Gwen Harwood Essay

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MODULE B: CRITICAL STUDY OF GWEN HARWOOD

Through examining Gwen Harwood’s poems “Triste Triste” (1963) and “Father and Child” (1975) it becomes apparent that their enduring popularity is rooted in their exploration of issues integral in defining the human condition, in particular (QUESTION transience of time, but also the conflict between creativity and domesticity, the inevitability of loss of childhood innocence and the fragility of life respectively ). However; Harwood’s poems are not only valued for their examination of concerns relevant to the human condition, but also the uniqueness of their construction, analysis of this concept enabling us to appreciate how Harwood’s style and various Romantic and religious influences contribute to the poems’ textual integrity.

“Triste Triste” was first published under the pseudonym Walter Lehmann; indicating to contemporary responders the patriarchal nature of 1960’s society. The title, derived from the Latin phrase “omni animal post coitum triste est”, is provocatively chosen as it translates as a meditation on the post-coital interlude; a topic radical to 1960’s sensibilities. From my understanding; it challenged traditional female stereotypes; Harwood utilizing the post coital interlude as a means to explore the tension between sensuality and spirituality and furthermore (QUESTION creativity and domesticity)

The poems transition from an absolute experience to the abstract is mirrored by the tone, beginning wistful and moving toward resignation. Harwood utilizes imagery of imprisonment and personification of the heart “when the heart mourns in its prison” to establish a confrontation between the heart and the spirit. The line “In the space between love and sleep” is repeated and inverted in the third stanza “darkness between sleep and love”; foregrounding the struggle between sensuality and spirituality (QUESTION).

The impact of Harwood’s religious influences are manifested in the overt biblical allusion...
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