HOME OF MERCY # This is an early poem illustrating an angry bitter Gwen Harwood. An uncompromisingly hard edged indictment of how we treat the disadvantaged. No holds barred – no punches pulled. A complete negation of Christian charity; love and dutiful care. This poem is about a Catholic convent in Toowong, Queensland. Home of Mercy # By two and two the ruined girls are walking at the neat margin of the convent grass
THE VIOLETS # SUBJECT: # A young child falls asleep during the day only to realise she has lost a number of hours to sleep. Sleep may be important for our mental and physical health, but when it robs us of daylight hours, its loss can be regretful. Power naps refresh us, but prolonged daylight sleep can make us groggy. Both Shakespeare in Macbeth and Slessor’s poem Sleep dwell on the therapy of sleep.
The Glass Jar # Harwood excels in depicting the confusion, due to a lack of understanding; the senses of awe and wonder in young children. Our brains really do not mature until our early twenties. The poem presents this immaturity in a sympathetic light. Harwood’s poems deal with adult reflections of vivid memories that, in blissful ignorance, she could not comprehend as a child. She tells of overhearing a WWI veteran talking about a French brothel where the Germans killed all the frogs.
Mother Who Gave Me Life # Our ancestors are always with us; their enduring if elusive presence are inscribed in our DNA, our physical features, in our mindsets, our values, our deficiencies and congenital diseases. Mothers are our primal bond; first in the womb and then as a source of nourishment and protection. Babies tend to track their mothers. Parenthood is one of the most challenging roles played in life and yet many people are ill prepared for it.
Father and Child Barn Owl & Nightfall # One of Harwood’s central recurring concerns is youth contrasted with our sense of ageing with its losses and encroaching loneliness. This is a diptych poem - in that it has two poems facing each other as in photos connected by a hinge. The poet juxtaposes the perspective of a young child’s relationship with her father, contrasted with her as an adult and her helpless father in his old age.
Harwood, Gwen, # Harwood, is an Australian poet born Gwendoline Foster, in Brisbane in 1920. She claims to have had a happy childhood, strongly maternal, with close relationships with her great grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter and granddaughter - “a wild daughter of a line of independent women”. Women in her poems are fiercely independent; keen to be wiser, stronger and longer lived. Her relationship with her father was more nuanced, only reconciled later in life.
In the Park # The mother negatively depicted In the Park is a counter point to the dominant sacramental mother who is fulfilled and enriched by the procreation of children. The dominant motif of motherhood in artist history (Madonna and Child) usually emphasizes the positive aspects. In the Park’s choice of a Petrarchan sonnet form with a regular rhyme pattern ironically contrasts with the bleak flat monotone of a rather depressing frumpy view of motherhood.
Prize-Giving # Gwen Harwood writes about the transition from youth, innocence to experience and maturity. Prize-Giving is set in a girls school at the end of year ceremony, where prominent dignitaries are invited to speak and dole out academic and social awards. There is a distinct possibility this is drawn from Harwood’s personal experience, the evidence relying on the fact that as a child she played the piano and had red (titian) hair.
At Mornington # For Thomas Riddell, her life long unrequited love who had a house at Mornington on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria Sound Effects # Read the poem aloud. Comment on the Sound Effects, verbal music. It’s rhyme. Rhythm and melody. Assonance, alliteration. onomatopoeia. etc. (Blending repetition patterns. slow/fast movement, harsh, discordant, sibilance, sotto, allegro, Rhapsodic, lyrical, elegiac, upbeat, blue, staccato, dirge, ode, Melody. tone. mood. atmosphere. voice. The poem begins softly with an account of anonymous family anecdote telling of her first encounter with the sea.
Woman to Man Judith Wright # This poem represents one of the first instances of a brave and bold depiction of the sexual act by a female poet. Men have recorded their conquests for centuries, but it takes a woman to wonder about the mystery of procreation. Until about 2012, most critics assumed Judith Wright and Jack McKinney were married. Judith’s only child, Meredith McKinney, born in 1950, writes: