Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Harwood's Literary Hoax

Until yesterday, I hadn't realised that Gwen Harwood had perpetrated a hoax almost as successful as the famous Ern Malley one - this is an interesting account of both incidents. Apparently, when Harwood was unmasked as the perpetrator of her own poetic trick, what annoyed her most was the way she was described by the newspapers as a 'housewife', rather than a poet.

I have never thought of her as anything but a poet, although I would have to admit that the poems of hers I am especially fond of often deal with subjects that could be said to be drawn from a housewifely kind of realm. This one is a good example:

Cups by Gwen Harwood

They know us by our lips. They know the proverb
About the space between us. Many slip
They are older than their flashy friends, the glasses
They hold cold water first, are named in scripture

Most are gregarious. You'll often see them
nestled in snowy flocks on trestle tables
or perched on trolleys. Quite a few stay married
for life in their own home to the same saucer

and some are virgin brides of quietness
in a parlour cupboard, wearing gold and roses.
Handleless, chipped, some live on in the flour bin,
some with the poisons in the potting shed.

Shattered, they lie in flowerpot, flowerbed, fowlyard,
Fine earth in earth, they wait for resurrection.
Restored, unbreakable, they'll meet our lips
on some bright morning filled with loving kindness.


  1. Delightful: Ern Malley is clearly an Aussie Ossian... kinda reassuring that it's not only we Poms who get taken in by this kind of thing!

  2. I've just googled Ossian - I hadn't heard of that cunning trick. I like the image of cups in 'snowy flocks on trestle tables'