The notion that there are circumstances reflected in the poetry which are ‘peculiarly New Zealand’s’ (‘Attitudes for a New Zealand Poet’ iii) was perhaps the most influential and controversial of his critical ideas in that it engages with the complex and much debated question of ‘nationalism’, a keyword of the Curnow era though one he seldom used himself. An expanded edition of the anthology, including several poets who had emerged in the post-war period up to 1950 (such as Ruth Dallas, Keith Sinclair, Kendrick Smithyman and Charles Spear), was published in 1951.
During and after the war Curnow’s own poetry gradually became less preoccupied with issues of history and national identity and moved towards more personal and universal themes (for example, ‘At Dead Low Water’, 1945). As he wrote in the Author’s Note to Collected Poems 1933–73 (1974): ‘I had to get past the severities, not to say rigidities, of our
The geographical anxieties didn’t disappear; but I began to find a personal and poetic use for them, rather than let them use me up’ (p. xiii). Reflective of this tendency were the collections Jack Without Magic (Caxton, 1946) and At Dead Low Water and Sonnets (Caxton, 1949).
In 1949 Curnow was awarded a grant from the newly established Literary Fund to travel abroad for the first time. He spent much of that year in the
Throughout the 1950s, Curnow—by this time recognised as one of the country’s leading writers—continued to write verse (Poems 1949–57, 1957), including a second verse play ‘Moon Section’ which was professionally toured through the North Island, but he was disappointed in it, and gave up thoughts of revising it for the stage, or for print. His Four Plays (1972) were all produced on radio, commissioned by the
In Joseph Hirsal’s translation The Duke’s Miracle was broadcast by Prague Radio several times in the 1968–69 Czechoslovak Radio Festival of Foreign Plays; later productions were from BBC World Service and Australian Broadcasting Commission; in Italo Verri’s Italian, it was published as Il Miracolo del Duca (