Gwen Harwood: A centenary birthday tribute

The ABR Podcast
Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Gwen Harwood, who died in 1995, was born on 8 June 1920, in Brisbane, of course, which she went loved dearly. Harwood seems increasingly to have been one of the finest poets Australia has ever produced. She was much loved; anyone who knew her relished her wit, her directness, her inextinguishable spirit. To mark the centenary of her birth, ABR asked a number of her colleagues and admirers to record some of her poems. Happily, there are hundreds of them to explore.

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Lexicographers, not just newspapers and television, respond to disasters. Language is never fixed, never finished, never done. In recent months, language has been shaped by the coronavirus. In this episode, Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU and editor of The Australian National Dictionary, discusses coronaspeak, the language of lockdown. 

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Bach to the Fuchsia

Jaya Savige
Tuesday, 26 May 2020

In thrall to thresholds, drawn to every brink,
            at three weeks old
an infant’s eye adores the frames of things,
            the joinery that holds
each smudge in place, and individuates.

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Carnal Knowledge I

Gwen Harwood
Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Roll back, you fabulous animal
be human, sleep. I’ll call you up
from water’s dazzle, wheat-blond hills,
clear light and open-hearted roses,
this day’s extravagance of blue
stored like a pulsebeat in the skull.

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Dawn Solo

Stephen Edgar
Tuesday, 26 May 2020

First light beside the Murray in Mildura,
Which like a drift of mist pervades
The eucalypt arcades,
A pale caesura

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Lisa Gorton began publishing in ABR in 2003. Since then she's given us several dozen review essays and poems. Lisa has published three poetry collections, most recently the acclaimed Empirical, a Giramondo publication. Her novel, The Life of Houses, shared the 2016 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction. 

This month we published Lisa's long poem 'On the Characterisation of Male Poets' Mothers'. As Lisa explains, the poem almost entirely comprises a medley of quotes that describe famous poets' mothers – sourced all from Wikipedia.

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On the Characterisation of Male Poets’ Mothers

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 27 April 2020

Charles Baudelaire’s mother—
                       orphaned at seven—living
                       on the charity of friends—
                       at twenty-six married
                       an ex-priest, widower—     
After her husband died she married again
                       and was happy—

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Fortune's Favours

Gig Ryan
Monday, 27 April 2020

Two birds scoop white sky
into the lank pines behind your stone
as if to say we’re with you.
In front the road crofts and peaks.
You can’t pinpoint the sector
but it was adamantine
like your knowing to pull out ...

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In the Luxembourg Gardens

Paul Kane
Monday, 27 April 2020

The languid water of a fountain
rises to a steady height, collapses
upon itself, splashing

a stone bowl on a pedestal.
The elliptical pool ripples
in the afternoon’s light air.

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'We Play and Hope'

Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Friday, 20 March 2020

We play because we kow-tow and are free;  
a set of guidelines activating choice
or so we hope. The mineral poet wrote,
‘By loss of memory we are reborn’,
but memory’s the root of active power:
we grab the minute and we grasp the hour
hoping that such engagements prove us free.

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