Gwen Harwood (Father and Child Dyptych)

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Gwen Harwood (1920 – 1995):
Harwood has fond memories of her childhood in Queensland which often appear in her poems. She was married in 1945 and moved to Tasmania. She began writing in her thirties to express the things that gave her life meaning. Originally she preferred pseudonyms but changed to poetry because of her growing reputation. The poetry she writes is deeply personal and presents a strong sense of identity; she also presents unusual perspectives on everyday experiences and relationships. A love of music and interest in theology and philosophy is also present in her work. Her poetry often explores parts of life through past and present as well as innocence and wisdom. They usually emphasize strong connections between imagination, logic, creativity and reasoning. Hardwoods appreciation of Romanticist (romance) poets, such as Keats, Coleridge and Tennyson, has lead to her exploring similar themes in some of her poems.

Poetic Style:
Wit and sarcasm are commonly used elements in Harwood’s poems; they are used to portray both positive and negative human traits, attitudes and values. Selfishness and thoughtlessness are often scorned. All of Harwood’s poems posses a certain lucidity and eloquence, this is often enlivened by emotions. The characters in the poems are very well defined; each has their own individual persona and attitude. Suffering and transience are shown to be a part of life through the use of Christian imagery and allusions. Water, childhood and music are common symbols used, ironically enough, to portray the universal emotions of pain, regret, frustration and loss.

Barn Owl:
This poem describes the harsh lesson learnt by the young child speaker after she sneaks into the family barn and shoots and owl with her father’s shotgun. This act makes her realize the reality of death, there is also a confessional quality to the poem. There is also a confronting, visceral quality to the poem. Self-knowledge is presented with self-disgust in...
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