Harwood Essay

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Gwen Harwood Essay

Q – ‘Poetic power, dramatic presentation and compelling psychological insights provide the richness of her poetry. A pervading pessimism clouds her achievement.’

How valid do you find this evaluation of Gwen Harwood’s work? (3 poems)

Gwen Harwood’s work is influenced by several elements; poetic power, dramatic presentation and psychological insights, each to create compelling poetry. Significantly her rich feministic, religious and melancholic perceptions, influenced by her life experience and personal context is reflected in her poetry. This is clearly depicted in the poems, ‘Father & Child’, ‘The Violets’ and, ‘At Mornington’. Each of the aspects of Harwood’s work can be analysed independently in to receive the implications of whether “a pervading pessimism clouds her achievement”.

Poetic power is the capacity to evoke an emotional response, an association or motivation in the mind of the reader and is achieved through the use of literary devices. Harwood utilises poetic power to construct the foundation for her poem, ‘Father and Child’. It is a reflective poem, focusing predominantly on the cyclical nature of life and the empowering and immortalising powers of memory, whilst also referencing the universal truth of the inevitability of death. It is a powerful diptych poem consisting of two parts, ‘Barn Owl’ and ‘Nightfall’. In ‘Barn Owl’, a young child embarks on her journey from the time of innocent childhood to the sophisticated and innate world of adulthood, naively attempting to shoot an owl. Whereas in ‘Nightfall’, the child is introduced as an adult, walking with her seemingly elderly father, directing him onto the sorrowful path of the end of his life, whilst reflecting on the past.

‘Barn Owl’ is supposedly narrated by a child, inferenced from the simplistic level of language used throughout this particular part of the poem. This can be observed with the fundamentality and briefness of, “the household slept”. Whereas in...
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