Truth beyond the Language Game: The Poetry of Gwen Harwood


Those who study Australian poetry don't agree on much, but they would all agree that Gwen Harwood is exceptionally adept at mask ing. Even those who have only read one or two of her poems know, of course, that she has written acrostics adroit enough not to be recognized as such by the fragile skills of editors. A little more acquaintance teaches us that she has written, under pen-names such as 'Miriam Stone' and 'Francis Geyer', poems that have excited many a talent-spotter with the conviction that they have just discovered a coruscating new Austpoet. It is not much farther to the recognition that she is capable of bold and subtle ventriloquisms pastiches and parodies of other poets—a few critics have even noticed her cool and incisive parodies of herself. These more or less obvious phenomena seem to me, however, simply the outward signs of a pervasive and crucial masking that is characteristic of the best poems in her first two books. By 'masking' I mean the conscious and significant selection of a voice and a way of experiencing which is not autobiographically necessitated.

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Published 1 May 1976 in Volume 7 No. 3. Subjects: Gwen Harwood.

Cite as: Talbot, Norman. ‘Truth beyond the Language Game: The Poetry of Gwen Harwood.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 7, no. 3, 1976, doi: 10.20314/als.0887f41aef.