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Collected Poems


page 11


This book contains all the poems Fairburn might have wished to include in a collected volume, and few (I think) that he would have omitted. My principle has been this: anything that Fairburn himself chose to include in books for the first time, or for re-printing, will have been a deliberate choice at that time. The authority of the collection is therefore his own, with exceptions I record.

He never reprinted 'The Sea', an important long poem which Allen Curnow and others re-discovered with surprise. He never reprinted 'On a Bachelor Bishop' first privately printed by me then put in the Arts Year Book of which he was poetry editor. A mordant bucolic from 1931, 'The County', he may have thought irrelevant to the New Zealand temper, though there are other poems written in England that are less pointed.

I have added three epigrams that amid such a spontaneous outpouring, he may have forgotten. These few additions I would like to think worthwhile.

The Disadvantages of Being Dead I selected from papers and clippings he left. (Horse Pansies was very much 'in preparation'.) It is no more than a sampling of lighter pieces: there are many listed by his bibliographer* of which there were no clippings.

Two poems appear twice. 'Laughter' was originally in both Strange Rendezvous and The Rakehelly Man , a fuller version. 'Hymn of Peace' from The Rakehelly Man I repeated in The Disadvantages , I can't think why.

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I have placed He Shall Not Rise at the end of this book. (It was at the end of that first work that Fairburn put his then earlier poems.) I did this because he dismissed, or affected to dismiss, this collection. But it belongs to the record; and is not far removed in style or spirit from much of Poems 1929–1941.

A brief look at Olive Johnson's Bibliography will show how many lesser pieces have been left out. She seems not to have missed anything important; though there are fugitive verses that have since turned up, inscribed in books, or on scraps of paper. Many others must exist, but another net is needed to catch such an oceanful of plankton.

I have consulted many of Fairburn's friends and relatives about this collection. They include Miss Olive Johnson, Dr Allen Curnow, Sir Douglas Robb, Mr Harold Innes, the poet's brother, Mr Geoffrey Fairburn, Mr Antony Alpers, Mr John Reece Cole, and, of course, Mrs A. P. Young, the poet's widow.

Denis Glover

September 1965
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* A. R. D. Fairburn, 1904–1957, A Bibliography of his Published Work , by Olive Johnson, F.L.A., the University of Auckland Monograph Series No. 3. 1958.