The Golden Fish: On Reading J. S. Harry


J.S. Harry has long been considered a curious and individual voice in Australian verse. Her diverse experimental poetry consistently examines the behaviour and fluidity of language, and much of this can be observed through her engagement with the linguistic theories of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The multiplicity of Harry's styles and themes, her testing of the rules of poetic language, are clear continuations of Wittgenstein's language-games, and her poems—like Wittgenstein's approaches to language in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations— scrutinise the capacity of language to transfer meaning. This has led Marie-Louise Ayres to liken a series of Harry's 'architectural' poems directly to Wittgenstein's dialogue as 'a series which might be considered as Harry's own, continuing Tractatus' (18). Relatively little sustained study, however, has been conducted upon this dialogue between poet and philosopher, and it is such a link that this article will examine through a close reading of Harry's concept of authorship, her interrogation of poetic language, and the layering of her imagery.

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Published 1 October 2005 in Volume 22 No. 2. Subjects: Literary influences, Poetic techniques, Use of language.

Cite as: Dray, Colin. ‘The Golden Fish: On Reading J. S. Harry.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, 2005, doi: 10.20314/als.8270c24ff4.