A land ballot was the means by which Fleur Adcock’s grandparents, immigrants from Manchester during World War I, were able to bid for a piece of native bush on the slopes of Mount Pirongia in the North Island of New Zealand. Their task was to turn this unpromising acreage into a dairy farm. When things didn’t work out as they had hoped much of the responsibility for running the farm and engineering their eventual escape fell on their teenage son, Adcock’s father. This sequence of poems follows the course of their efforts and builds up a portrait of a small, isolated community.
‘My favourite book of 2015 was also the shortest I read all year, which didn't save me any time because I read it five or six times over, with deepening enjoyment. Fleur Adcock's poetry collection The Land Ballot is just 90-odd pages long. It looks back ambivalently at her native New Zealand and is largely occupied with her late father's life…I left the book on an Edinburgh-Glasgow train and feel slightly lost without it, and only half mollified by the thought that someone else is reading it now.’ – Brian Morton, Sunday Herald (Books of the Year 2015)
'Adcock, born in New Zealand but now settled in England, has always been interested in roots, gender and identity. She is acutely aware of those women whose stories have disappeared: women who have been marginalised or forgotten and symbolised perhaps by the anonymous "aproned figure" in "Settlers' Museum"… Lives are decoded here with extraordinary psychological insight and intimacy. These vivid, deeply moving poems demonstrate Adcock's characteristic mixture of playfulness, questioning and deprecation in a tone that is always restrained, rational, conversational. The poems have all the freshness of thinking aloud and demonstrate a wry wit that never conflicts with seriousness or humanity.' – Sue Leigh, PN Review
‘The way a landscape can shape personal and family history is central to Fleur Adcock’s The Land Ballot. The title refers to how her immigrant grandparents acquired a plot of bush in New Zealand’s North Island, and laboriously transformed it into viable farmland. Adcock plunders family diaries, reminiscences and contemporary news items to piece together the lives and inner worlds of various relatives…her lively narrative poems are interspersed with extracts from her original sources. The settler experience is powerfully captured in this imaginative exercise in resurrecting the dead.’ – Juanita Coulson, The Lady
‘This collection certainly should be in every school and college library, and will be of interest, by virtue of its depiction of landscape, of a particular socio-historical period and the excellence of its verse, in various areas of the curriculum.’ – Frank Startup, The School Librarian
‘‘Fleur Adcock’s poetry is lauded for its composure and ease of delivery. Yet that sense of control…belies a more complicated history…’ – Julian Stannard, Times Literary Supplement
New Zealand & Australia: Victoria University Press
Fleur Adcock reads nine poems
Fleur Adcock reads nine poems from Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2000): ‘The Video’, ‘For a Five-Year-Old’, ‘The Pangolin’, ‘An Illustration to Dante’, ‘Things’, Weathering’, ‘For Heidi with Blue Hair’, ‘Where They Lived’ and Counting’.. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Fleur Adcock at her home in London on 29 June 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).