B. 1918 D. 1995
Gloria Rawlinson's poems, with their romantic, whimsical and often fantastical themes, were welcomed by readers enduring the unpleasant realities of the Depression - Riemke Ensing
About Gloria Rawlinson
Born in Tonga close to the end of the First World War, Gloria Rawlinson was a major New Zealand poet, biographer and editor. After her parents’ divorce, she moved to New Zealand with her mother, and was soon writing poems which were regularly published in The New Zealand Herald. Her first collection, Gloria’s Book, appeared in 1933 when she was just fourteen years old. Further collections included The Perfume Vendor (Hutchinson, 1936), Of Clouds and Pebbles: Poems (Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963) and Gloria in Excelsis (Pear Tree Press, 1995).
Rawlinson is best known for her friendship with New Zealand writer, Robin Hyde (n?e Iris Wilkinson). The pair met when the teenage Rawlinson first received critical and public acclaim for her writings. Following Hyde’s death in 1939, Rawlinson worked tirelessly to advance Hyde’s poetry and fiction at home and abroad. In 1952, for instance, she researched, edited and introduced a collection of Hyde’s verse, Houses by the Sea and Later Poems for major New Zealand publisher, Caxton Press. In 1970, Rawlinson edited and introduced Hyde’s novel, The Godwits Fly, elevating this overlooked book to a point where it is now seen as critically important in the development of New Zealand literature. Rawlinson died in Auckland in 1995, having survived Hyde by nearly six decades.
Writing about Rawlinson’s poems in Landfall 69 (March 1964) New Zealand critic, R. L. P. Jackson said, “Miss Rawlinson does show… she is, like Blake, capable of thinking poetically, of giving poetic reality to intellectual abstractions.” The Blakean influence is evident in the poems on this site, ‘Then and Again’, and ‘Street Light’. Moreover, as her readings of these and other poems here shows, she is a particularly strong poetic-chronicler of the changing landscape and society of the Aotearoa New Zealand in which she lived. The sense of Rawlinson as a correspondent from the past still speaking to us in the present about the evolving world she saw and transcribed is clear in both text and delivery of poems like ‘Thames Coast Fossicker’, ‘The Old Coach Road’ and ‘The New Motorway’. Where her strong, nuanced voice captures the better, richer past she writes of, the words infer the technological and industrial progresses which swept away traditions and transformed peoples’ lives. This power to open up history to us is yet to be fully accorded Rawlinson’s poetry; in time, such oversight will be remedied.