gwen harwood

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An introduction to the life and work of Gwen Harwood


  • 1. Gwen Harwood 1920-1995 An introduction to her life and work
  • 2.
  • 3. Who is Gwen Harwood?
    • Born in Brisbane, she lived most of her life in Tasmania
    • She had a happy childhood in Queensland
    • Harwood joined a nunnery for six months
    • She married and had four children
    • Her writing career began in her 30s
  • 4.
  • 5. Who is Gwen Harwood?
    • She was passionate about language and music
    • She loved being a mother and a grandmother
    • She wrote very personal letters to Thomas Riddell a man who was not her husband and dedicated all her volumes of poetry to him for 45 years
  • 6. Who is Gwen Harwood?
    • She played games with publishers and readers
    • She challenged the establishment and its values
    • She survived cancer in 1985, many poems draw on this experience
  • 7. Why look at contextual information?
    • We read her poems for signs of parallel with her private life
    • We gain meaning of her texts through knowledge of her personal life
    • The poet herself had to negotiate the complex relationship between her private and public life
  • 8. Masks and Disguises
    • Harwood developed personae, using disguises for different purposes. Harwood is sometimes not the I in her poetry. She sometimes writes in the voice of an invented character.
    • She often used pseudonyms also. She published under a variety false names.
  • 9. The Pseudonyms
    • Timothy Klue an angry young man
    • Walter Lehman he writes about Professor Eisenbart, an arrogant academic
    • Francis Geyer a Hungarian refugee who writes about a musician called Krote
    • Miriam Stone a Jewish housewife from Armidale NSW
  • 10. Why?
    • Gwen Harwood wanted to get her work published as much as possible
    • Some poems rejected under her real name were accepted under male pseudonyms
    • When she became known she was concerned that she was being published not on her merits but because of her name
  • 11. The great Bulletin hoax of 1961
    • Two sonnets, written by Walter Lehman, were acrostics: SO LONG BULLETIN and F--- ALL EDITORS
    • This was discovered by a Melbourne Uni Student
    • The offending issue was recalled and an apology published
  • 12. Scandal!
    • This was an anti-establishment act. Here was a woman in her 40s telling the establishment to get F---d
    • Right up until the day she died she kept people guessing, refusing to deny that she published under different names
  • 13. One of Australias most acclaimed poets:
    • Harwood uses traditional metres and forms
    • Her work is seen as European rather than Australian
    • She is an intellectual who is critical of academics
    • Her work is passionate and sexual
  • 14. Harwoods final word:
    • The affirmation of the value of friendship is one of the most striking characteristics of her work
    • She said: My life is linked together by very long friendships. It is good in your 60 th year to have friends who love you still, in spite of your faults.