Monday, 10 December 2012

Thanks Denis!

Lieutenant Commander Denis James Matthews Glover, DSC, 9 December 1912 – 9 August 1980.

9 December 2012 marks one hundred years since the birth of baby Denis in Dunedin.  The Dictionary of NZ Biography fills in the essential story giving him the byline of, “poet, journalist, typographer, publisher and naval officer” – sometimes all at once and never quietly. Whilst Sarah Schieff's biographical article on Glover from Kōtare 2008 introduces Glover as "wit, war hero, boxer, sailor and legendary drinker".

Denis was a prodigy – a fluent reader at the age of six. He moved up the country to New Plymouth, then Auckland – where he spent some years at Auckland Grammar School, before heading south again to Christ’s College and later Canterbury University.

Ref: 34-G299B, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Denis’s publishing career involved establishing the Caxton Press (with John Drew in 1935). Many of the NZ literary canon were published by Caxton Press. Names to conjure with included Ursula Bethell, RAK Mason, Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, Frank Sargeson and ARD Fairburn. The book production reflects Denis’ attention to the craft of printing, design and typography. The type specimen books also reflect Denis literary command and wit,“The squalid tea of Mercer is not strained”.

Denis the poet is responsible for some of the best known and loved poems in the land. ‘The Magpies’ chronicles the life story of Tom and Elizabeth with the bird’s refrain at each verse:

 "And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The Magpies said".


His poems have a strong New Zealand flavour, with some lines which could suit a new national anthem. Try getting the school to sing this (from 'Home Thoughts'):

"I think of what may yet be seen
In Johnsonville or Geraldine".


Ref: 7-A16474, Rex Fairburn (left) and Denis Glover (right), Sir George Grey Special Collections
Let Denis have the last word – enjoy his intonation and unique voice. His poems are made to be heard.

Make sure that you get time to check out the small but perfectly formed exhibition on Denis currently on display in the Reading Room at the Sir George Grey Special Collections, Level 2, Central City Library.

Blogpost set in Helvetica – with my best wishes, JW

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