Denis Glover

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

Early life and education[edit]

Left to right: Ian Milner, Denis Glover, and Robert William Lowry at the 'Dog-box', St Elmos flats, Christchurch. Taken by an unidentified photographer in December 1933.
The Christchurch Arts Centre, formerly part of the campus of the University of Canterbury, which Glover attended in the 1930s.

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. He was also a Boy Scout and school cadet during this period.[1] In 1926 he attended New Plymouth Boys' High School, before moving to Auckland where he attended Auckland Grammar School. There, he and Bob Lowry published an unofficial school journal La Verite. He finally moved to Christchurch in 1929 where he attended Christ's College until 1930.[2] Glover was a popular and keen swimmer, boxer, and cross-country athlete at college.

From 1931, Glover attended Canterbury University, studying Greek, Latin, philosophy, and English for a Bachelor of Arts in English and Greek. 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 sailed yachts. Glover was a member of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and Christchurch Classical Association. His mountaineering experiences formed the basis for his later Arawata Bill and Sings Harry poems. 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 New Zealand Motor Owner, the Canterbury University College Review, and Students Association newspaper Canta. In 1934 he interviewed George Bernard Shaw for the newspaper.

Caxton Press[edit]

In 1932 at the university sports tournament in Auckland he again met up with Lowry. Lowry had by this time set up a press for the Auckland University Students Association and was publishing a magazine called Phoenix. Returning to Canterbury 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.

Military service[edit]

HMS Onslaught

His work at the Press was interrupted by service with the Royal Navy in World War II. He had wanted to join the Royal New Zealand Navy but as there were no suitable vacancies he applied under a programme which sent New Zealand naval recruits to the United Kingdom on loan to the Royal Navy. He left Christchurch to Auckland, then embarking on the Dominion Monarch for HMS Ganges Shortly Gate, England arriving in September 1941.

After a short period of training he was assigned to the newly completed destroyer HMS Onslaught for its sea trials. The Onslaught was then tasked with escorting Arctic convoys to Murmansk, Russia. In 1943 Glover undertook officer training at HMS King Alfred being promoted to Lieutenant on 29 October.[3] He was placed in command of infantry landing craft LCI(S) 516. During this time he provided sea training for various infantry units under took part in sorties across the Channel to France. In June 1944 he took Lord Lovat's 6th commando brigade 2 Troop under Lt-Colonel Mills-Roberts, to Ouistreham, Normandy (near Sword Beach) on D Day earning a Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.[4] Glover and his crew had rescued 233 Warwickshire Regiment infantrymen from the sinking LCI(L) 130 and later that same day the crew of a sister ship LCI(S) 517, which was under command of a fellow New Zealander Lieutenant Joseph Gaunt.[5] Glover returned to New Zealand in 1944 and joined the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 29 October 1951.[6]

In 1975, Glover was presented with the Soviet Union's war veterans medal for his service on the Russian convoys.

Post-war life and career[edit]

During 1944, while on leave in London, Glover met Charles Brasch. The meeting led to the founding of Landfall, a literary periodical which Caxton began publishing in March 1947. From 1945 to 1948 Glover served on the Canterbury University College Council, while also working at Caxton. His work was hindered however by a growing drinking problem and in 1952 he was dismissed. He began working for Albion Wright at Pegasus Press but was again dismissed. During this period he separated from his wife. They did not divorce until 1970. In 1950 he began a relationship with Khura Skelton. They moved to Paekakariki in 1954, but his drinking problem continued into alcoholism. Kura died in 1969.

In 1954, Glover worked for Carlton-Carruthers du Chateau and King as an advertising copywriter and then for Wingfield Press from 1954 to 1962 as production manager and typographer. He tutored for the Technical Correspondence Institute from 1964 to 1973. During the late 1950s he helped develop the Mermaid Press and in 1971 founded the Cats-paw Press. He was a member of the New Zealand Literary Fund Advisory Committee from 1955 to 1958 and President of the Friends of the Turnbull Library from 1963 to 1965.

Glover married Gladys Evelyn Cameron (née Stevens) on 21 September 1971. In 1975 he was invited to visit Russia by the Soviet Writers Union. Later that year he awarded an honorary doctorate of literature from Victoria University of Wellington and elected president of honour of the New Zealand Centre of PEN. On 7 August 1980 Glover fell down some steps at Breaker Bay and injured himself. He died two days later from bronchopneumonia.


Memorial plaque dedicated to Denis Glover in Dunedin, on the Writers' Walk on the Octagon


  • Thistledown Christchurch, Caxton Club Press, 1935
  • Short Reflection on the Present State of Literature in This Country Christchurch, Caxton Club Press, 1935
  • Six Easy Ways of Dodging Debt Collectors Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1936
  • Three Short Stories Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1936
  • What are New Zealand Authors Writing? Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1936
  • The Arraignment of Paris Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1937
  • Thirteen Poems Christchurch, Caxton, 1939
  • Till the Star Speak Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1939
  • Cold Tongue Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1940
  • A Specimen Book of Printing Types Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1940
  • A Catalogue of Publications from the Caxton Press, Christchurch, up to February 1941 Christchurch, The Caxton Press, 1941
  • D-Day Christchurch, Caxton, 1944
  • The Wind and the Sand: Poems 1934-44 Christchurch, Caxton, 1945
  • Summer Flowers Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1946
  • Printing Types: A Second Specimen Book of Faces Commonly Used at the Caxton Press, Christchurch, New Zealand Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1948
  • Sings Harry and Other Poems Christchurch, Caxton, 1951; second edition 1957
  • Arawata Bill: A Sequence of Poems Christchurch, Pegasus Press, 1953, and Wellington, Mermaid Press, 1957
  • A Clutch of Authors and a Clot Wellington, Denis Glover, 1960
  • Hot Water Sailor Wellington, A.H. and A.W. Reed, 1962
  • Denis Glover’s Bedside Book Wellington, Reed, 1963
  • Enter Without Knocking: Selected Poems Christchurch, Pegasus, 1964; second enlarged edition 1971
  • Sharp Edge Up: Verses and Satires Auckland, Blackwood and Janet Paul, 1968
  • Myself When Young Christchurch, Nag’s Head Press, 1970
  • To A Particular Woman Christchurch, Nag’s Head Press, 1970
  • Diary to a Woman Wellington, Catspaw Press, 1971
  • Wellington Harbour Wellington, Catspaw Press, 1974
  • Dancing to my Tune Wellington, Catspaw Press, 1974
  • Clutha: River Poems Dunedin, John McIndoe, 1977
  • Come High Water Palmerston North, Dunmore Press, 1977
  • Men of God Palmerston North, Dunmore Press, 1978
  • Or Hawk or Basilisk Wellington, Catspaw Press, 1978
  • For Whom the Cock Crows Dunedin, John McIndoe, 1978
  • To Friends in Russia Christchurch, Nag’s Head Press, 1979
  • Towards Banks Peninsula Christchurch, Pegasus, 1979
  • Hot Water Sailor and Landlubber Ho! Auckland, Collins, 1981
An excerpt from Glover's poem "Wellington Harbour is a Laundry" is on the Wellington waterfront


  • Denis Glover: Selected Poems Allen Curnow Auckland, Penguin, 1981
  • Denis Glover: Selected Poems Bill Manhire Wellington, Victoria University Press, 1995


  • The Coaster, Verse commentary by Glover' New Zealand National Film Unit, 1948
  • They Always Float at Sea, radio drama. NZBC, 1966
  • The Magpies, short film, Martyn Sanderson, New Zealand, Ripoff Productions, 1974


  • Sings Harry. Poems by Glover, music by Douglas Lilburn, Kiwi Records, 1961
  • Sings Harry. Poems by Glover, music by Douglas Lilburn. Kiwi Records, 1977
  • Arawata Bill and Other Verse, read by Glover, Kiwi Records, 1971
  • Mick Stimpson short film, directed by Rupert Glover and John Laing, New Zealand, Ripoff Productions, 1974


  • The Great New Zealand Songbook, Auckland, Godwit Press, 1991
  • Sings Harry, Dunedin: Otago University Press, 1966
  • Sings Harry, Wellington, Waiteata Press, 1991
  • The Magpies Unpublished manuscript, Dunedin, Otago University Extension Dept 1954
  • The Six Volts - The Magpies The Hills are Alive, Braille Records, 1990


  • Motoring, vols 1-6. Edited by Glover. Christchurch: Canterbury Automobile Association, 1931-1937
  • Oriflamme, no. 1. Edited by Glover. Christchurch: Canterbury College Caxton Club, April 1933
  • Sirocco. Edited by Glover. Christchurch: The Caxton Club Press, July 1933
  • New Poems. Selected by Glover and Ian Milner. Christchurch: The Caxton Club Press, 1934
  • Another Argo Poems by Allen Curnow, A. R. D. Fairburn and Glover. Christchurch: The Caxton Club Press, 1935
  • Verse Alive. Selected by H. Winston Rhodes and Glover. Christchurch: The Caxton Press, 1936
  • Verse Alive Number Two. Selected by H. Winston Rhodes and Glover. Christchurch: The Caxton Press, 1937
  • A Caxton Miscellany Poems by Lawrence Baigent, Allen Curnow, Peter Middleton, Robin Hyde, A. R. D. Fairburn and Glover. Christchurch: Caxton, 1937
  • Recent Poems by Allen Curnow, A. R. D. Fairburn, R. A. K. Mason and Glover. Christchurch: Caxton, 1941
  • Book: A Miscellany Nos. 1-9. Edited by Glover. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1941–47
  • Poetry Harbinger: Introducing A. R. D. Fairburn (6 foot 3) and Denis Glover (11 stone 7). Poems by A. R. D. Fairburn and Glover. Auckland: The Pilgrim Press, 1958
  • Cross Currents: A Selection by Denis Glover of Sonnets by Merrill Moore, 1903-57 Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1961
  • Quaffers’ Gazette, nos1-22. Edited by Glover. Hamilton: Waikato Breweries Ltd, 1962–66
  • Poetry and the Present, Canterbury University College Review (1934): 29-32
  • Pointers to Parnassus: A Consideration of the Morepork and the Muse, Tomorrow 30 October 1935): 16-18
  • Poetry out of its Pram, Tomorrow, 28 October 1936: 20-23
  • Communists and Soviet Policy, Tomorrow, 10 January 1940: 155-158
  • Convoy Conversation Penguin New Writing, 16 (January–March 1943): 15-21
  • New Zealand Books and their Availability: The Publisher’s Point of View, New Zealand Library Association: Proceedings of the 16th Conference (1947): 48-49
  • Typography and the Librarian, New Zealand Libraries 10 no. 11 (December 1947): 225-230 and New Zealand Libraries, 11:1 (Jan-Feb 1948): 48-49
  • Some Notes on Typography, Year Book of the Arts in New Zealand, 5 (1949): 165-172
  • Verse Commentary for a Film, Landfall, 3: 2 (June 1949): 170-176
  • Thoughts in the Suburban Tram, Landfall, 5: 4 (December 1951): 265-267
  • The Doorknob, Here and Now (May 1952): 20
  • Outlook for Poetry, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, 5 (1955): 9-11
  • The New Zealand Literary Fund, Landfall, 23: 3 (Sept 1969): 273-282
  • The Nag’s Head Press, Islands 1: 1 (Spring 1972): 53-54
  • Tribute to Charles Brasch, Islands, 2: 3 (Spring 1973): 244-245
  • A Fair Go, Islands, 7: 2 (Nov 1978): 211-212

Glover best-known works are the Sings Harry sequence (1951), "Arawata Bill", and "The Magpies" (1941). 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.


  • Shieff, Sarah (8 June 2012). "Denis Glover, 1912–1980". Kōtare : New Zealand Notes & Queries. 7 (3). doi:10.26686/knznq.v7i3.716. ISSN 1174-6955.


  1. ^ "Entry on Glover from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. ^ Ogilvie, Gordon (1998). "Glover, Denis James Matthews". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  3. ^ New Zealand Navy List, p38, October 1950
  4. ^ Voices from D-Day: Eyewitness accounts from the Battles of Normandy, Jon E. Lewis, Constable & Robinson, 2014, ISBN 1472103998, 9781472103994
  5. ^ New Zealanders in the Royal Navy, The Royal New Zealand Navy, S D Waters, 1956, Whitcombes and Tombs, Christchurch
  6. ^ New Zealand Navy List, page 41, April 1952

External links[edit]