His first collection of
In 1934 Curnow returned to the
Three Poems and a brief prose manifesto, Poetry and Language, were published by Caxton in 1935. He also contributed verse and prose to the radical periodical Tomorrow (1934–40), often under the pseudonyms ‘Amen’ and ‘Julian’. A shift in his poetic manner is observable in Enemies: Poems 1934–36 (Caxton, 1937), which reveals an awareness of contemporary English poetry (including Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Auden, Day Lewis, Spender, MacNeice, Dylan Thomas and William Empson—some of these influences came in a bit later) and a sharper consciousness of the New Zealand scene, both social and physical.
These tendencies continued in his next three books, Not in
From the mid-1930s Curnow contributed frequent reviews and articles to the literary pages of the Press, and, after 1941, to the Caxton miscellany Book. A Present for Hitler, the first of several volumes of topical satirical verses—most of them originally printed in the Press (and from 1952 also the New Zealand Herald) under the pseudonym ‘Whim-Wham’—appeared in 1940.
During the war years, Curnow—who by this time had a young family—spent his nights sub-editing foreign news at the Press and his days working on The Axe, a verse play with a Pacific setting (performed on stage 1948, 1953, published Caxton, 1949) and an anthology, eventually published as A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–45 (Caxton, 1945). This seminal anthology included the work of sixteen poets, most of whom (Ursula Bethell, J.R. Hervey, D’Arcy Cresswell, Beaglehole, Fairburn, Mason, Glover, Hyde, Charles Brasch, Basil Dowling, Anton Vogt, James K. Baxter and Curnow himself) had been published by Caxton during the previous decade.
The selection, together with Curnow’s forty-page introduction, provided the first coherent and substantial representation and analysis of