Fleur Adcock was born in Papakura, New Zealand in February of 1934. She was one of three siblings born to parents Cyril John Adcock and Irene Robinson Adcock. A large portion of Adcock’s childhood was spent in England where her family moved when she was only five. Her first educational experiences were in England, but she returned to New Zealand to attain her university degrees.
As a young woman she studied Classics at Victoria University of Wellington, eventually graduating from the institution with her masters degree. Her sister, Marilyn Duckworth, born 1935, is also a writer, having published a number of novels since 1959.
After graduating from university, Adcock went on to work as an assistant lecturer at the University of Otago in Dunedin, as well as a librarian, until 1962. It was during her time at the university that Adcock met and married Alistair Campell, another important figure in New Zealand literature. The couple had two children together. The marriage did not last for long though, and ten years later she was married again to another familiar literary name, Barry Crump. This marriage was even shorter, with the couple divorcing a year later.
In the year before her time at Otago ended, she won the Festival of Wellington Poetry award. This was followed by Adcock’s first collection of poetry, The Eye of the Hurricane. It was published two years later in 1964. This was the same year that she won the New Zealand State Literary Fund Award. In 1963 she permanently returned to England.
After moving back to England she attained work as an assistant librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London where she worked until 1979. These years were filled with a number of different publications. Her second collection, Tigers, was published in London in 1967. This work was followed by High Tide in the Garden and The Scenic Route. In the late sixties she also won the Buckland Award, and in the early seventies, two Jessie Mackay Prizes from New Zealand. These were followed by the Cholmondeley Award in England.
She continued to publish throughout the eighties, nineties, and 2000s, then she began working as an editor and translator. She completed a translation of The Virgin and the Nightingale, a collection of Medieval poetry, as well as editing the Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry. She would go on to win the New Zealand National Book Award, and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. In 2008, she was awarded Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature.
She currently devotes all of her time to writing in Easy Finchley, North London. Her latest collections of poetry are The Land Ballot (2014) and Hoard (2017).