Friday 27 July 2012 is National Poetry Day. PANZA would like to celebrate by posting a classic New Zealand poem by Ivy Gibbs (1886?-1966).

Gibbs is an internationally published poet and children’s writer of the period 1920-50. Little information is available on her early life but PANZA thinks she was born in England and moved out to Australia as a child or young woman before arriving in New Zealand in 1926.

Gibbs’ poetry (inspired by Ragtime music, fairy tales and Romantic English pastoral poets) was widely published in Australia before New Zealand. She appeared in various Australian papers and journals in the 1920s such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Green Room May, Birth: A Little Journal of Australian Poetry, the Triad, the Australian Woman’s Mirror and the Sydney Bulletin.

In New Zealand, her poems were published in The New Zealand Radio Record, The New Zealand Mercury and The New Zealand Herald. Quentin Pope selected her for his anthology Kowhai Gold in 1930 and John O’Dreams [Helen Longford] for the anthology A Gift Book of New Zealand Verse (1931).

In the 1930s, she was on the committee of the New Zealand Women Writers’ and Artists’ Society (1932-34) in Wellington.

Two books of her poetry were published in England: Six Days in a Pensive Mood (Ilfracombe: Arthur H. Stockwell, UK, 1949, no item details found) and The Day is in a Pensive Mood (Ilfracombe: Arthur H. Stockwell, UK, 1949, 26 page booklet). Significantly the latter book is held by The Hocken Library in Dunedin, showing a further connection with New Zealand.

On 3 October 1966, Gibbs died in Auckland. A service was held for her at the Waikumete Chapel Crematorium.

PANZA recognises Gibbs as a significant and still largely unrecognised New Zealand poet. Mark Pirie and Original Books have recently published three archival booklets of Ivy Gibbs’ poems collected from anthologies, newspapers and magazines and Pirie has written a bio-bibliography for her. The National Library of New Zealand holds copyright deposits of these booklets.

Ivy Gibbs


As soon as yellow day leaves the dull town
I love to see the small white moon look down
From evening’s clear and lilac-tinted sky.
As shyly as a girl wakened to love,
As frightened as a little quivering dove,
Reluctant, yet in haste its wings to try
Upon the blue and shining leagues of space.
I love her little white dream-haunted face.
I wonder what she thinks when, from a tree,
She peeps in wistful curiosity
Down on our little green and glowing earth.
I think at times I’ve seen a gentle mirth
Shake her as lightly as a bee a flower,
Seeking his treasure through a transient hour.
I’ve often wondered, little wistful moon,
Who is your lover. For once, far and high,
I heard the young wind near your lilac sky
Tenderly piping a thin silver tune!

Poem © Ivy Gibbs 1925

(From The Bulletin, vol.46 no.2389 26 November 1925, p.7)