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MHS Library | Gwen Harwood (poet)

Gwen Harwood poems

Poetry (Harwood)

In the Park

Suburban Sonnet

The Glass Jar

“Father and Child” - "Barn Owl" and "Nightfall"

“A Valediction”


Harwood is frequently read as a poet of complex and defiant female experience, perhaps fuelled by habitual press references to her as a ‘Tasmanian housewife,’ but she is a poet who also emerges out of a kind of Fernando Pessoa-like heteronymic imagination. Harwood’s early poetry writing and publication is dispersed across at least three more than merely pseudonymous signatures, as well as her own: she published poems under her own name as well as under the noms-de-plum of imagined poets ‘Walter Lehmann’, ‘Francis Geyer’ and ‘Miriam Stone.’ There is an element of Malleyesque hoax mixed in here, directed at male literary editors in particular, as with the notorious Bulletin ‘Eloisa to Abelard’ acrostic sonnets hoax of 5 August, 1961 – ‘I should have thought the acrostics a guarantee against the idea that I thought the poems had any intrinsic worth; my only motive was to show up the incompetence of anyone who published them,’ in this case Donald Horne (Idle Talk 52). But more significantly this dispersed and heteronymic poetic practice seems to be a way of negotiating, while sometimes ridiculing, male-dominated and masculinist academic and intellectual culture which she had a deep interest in, often from the perspective of European cultural and intellectual traditions. It’s no coincidence for example, that her heteronymic poets have European names – she refers to Miriam Stone as Miriam Stein, as if she had Anglicised her name. Harwood’s attitude to Tasmania is characteristically ambivalent, often complaining in letters about how she hates Tasmania, ‘this ugly charm flung in seas of slate’ – ‘Don’t let them bury my bones here’ (Idle Talk 57, 139) yet often responding deeply to its natural beauties. (Source: AustLit: Literature of Tasmania : An Introduction to Tasmania in the Literary Imagination, by Professor Philip Mead)

Subject guide created by

Tania Sheko

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About Gwen Harwood

Born8 June 1920, Taringa
Died4 December 1995, Hobart

Gwen Harwood AO (8 June 1920 – 4 December 1995), née Gwendoline Nessie Foster, was an Australian poet and librettist. Gwen Harwood is regarded as one of Australia's finest poets, publishing over 420 works, including 386 poems and 13 librettos.[1] She won numerous poetry awards and prizes, and one of Australia's most significant poetry prizes, the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize is named for her. Her work is commonly studied in schools and university courses. (Read more on Wikipedia)

Photo source: Black Ink Books

Gwen Harwood timeline 

Articles/commentary on the web

Texts in the City: Collected Poems of Glen Harwood (In this special video-only edition of Texts in the City, Jenny Niven looks at Collected Poems of Gwen Harwood with Chris Wallace-Crabbe – writer, then-chair of Australian Poetry and personal friend of the late poet.)

Letters of a Poet in Exile - Peter Pierce (Meanjin Quarterly, 2016)
Gwen Harwood - Selected Poems (The Sydney Morning Herald)
The Secret Life of Francis Geyer (Harwood's nom de plume)
An analysis of the writings of Gwen Harwood ("In the Park")
Great Poem Hoax: The Best 100 Poems of Gwen Harwood (Sydney Review of Books)