Gwen Harwood

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All the news we hear, whether it’s on television, in class or even a conversation will always have conflicting and different beliefs, theories and responses. For example last night my husband and I were watching the premier of “Angry Boys” a mockumentary by Chris Lilley. He described the series to be a comment on "what it means to be a boy in the 21st century by putting representations of the male of the species under the microscope." To me the program sounded intellectual when in fact it consisted of a variety of comedic representations ranging from the racist “Gran”, a juvenile prison officer to Nathan and Daniel” identical twins (one of whom is deaf). As we sat on the lounge watching the program our laughter peeled from the room in tandem to each other; we didn’t agree on what was or wasn’t humorous. Chris Lilley obviously wants characters within the scene to be perceived as humorous and from last night I can now appreciate that not everyone will have the same response to a text. We all react in our own unique way bringing our various life experiences to the piece. A composer’s intent for a text often differs from the audience’s response.

Another example of differing responses to texts is offered in Gwen Harwood’s poem, “At Mornington”. While I perceive the poem to be one that reflects on her youth and reminisces on the wonderful memories she shared with her family and the feeling of protection and safety gained from them, others may read it differently. For example a colleague of mine proposed the idea that Harwood was now an older women, depressed and trying to find or remember a time in her life when she was in fact happy, that she is trying to escape the inevitability of death by escaping to her youth. Either way her poems offer the responder a variety of readings, which, I think, offer her work an integrity that is not eroded by time.

Gwen Harwood was an Australian poet who wrote most of her poetry between the 1950’s and 1960’s. During this...
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