A land ballot was the means by which Fleur Adcock's grandparents, immigrants from Manchester during World War I, were able to bid for a piece of native bush on the slopes of Mount Pirongia in the North Island of New Zealand. Their task was to turn this unpromising acreage into a dairy farm. When things didn't work out as they had hoped much of the responsibility for running the farm and engineering their eventual escape fell on their teenage son, Adcock's father. This sequence of poems follows the course of their efforts and builds up a portrait of a small, isolated community.
Fleur Adcock was born in New Zealand in 1934, and spent the war years in England, returning with her family to New Zealand in 1947. She emigrated to Britain in 1963, working as a librarian in London until 1979. In 1977-78 she was writer-in-residence at Charlotte Mason College of Education, Ambleside. She was Northern Arts Literary Fellow in 1979-81, living in Newcastle, becoming a freelance writer after her return to London. She received an OBE in 1996, and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006 for Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2000), which was followed ten years later by Dragon Talk (2010); then by Glass Wings (2013) and The Land Ballot (2015). She has lived in East Finchley, north London, since 1963.