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Offline mykey

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Gwen Harwood Poetry
« on: September 30, 2011, 12:51:22 PM »
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What is the best way to study for Gwen Harwood poetry? I don't know where to begin!! Any suggestions?

Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 11:57:23 AM »
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Hey, I'm also going to write on Harwood. What have you been doing in class? We went through each of the poems, one by one, discussing it and then sharing notes. We noted when recurring themes kept cropping up in several different poems (e.g. religion, childhood cruelty) and the kind of imagery that is prevalent in many of her poems. Discuss with classmates and of course your teacer on anything you're unsure about, and read and write practice essays.
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Offline mykey

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 11:17:20 PM »
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Yeah we did the same thing as you in class - each poem one by one. However we didn't focus too much on similarities between the poems, so now we have no idea how to range. Haha.
Trying to read practice essays and find inspiration! Good luck

Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2011, 08:41:59 PM »
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Oh yeah, we just wrote "Links to: ______,______ and ______" at the end of the notes for each poem, didn't really go into depth on the connections but they become apparent the more you read into each poem... Links are very important to learn though, to compare the poems in the analysis. Are you able to identify some links?
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demongleekgazza

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2011, 02:37:44 PM »
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To write a close analysis of Harwood you generally need to focus on a few points really, especially the more complex ones if they come up in the assigned passages/poems.

- The existential concerns of the poet which are revealed through the speaker (Estuary, the Violets, etc)
- The poet's view on her own marital relationship (Iris, The Lion's Bride)
- The poet's debate between academia and a career and family/domestic life (Professor Eisenbart, A Kitchen Poem, AIFAJ)
- The inherent brutality of humankind, especially as children (TSLoF, Class of 1927)
- Harwood's religious/spiritual beliefs (Nightfall)

There are probably more which I'm forgetting. I can send you a few of my Harwood practice essays if you'd like?

Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2011, 11:20:56 PM »
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To write a close analysis of Harwood you generally need to focus on a few points really, especially the more complex ones if they come up in the assigned passages/poems.

- The existential concerns of the poet which are revealed through the speaker (Estuary, the Violets, etc)
- The poet's view on her own marital relationship (Iris, The Lion's Bride)
- The poet's debate between academia and a career and family/domestic life (Professor Eisenbart, A Kitchen Poem, AIFAJ)
- The inherent brutality of humankind, especially as children (TSLoF, Class of 1927)
- Harwood's religious/spiritual beliefs (Nightfall)

There are probably more which I'm forgetting. I can send you a few of my Harwood practice essays if you'd like?

What exactly do you mean by the first and last of those points? Do you mean her tendency to philosophize about death and life and such? And I would be hugely grateful if you could also send those essays to me? :)
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Offline mykey

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2011, 12:18:35 AM »
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Yeah I think I am getting the hang of linking to other poems. If you don't mind could I possibly have a look at your essays too please? :)

demongleekgazza

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2011, 04:08:14 PM »
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Just sorting out some issues re: my account and then I'll shoot them off. They're not too fantastic though!

- The existential concerns of the poet which are revealed through the speaker

The Violets in particular is a rumination from Harwood on mortality. As she realises the 'fearful sleep' or such of her life until that point, she almost panics about nearing death or 'darkness' as she refers to it in a number of her poems. She kind of reconciles that fear though in reconnecting with things such as the security of her childhood home, the joy and wonder of motherhood/domestic life in AKP and AIFAJ and in someways religion as seen in Estuary and Nightfall.

Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2011, 04:35:18 PM »
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Sounds good :)
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Offline charmanderp

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2011, 06:02:38 PM »
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The speaker from the outset is declaring An Impromptu for Ann Jennings to be a celebration as she ‘Sing(s)’ the ‘memory’ from which it is derived. Impromptu, a musical term, refers to something that is created spontaneously using accumulated experiences and abilities, and these are delineated over the course of the poem.


The rhythmic syntax of the opening line ‘Sing, memory, sing those seasons in the freezing suburb of Fern Tree’ heralds a type of reverence to all that is mentioned. Despite being ‘freezing’ the suburb of Fern Tree, a former residence of Harwood’s, appears to associate with a joyous mood. A mention of ‘seasons’ annotates the compulsory passing of time and the ‘path’ of mortal existence. The line extends through the entirety of the first stanza, maintaining the pleasurable outlook of the ‘rock-shaded place’ and ‘eye-pleasing prospects’ that it honours.


There is a quiet wit as the speaker, a mature woman, recollects memories of ‘exchanging views’ on ‘diet’ alongside ‘Aristotle’ and discussing ‘Dr Spock’ with ‘Wittgenstein’. Each of these references is a cultural representation of Harwood’s admiration for the shared experience between the speaker and ‘Ann Jennings’ and also a snub to those academics who might think young mothers cannot discuss Aristotle. The tone of voice is deeply philosophical as it enforces notions such as ‘Age is no prison’ and how ‘there was no word to frame’ the wonder of motherhood and their deep respect for it.


The humour continues, balanced effectively alongside the spiritual reckoning of the poem to maintain the triumphant story-telling style. The woes of ‘cleaning up infants and the floors they muddied’ are countered by the partnership and friendship of the women as they would ‘mind your children while you studied or you’d take mine when I felt near defeat’. Together they are ‘keeping the balance’ and again there is a burgeoning success in the sharing between these two women in the face of an almost humorous and memorable ‘squalling disorder’ and ‘anguish running wild’.


The opening line of the fifth stanza is empowered as the speaker urges ‘think of it, woman’.  Together they each ‘gave birth to four children’ whom she proclaims are their ‘new lords’. The empowerment arises from the realisation that their children will do great things even after they themselves surpass the limits of their own mortal existence. Should they ‘restore the earth to that fullness thought lost beyond recall’ would be to give the mothers meaning and hope despite being in the ‘midst of life’ and unable to pin any socially accepted significance to their own profiles. There is a pronounced authorial presence as Harwood’s strong, ambitious voice paints an image of a ‘beautiful tyrannic kingdom’ which they will rule alongside their children.


The awakening of the speaker is reflected in the affirmative statement ‘but we have risen’. It is a spiritual resurrection that these two ladies together reap as the fruits of their labour. Like ‘Caesar’ they rise to transcend their immediate lives and take on a more dominant presence. They are freed from the repressive nature of society as they can now ‘move where we will’. They have realised the benefits of their ‘surrendered’ love which childbearing brought upon them. Alas, ‘all Caesar debt’s are rendered in full to Caesar’. It is an extremely joyous mood which the uplifting cadence of the 7th and 8th stanzas embodies.


‘We are our own’ the speaker reveals to the reader; no longer might these two mothers be ‘tamed’. The final two stanzas are once more deeply philosophical and a reflection upon the many experiences which these two women shared while raising their children. There is reference to ‘climbing like gods or blessed spirits in summer light’ which elucidates the journey and ‘climb’ which they have together undertaken, two truly ‘blessed spirits’. Again it is an empowering image as they transcend normality in their appreciation of the ‘quiet pulse of mountain water chiming’ and how they might capture ‘twenty years’ in ‘one long, dreaming night’. Again the serene setting returns to the beginning of their journey in mentioning where ‘water had its birth’ and the ‘root of dreams’. Both the dreams which they might have once had for their own lives and the ones which they still hold in their hearts are ‘content’ in the knowledge that their ‘children walk the earth’. The use of a colon to introduce those last words emphasises the importance that the speaker, and assumedly Ann Jennings in tow, places upon the legacy which they leave upon their children and how this has given life meaning to these two mothers.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 09:13:14 PM by demongleekgazza »
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Offline charmanderp

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2011, 06:06:57 PM »
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Developed reading of Professor Eisenbart: Prize-Giving

The opening sentence of Professor Eisenbart: Prize-Giving foregrounds the poet’s intentions. It is a declarative statement extending beyond a stanza, introducing: the event as being a ‘girl’s school speech night’; and the disingenuous figure of Professor Eisenbart. The length of the line is made possible by the deliberate use of semicolons and commas to allow the narrative to unfold, presenting it as a little drama.

The speaking voice is noticeably self assured and observant, declaring Eisenbart to be an insufferable character as he ‘rudely declined’ the generous invitation of the school. The event later causes the girls to have ‘whirred with an insect nervousness’, emphasising its importance to the students, juxtaposed to the lack of respect with which Eisenbart dismisses it, exemplified within him eventually agreeing with ‘indifference’ to ‘grace their humble platform’.

From the outset the reader is adverse to the empty identity of Professor Eisenbart, portrayed as a pompous scholar whom is defined by no more than his ‘academic dress’ and an inclination towards ‘dry scholastic jokes’. His presence is meant to ‘lend distinction (of a kind not specified)’; this line a jibe of the critical poet's as to how he is present due to recognition not of his deeds, but rather of his name and title. These whimsical, mocking judgments are intrusions from the poet and are intended to convince the reader of the anti-climactic reality of the pompous, arrogant poseur that is Professor Eisenbart.

The scene shifts in the fourth stanza to the girls who fill the stage on which this drama is being witnessed. It is unclear if it is Harwood or Eisenbart (perhaps both) who describes it as a ‘mosaic of young heads’. The implied anonymity of these girls emphasises the poet’s disappointment at their resignation to the background for the reception of Professor Eisenbart and this institution’s constructed event, their potential submitting as they ‘bent for the opening prayer’. Indeed this behaviour and the prayer are symbolic of the life choice women might make to abide by what are considered acceptable Christian standards and bear children in sacrificing a career, as Harwood herself chose to do. Like an elaborate ‘mosaic’ the image jars for the reader, as the feeling of wasted potential which it invokes did for the narrator.

One girl, however, stands out as a beacon of hope (‘underneath a light’) in a bleak sea of blended, dimming lights. It is no ‘accident of seating’ as even Professor Eisenbart recognises; Harwood has placed the ‘titian haired girl’ in the spotlight and given her the recognition which she later comes to command. Perhaps she is intended to embody Harwood herself as a girl, demonstrating her despair and subconscious longing for a past long gone.

The glowing red hair of the girl intoxicates both the reader and Eisenbart with the metaphor of pronounced femininity and seduction. Eisenbart had attempted to mask his ostentatious disapproval of the ‘tortured’ ‘half-hearted decorations which he feels fail to befit a man of such nobility - obvious in his ‘scowl of violent distaste’ - by ‘composing’ the pose of ‘Rodin’s Thinker’ so as to exhibit the figure of sophistication which he is meant to entail. The character is undoubtedly insincere and superficial. Yet he eventually comes to yield, against his own volition, to the exuberance of this blooming female. She mimics his actions, ‘her hand bent under her chin in mockery of his own’ and combined with the ‘grin’ that lights her features, the speaker and the girl are laughing at the expense of Professor Eisenbart, beginning the reader’s fascination with this new character and the debunking of the academic (and pretension).

The opening sentence of the fifth stanza, ‘speeches were made and prizes given’, is disjointedly dull. Often throughout the poem the speaking voice assumes the point of view of Professor Eisenbart (for further insight into this character), and this example shows his utter exhaustion with the event. Harwood’s indictment of Eisenbart’s repugnant attitude is obvious in the line ‘he shook indifferently a host of virgin hands’; the dearth of warmth and compassion that this character brings to the event is indeed tainting the ‘virgin’ experience of these girls, in undermining their feats with his narcissistic assumption of his own godliness.

Through her portrayal of the obnoxious Professor Eisenbart dressed gratuitously in 'silk and fur', in contrast to the identities of the ‘Head in humbler black’ and ‘mosaic’ of the young ladies who occupy the event, Harwood encapsulates her castigation of the repression of women which males embody. The denouement of the poem, however, elevates the titian haired girl as the lynchpin of the night, and it is Eisenbart who seems irrelevant . Her inherent confidence is evident in how she ‘hitched at a stocking’ and ‘winked at near-by friends’ as she captures the attention of the room.

She ‘receives a cup of silver’ from Professor Eisenbart, a Judaist symbol of the cleansing of sin. In claiming it she is negating the sins of the academic and forging her own presence. The ‘curious harps’ which adorned the silverware signify her angelic qualities as evidenced by her lovely hair. At first Eisenbart remains unfazed but a handshake unsettles the authority he held based upon ‘calm age and power’; such is the passion and spirit which this girl possesses that its ‘voltage’ might ‘fling his hold’ from all that he previously knew. The heightened employment of descriptive language mirrors the emotion and exuberance which emanates from his antagonist.

In accessing Mozart Harwood allows for a cultural representation of the transformation which this girl undertakes from ‘casual schoolgirl’ to a ‘master’. Of all the creative arts it was music which the poet felt was the most divine, and it is a method through which this star shines. Eisenbart ‘forged his rose-hot dream’, a line which emphasises the dormant sexual attraction and tension which he feels towards a female of such power. It is ‘forged’, coming together violently in a manner which he cannot control; it is she that does now. He ‘suffered her strange eyes, against reason dark’, lost in the ethereality of her innate qualities of soul and feeling which he himself cannot amount to.

She no longer holds any thought for him, as she ‘summoned by arrogant hands’ the ‘fullness of all passion or despair’. Her character represents the wholesomeness of femininity which so often characterises Harwood’s poetry. Her ‘arrogant hands’ represent an air of assurance in daring to command this music that is normally reserved for ‘masters’, allowing her to transcend supposed qualities of ‘age and power’. The harmony of melody which she produces represents the voice of femininity, speaking for the ‘passion and despair’ felt by the speaker and each of the girls in the room. There is no allocation of a name to this character, perhaps a message of hope from Harwood that all females might rise to assume such a persona as this.

For Professor Eisenbart, however, there is no such redemption. Without even the humility to applaud such an obviously fantastic performance he peers into a trophy - possibly burnished with a reddish copper lining to represent the titian haired girl - which ‘suspended his image upside down’ as a ‘sage fool’. This harsh use of paradox expresses Harwood’s uninhibited disgust but also delight at the ultimately unfulfilled existence of Professor Eisenbart – with ‘sage fool’ delineating the utter inadequacy of character for a man of supposed intelligence - and that he should reach a place of such high regard while this theatre of feminine disposition plays a role simply of obligatory adoration of the revered guest. For only a spirit such as the titian haired girl might weave a leash of ‘music’ and a ‘copper net of hair’ around life, and command it with a ‘master’s air’.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 07:57:28 PM by demongleekgazza »
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Offline charmanderp

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2011, 06:09:14 PM »
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A Kitchen Poem – Passage 1
Estuary – Passage 2
The Violets – Passage 3

Through the juxtaposition between past and present, organic imagery and a pronounced tone of both wonder and tranquillity marking the language, Gwen Harwood’s poetry delineates the nature of love, time and memory as they personify human existence.
The gentle meditation, The Violets, is an exploration of the existential concerns of the poet. There is a notable disturbance in the language of the first stanza with the ‘ambiguous light’ and ‘ambiguous sky’ both representative of an unsure state of mind in which the mature poet finds herself. The style of the poem reveals a troubled interior narrative and reflection, with the speaker describing a childhood memory which is engendered by the perfume of violets, a common flower of her youth. There is a structure to the poem which separates the identities that are involved. The articulation of the memory, as recollected by the child figure, is indented throughout.  The opening stanza is written by a narrator whom is created for the poem while the presence of the mature poet, Harwood, reflects on the moments which are described in the work.

The child’s distress at missing out on the day (and that of the speaker in turn) is captured in her emotion as she ‘sobbed, “Where’s morning gone?” The speaking voice, assumedly that of the poet, has surpassed the egocentric state of childhood and has now become conscious of the passing of time and her human mortality. The description of a ‘fearful half-sleep of a hot afternoon’ represents the existential fear of the speaker, who feels that she had been in a state of submissive tranquillity, as indicated by the ‘half-sleep’ up until this epiphany and regrets the waste. The events of this poem occur ‘towards nightfall’ as indicated by the first line of the poem which foregrounds the state of day in which the poem occurs, bleakly described as ‘dusk and cold’. Harwood commonly uses the latter part of day, when ‘darkness’ falls, to emphasise the nullity of death and the void which it embodies and implores the reader to  empathise with her crisis.

The Violets is similar to Barn Owl in its telling of a child’s loss of innocence and a sense of loss due to being forced to mature and approach death. Both poems however involve situations created to portray the troubles of the speaker towards midlife. The ‘sky’ ‘striped like ice cream’ is a deliberately childish image which compounds the crisis that the aged poet feels upon a reflection on her life until this point. The second stanza suggests the way in which the speaker finds comfort and solace from the pressing question of death. The use of a comma and an enjambment in the line ‘at our first house| in Mitchelton’, compounds the significance of what was Harwood’s first home and her affection for that suburb of Mitchelton. It represents security, a sense of belonging and family which help to shape Harwood’s desire for an idyllic life and instils her with an appreciation of the preciousness of the love and security which established and guided her way into the world, amidst fear of what awaits her beyond mortal life.

While The Violets is a quiet yet dramatic rumination on mortality, Estuary is marked by a tone of tranquillity and the use of rich imagery to worship the preciousness of nature and life. As the final line suggests, it is about ‘moments’ - or in this case a single moment – ‘that renew the world.’ A deep appreciation of memories and the experiences which lead to them is developed and exquisitely cherished, as indicated by the reverent description of ‘spring’s new radiance’ and the character ‘still praising life’.

The memory that is recounted in this poem is strikingly vivid. Again it returns to a childhood memory, the speaker’s earliest memory,
which brings forth the importance that the moral poet places on the intrinsic values which determine character. The firm, uncompromising words of the grandmother saying “Look. Remember this”, are italicised to carry an added message. The speaker is declaring the importance of memory and how this particular one is ingrained in her consciousness. The image of the moon, seen through ‘smoked glass’, is a lesson from grandmother to granddaughter. She is portrayed as a mentor to the child, teaching her to never look upon life with a naked, naive eye but rather ‘the eye’s part of another eye’ or a sense of conscious awareness and morality and appreciate its wonder. It enforces the ‘questioning mind’, an added sense of apprehension with which the grandmother herself has been guided through the ‘maze of light’. Similarly in Nightfall when the father and child take their final walk together, the elder being is renewing their own life and seeks to live vicariously through the legacy they leave with their young.

The representation of time as being a ‘line’ that becomes a ‘firm horizon’, in Estuary, elucidates the notion that time is linear. The sentence ‘All’s as it was in the beginning’ suggests that the speaker can see each moment of her life captured in this single instance and realises the apparent dearth of putatively significant achievements. A reflection on years gone past arouses feeling of regret as to the slumber-like state with which the speaker had previously lived. The ‘grandmother’ now a ‘great-grandmother’ a generation later, still appreciates life and every second gifted to her as though it were ‘light falling like a benediction’. She is lying ‘close to the final darkness’, evidence of Harwood once more using ‘darkness’ to represent the frightening unknown of death.

Harwood again finds comfort in the natural wonderland setting of the poem. The ‘sea’s arm’ is where the speaker rests, appeased by the gentle images of ‘wind crosshatches shallow water’. An apotheosis of the simplest wonders is present, such as comparing wind to what she considered a divine art (being music), in ‘a crazy stave with sticks for barlines, wind for song.’ The ‘interleaving light’, of which she is presently aware, indicates a buoyancy like the ‘air’ in which ‘ride the gulls’ and ‘spring’s new radiance’. Forever altered by the eternal lesson of her grandmother she ‘allows reality to enter its gateway as a friend, unchallenged’. In saying so she is accepting death (called ‘reality’) as finality but also a test of life which she will greet like a ‘friend’ when the time comes and concludes a development of her eventual understanding and acceptance of the fragility of life.

The intensity of the child’s experiences of significant moments in The Violets and Estuary still live powerfully within the aged person and serve to enliven her during her struggles through the images of the organic unity of life.

Countering the existential reflections upon time in the previous two poems, is the triumphant celebration of A Kitchen Poem. Here we are privy to the ‘ripening fields and orchards’ - which the speaker and also Harwood revere - as metaphors for fertility and the bearing of children. Just as in An Impromptu for Ann Jennings, the poet finds children to be a way of conferring her own immortality and that is repeated in the tone of affection that the husband here feels towards the factor of motherhood that his wife embodies. From the subheading the speaker is known to be ‘The farmer to his wife’, the female poet adapting and moulding the persona of possibly her view of the quintessential male companion.

The breadth of the farmer’s love in describing his wife (who is barely given an identity, possibly to show a universal profile) is obvious in giving her a regal identity by describing her ‘royal skies’. Similarly in Nightfall the child describes her father as an old king, reiterating Harwood’s attribution of regal identities to people of importance to her. They together rule their idyllic cosmos, ‘where the mountain puts enchantment on’, along with their children. The cleverly subtle wit, evident in the slight degradation of ‘keen blue stockings’ and mocking of ‘career-mad women’ is effectively used by Harwood to promote a jovial but simultaneously humble atmosphere which is apparent in the simplicity of the ‘cares of day’ and ‘plain spoken room’ which characterise domestic life.

The farmer is in awe of the powerful figure of his wife; ‘too great with child to sit at ease’ she stands with purpose. Her romantic thoughts are unleashed as she ‘dreams herself away’ to ‘scintillating life’. Where ‘Orion leads a waterfall of stars’ her ‘beauty lies’, transcending any other being that he has met. It is again an event captured at the end of a day, although unlike The Violets this day represents all days, it is renewable. Life with his mate, should she accept his sentiments,    is incredibly sweet as he adores their children, their marriage and their Edenic lifestyle.

The final line of The Violets shows the speaker’s appreciation for the world as she has experienced it over her life and the moments which she finds most precious. It is the ‘faint scent of violets’ which ‘drift(s) in air’, representative of a smell associated with the speaker’s youth, that is the catalyst for the recounting of a childhood memory which enervates the ‘frail melancholy’ of the present. Similarly in A Kitchen Poem it is the farmer’s appreciation for the ‘land’ and what he has been blessed with which compels him to profess his love for his wife.  The return to a rural setting in Estuary and the familiarity of an appeasing ‘light’ is what triggers the memory of the speaker’s experience with her grandmother and, in turn, an awareness of the richness of life in the face of impending death.

There is a clear development and connection between the poems regarding the spirituality of the poet and her quest to understand and conquer her concerns. Each of these moments encapsulates the intrinsic values which the poet holds in such reverence and their connections to a natural existence emphasises that they stem from the roots of humanity and are nothing less than sacramental, as are love, time and memory.
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Offline mykey

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2011, 11:34:46 PM »
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^ Wow these are great. Thanks ever so much!

Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2011, 06:43:20 PM »
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Thank you very much! ^.^
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Offline harlequinphoenix

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Re: Gwen Harwood Poetry
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2011, 06:44:19 PM »
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may I ask how you were graded on these, roughly? If your teacher has corrected them
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