Critical material about Adcock # 7

This site has recordings of Adcock reading some poems; not those on your syllabus, but they certainly give an idea of her approach to her writing. Listening to the rhythm of her speech can give some indication of how her poems should sound. They certainly capture some of the themes expressed in the poems you’ve encountered. Do have a listen.

SOURCE:

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=75

Fleur Adcock (b.1934) is a New Zealander by birth but spent part of her childhood in England, returning to live in London in 1963. She worked as a librarian until 1979 before becoming a freelance writer. She is the author of ten books of poetry and a collected edition of her work, Poems 1960-2000, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000. Recipient of a Cholmondeley Award in 1976 and a New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, she was awarded an OBE in 1996.

The influence of Fleur Adcock’s migratory childhood can be traced in her work’s exploration of identity. In her poem ‘Immigrant’ this is specifically an issue of voice as she practices her newly adopted English accent. Several of the poems here examine roots and rootlessness: as she puts it in ‘Chippenham’, a poem recalling her status as the odd one out in an English classroom, “Who did I think/I was . . .?” Identity is also an issue of gender: in ‘The Russian War’ a returning uncle claims he’ll “be a thing called oral history” but Adcock is acutely aware of those female ancestors whose stories have disappeared, like the silent labouring woman in ‘Water’. Her poems often bring to light women’s lives that might otherwise be marginalised or forgotten, as in the poignant vignettes of suffering in ‘The Soho Hospital for Women’. However, her poems have no air of stridency: her characteristic tone is restrained, rational, conversational. Adcock herself has talked about this poetic strategy: “The tone I feel at home in is one in which I can address people without embarrassing them; I should like them to relax and listen as if to an intimate conversation”. (‘Not Quite a Statement’, Strong Words, Bloodaxe Books, 2000).

Certainly this quality of intimacy is to the fore in her Archive recording. Her reading voice is clear and distinct, striking the consonants with precision and just the faintest hint of her original accent. A particular pleasure are her generous explanations of the poems and the insights she gives into her creative process: apparently “the bath is a very good place for getting inspiration.”

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