Fleur Adcock reviews & interviews

Fleur Adcock reviews & interviews


'What unites the poems is Adcock’s tone, at once beguiling yet with plenty of bite among the pleasantries, which knows that wisdom often comes best wrapped in disguise as a joke.’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian (best recent poetry)


Fleur Adcock's 16th collection The Mermaid's Purse was published by Bloodaxe in February 2021.  It was launched with a joint live-streamed reading with fellow Bloodaxe poets Tiffany Atkinson, Aoife Lyall and Susan Wicks, all of whom were publishing new collections (see video below).

Fleur began writing the poems in this book when she was 82. The two chief settings are New Zealand, the land of her birth, and Britain, where she has lived since 1963, and where she also spent the war years. The book ends with a sequence in memory of her friend, the poet Roy Fisher.


A Kiss, BBC Radio 4, Thursday 2 February 2023, 11.30am (repeated Monday 6 February, 4pm) - a BBC Radio 4 Pick of the Week

Fleur Adcock contributed to BBC Radio 4's documentary A Kiss on 2 February.  This beautiful radio feature from Falling Tree wove together poetry, conversation, music and sound. 

Fleur was in conversation with poet and presenter Rachel Long, and read 'Kissing' and 'An Illustration to Dante', both from her retrospective Poems: 1960-2000.  Fleur’s most recent collection The Mermaid's Purse was published in February 2021.

‘In conversation with Caroline Bird, Richard Scott and Fleur Adcock, the poet Rachel Long explores the craft of writing a kiss. How might we hold the wordless intimacy of the act - its blurring of selves and disrupted time? In this documentary we weave between fragmentary memories - sensual, funny, erotic... the kisses we describe over and over, the kisses we keep a secret.’

The programme was a Pick of the Day in the Radio Times and a Pick of the Week in the Financial Times of 28 January prior to broadcast. After it aired, the programme was chosen as a radio pick of the week by Miranda Sawyer in The Observer, Charlotte Runcie in The Telegraph and by Frank Cottrell-Boyce on Radio 4's Pick of the Week.

Fleur read her poems at 1:40 and 11:00.  She spoke about Elizabeth Barrett Browning from 16:26, and made a final wonderful contribution at end the programme – from 27:10.

Available until 4pm on 8 March 2023.  Listen via BBC Sounds here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001hnlt

Pick of the Week, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 5 February 2023, 6.15pm

BBC Radio 4’s feature A Kiss was one of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s choices for his Pick of the Week on 5 February, although the clips chosen did not include any Fleur Adcock’s wonderful contributions.

'…a beautiful, freewheeling show on BBC Radio 4... it was like listening to the actual process of making poetry.'  - Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Pick of the Week, Radio 4, on ‘A Kiss’

Listen here. From 37:18. The programme will remain available on BBC iPlayer.


The Observer, Sunday 5 February 2023

The Radio 4 feature A Kiss was chosen by Miranda Sawyer for her podcasts and radio column in The Observer of 5 February.

‘…last week’s one-off Radio 4 documentary A Kiss… exquisitely explored that most intimate of acts through speaking to three poets: Fleur Adcock, Richard Scott and Caroline Bird. Producer Eleanor McDowall’s soundwork was close-up – we heard papers rustling, the intake of breath – while Rachel Long’s presentation was sensitive and intelligent. All three poets spoke beautifully, and Adcock’s and Bird’s poems were gorgeous.’ – Miranda Sawyer, The Observer

Read in full here.

The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 7 February 2023

Charlotte Runcie featured A Kiss at the end of her Telegraph column ‘The week in radio’ on 7 February.

‘The most memorable part of A Kiss was a tiny moment of connection, when [presenter Rachel] Long, who is in her thirties, tentatively asked Fleur Adcock, who is in her eighties, whether kisses get better with age. Adcock laughed and replied, after a slight hesitation: “Wait and see.”’ – Charlotte Runcie, The Daily Telegraph (The week in radio)

Read in full online by subscription here.


The Verb: Old Age, BBC Radio 3, Friday 1 July 2022, 10pm

Fleur Adcock was a guest on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on 1 July, discussing old age with Ian McMillan and guests. A joyful, poignant and very funny exploration of old age.

Ian McMillan introduced Fleur by saying: ‘What I’ve always liked about your work is that you tackle these big subjects with a lightness of touch and a kind of self-deprecation…’.

Fleur read and introduced her poems ‘Letting Them Know’ from her latest collection The Mermaid's Purse and ‘Walking Stick’ from her 2013 collection Glass Wings, as well as a new poem.

‘Ian McMillan explores the language, poetry and perceptions of old age with Fleur Adcock who has been writing poetry for seven decades, comedian Pope Lonergan who has written a memoir of his ten years working in a care home, and psychotherapist Jane Campbell who at the age of 80 is publishing her debut collection of short stories this month.’

Fleur features in the intro (and read her first poem), then again at 13:18 (interview & second poem), 34:26 (new poem), and finally from 39.25. 

Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0018h90



The Mermaid's Purse was reviewed by Rishi Dastidar in his best recent poetry round-up in The Guardian of 6 March 2021.

The Mermaid’s Purse, the 16th collection by Fleur Adcock, is a disparate set of dispatches, traversing the seas of New Zealand as well as alighting closer to home. There is little that escapes Adcock’s eye… What unites the poems is Adcock’s tone, at once beguiling yet with plenty of bite among the pleasantries, which knows that wisdom often comes best wrapped in disguise as a joke.’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian

Read the full review here.


The Mermaid's Purse was reviewed in the TLS of 10 September 2021

‘Fleur Adcock’s matter-of-fact, conversational poetic voice belies her immaculate control and restraint. In her work, we are privy to a strange public-private mode of interfacing with people, incidents, stories and places. The poems in The Mermaid’s Purse, her most recent collection, are often addressed to absent parties, but they nonetheless speak with a blunt and sometimes sharp honesty…The act of conversing internally and externally seems key to these poems, and is possibly at the core of Adcock’s poetics.’ – John Kinsella, Times Literary Supplement

Read in full here (just the reviewer's name is missing if you're not a subscriber).


The Mermaid's Purse was reviewed in the September 2021 issue of the contemporary poetry webzine The Lake.

‘There is at once both great skill and an easy freshness and lightness of touch which is simultaneously wise and child-like.’ – Hannah Stone, The Lake

Read the full review here.



Tuesday 23 February 2021, joint launch event with Fleur Adcock, Tiffany Atkinson, Aoife Lyall and Susan Wicks

Launch reading by Fleur Adcock, Tiffany Atkinson, Aoife Lyall and Susan Wicks. Hosted by editor Neil Astley from his home in Northumberland, this event was streamed live on 23rd February.
The poets all read from their newly published collections, and then answered questions from the online audience. Fleur Adcock read first in each set.  Wonderful readings by poets from four different generations, followed by a very engaging discussion.


Fleur Adcock was awarded the New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in October 2019. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the presentation of this prestigious award at a ceremony in Wellington.

The panel making the award commended Fleur Adcock for 'the quality of her significant body of work, her critical contribution to New Zealand poetry from the 1960s, and an extraordinary career, both in New Zealand and overseas'.

Fleur Adcock was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006 for her Bloodaxe collected Poems: 1960-2000.   This retrospective was followed by five further collections: Dragon Talk (2010), Glass Wings (2013), The Land Ballot  (2015), a book-length sequence about her family emigrating to New Zealand in World War I, Hoard (2017), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, and The Mermaid's Purse  (2021).  Her New Zealand publisher Victoria University Press published an up-dated retrospective in 2019, Collected Poems: Fleur Adcock, followed by their own edition of The Mermaid's Purse in 2021.

Born in New Zealand in 1934, Fleur Adcock spent the war years in England, returning with her family to New Zealand in 1947. She emigrated to Britain in 1963. She writes about childhood, identity, roots and rootlessness, animals and dreams. Her poised, ironic poems are remarkable for their wry wit, conversational tone and psychological insight.


Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern presents the 2019 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement. Forward to 33:55 to see Fleur Adcock presented with the Award in Poetry.

[05 March 2021]

Back to News And Publicity






View Larger Text