.

2 Author’s Note to Allen Curnow Collected Poems 1933–1973 (Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1974) p. xiii.

3 Unidentified Curnow manuscript, sighted by Terry Sturm, n.d. ?1960s.

4 Betty Curnow Papers, ATL 86-101-11. Typescript, AC, ‘A Colonial At Home’, XIII: 34. Broadcast on 3YA, 10 May 1937. BC refers to it as ‘about travel’. In the later 1930s Curnow (and Denis Glover) often gave talks on Christchurch radio on literary topics and topics of general interest, and on some of these occasions Curnow would draw on his own memories.

5 Author’s Note to Allen Curnow Collected Poems 1933–1973, ibidem.

6 Lecture, probably 1947, XIII, p. 34; Betty Curnow Papers, ATL 86-101

7 Tim Curnow Papers, ATL MS-Papers-7905.

8 Biography of Allen Curnow, Jeny Curnow Papers, ATL MSDL0203 or MSDL-0204

9 Interview with Tony Reid, New Zealand Listener, 12 March 1983.

10 Bob Crawford was a son of the Lyttelton Harbourmaster [Jeny, 15], and he remained a close friend in the 1930s, when he was working in a solicitor’s office in Christchurch, becoming the godfather of Curnow’s first child, Wystan, before being killed in the Pacific during the Second World War.

11 Allen Curnow to C.K. Stead, 2 March 1988, C.K. Stead Papers, MSPapers-8220-12