Poetry books & writing

This is a list of each book of poems which Allen Curnow published as well as a note of the year, print run (where known), cover image of the book, number of poems, publisher and any special comments.

Book Name and image Year Number of poems
Publisher Awards / Comments
Valley of Decision

Allen Curnow Valley of Decision

1933 23 Auckland University College Students’ Association Press First book published aged 22
Three Poems 1935 3 Caxton Press


1937  14 Caxton Press
Not in Narrow Seas

Curnow Not Narrow Cover
(Thanks to Peter Simpson for sending this cover)
1939  – Caxton Press
Island and Time

Curnow Island & Time, 1941
(Thanks to Peter Simpson for sending this cover)
1941 25 Caxton Press
Landfall in Unknown Seas


1942  1 Department of Internal Affairs Poem with music by Douglas Lilburn
Sailing or Drowning


c.1943  15 Progressive Publishing Society
Jack Without Magic


1946, 200 copies  12 Caxton Press
At Dead Low Water, and Sonnets


1949  23 Caxton Press
The Axe: a Verse Tragedy


1949  1 Caxton Press
Poems 1949-57


1957  18 Mermaid Press
A Small Room With Large Windows, selected poems


1962  50 Oxford University Press  Compilation
Trees, Effigies, Moving Objects: a Sequence of 18 poems


1972, 500 copies  18 Catspaw Press
An Abominable Temper, and Other Poems


1973, 300 copies 9 Catspaw Press
Collected Poems 1933-1973


1974 A.W. and A.H. Reed Compilation
An Incorrigible Music: A sequence of poems


1979 Auckland University Press NZ Book Award for Poetry
Allen Curnow: Selected Poems


1982  130 Penguin Compilation
You Will Know When You Get There, Poems 1979-1981


1982  14 Auckland University Press NZ Book Award for Poetry
The Loop in Lone Kauri Road, Poems 1983-1985


1986  10 Auckland University Press NZ Book Award for Poetry
Continuum: New and Later Poems 1972-1988


1988  78 Auckland University Press Compilation, Dillon’s Commonwealth Poetry Prize
Selected Poems, 1940-1989


1990  84 Viking Compilation
Early Days Yet : New and Collected Poems 1941-1997 1997 Auckland University Press Compilation

Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry

The Bells of Saint Babel’s: poems 1997-2001


2001  12 Auckland University Press Montana Award for Poetry

As editor

Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45, published by Caxton Press, 1945
Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-50, published by Caxton Press, 1951
Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1960

Critical writing

Poetry and Language, published in 1935 by Caxton Club Press
Look Back Harder: Critical Writings 1935-1984, ed by Peter Simpson published 1987 by Auckland University Press

Whim Wham

Allen Curnow wrote under this pseudonym in newspapers in New Zealand for many decades.  The biography on Allen Curnow by Terry Sturm comments that there were 2,000 or more poems published by Allen Curnow under this name.  The compilations were:

  • 1940: Present for Hitler and Other Verses, Caxton Press
  • 1942: Whim-Wham. Verses, 1941-42, Caxton Press
  • 1943: Whim-Wham. Verses, 1943, Progressive Publishing Society
  • 1959: Best of Whim-Wham, Paul’s Book Arcade
  • 1967: Whim Wham Land, B. & J. Paul
  • 2005: Whim Wham’s New Zealand: The Best of Whim Wham 1937-1988, edited by Terry Sturm

Allen Curnow


Four Plays, 1972, Wellington: A.W. and A.H. Reed, (Contains: The AxeThe Overseas ExpertThe Duke’s MiracleResident of Nowhere)

Several unpublished plays are mentioned on the internet including:

1958: Bright Sky, verse play, unpublished, cyclostyled copy held in University of Auckland Library, NZ Glass Case
1959: Moon Section, unpublished play, performed 1959
1961: The Overseas Expert, unpublished playscript in University of Auckland Library, New Zealand Glass Case

Allen Curnow other works