Denis Glover

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An excerpt from Denis Glover's poem "Wellington Harbour is a Laundry" on the Wellington waterfront

Lieutenant Commander Denis James Matthews Glover DSC (9 December 1912 – 9 August 1980) was a New Zealand poet and publisher.

Early life and eduction[edit]

Glover was born in Dunedin on 9 December 1912. His parents were Henry Lawrence Glover, a dentist, and Lyla Jean Matthews. Glover went to Arthur Street School Dunedin until moving with his mother in 1925 to New Plymouth. He attended Central School there being awarded dux. In 1926 he attended New Plymouth Boys High School, then moving to Auckland where attended Auckland Grammar School and finally moving to Christchurch in 1929 where he attended Christ's College until 1930.[1]

From 1931 Glover attended Canterbury University studying Greek, Latin, philosophy, and English for a Batchelor of Arts. While at University he was captain of the boxing club and fought in the welterweight division obtaining a University blue. He also played rugby for the Old Collegians and yachted. Glover was a member of the the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and Christchurch Classical Association. On 8 January 1936 he married Mary Granville.


From 1936 to 1938 he was an assistant lecturer in English and reported university news for the Press until he wrote an article advocating trial marriage, which angered the university. Well known for radical leftist opinions, he was often in trouble with authorities. In addition to writing for the Press Glover edited a Motoring magazine, the Canterbury University College Review, and Canta.


While still at University, in 1932 Glover formed the Caxton Club with the aim of studying printing and typography. In 1937 together with John Drew he founded the Caxton Press. The Caxton Press enabled Glover to pursue his interest in publishing. Caxton published the early works of many New Zealand writers such as Ursula Bethell, R. A. K. Mason, Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, Frank Sargeson and A. R. D. Fairburn. Glover's own poems were also printed.

World War 2[edit]

His work at the Press was interrupted by service in the Navy in World War II, in which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and received a Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.

His best-known works are the Sings Harry sequence, "Arawata Bill", and "The Magpies". The refrain of the latter ("Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle", imitating the sound of the Australian magpie) is one of the most famous lines in New Zealand poetry.

Playwright Roger Hall wrote a play called Mr Punch about Glover's life. Douglas Lilburn set some of his poems to music, and later used a theme from his setting of "Sings Harry" in his Third Symphony.


External links[edit]