Your Mind is a Door
-and each reading a keyhole
Are we destroying the unique and central meaning of a text when we impose upon it a specific perspective? Philip McGreevy, from The Writer's Journal, explores the effect context and specific 'readings' have upon the meaning interpreted, and more importantly the meaning overlooked, in regard to Gwen Harwood's poetry.
A consideration of Gwen Harwood's poetry emphasises the effect context has on the reception of a poem by a specific audience. In the 1950s Harwood began publishing her poetry but the social trends of that era highly imposed her works reception. 1950s Australia was a male dominated society which had little respect for poetry, particularly that of a 'Little Tassie housewife' who was discussing controversial ideas and challenging social boundaries. She placed her work in The Bulletin but due to social stereotypes and discrimination, particularly by the bulletin editors, found herself unable successfully publish her work.
This forced her to the use of pseudonyms (such as Walter Lehman) and eventually her frustration with both Australian society and the publishers of The Bulletin lead her to conduct the infamous Bulletin hoax. Her poetry was often viewed as domestic and personal and thus considered irrelevant. However some contemporaries, such as Alex Hope, Vincent Buckley and James McCauley, did appreciate Harwood's work for the insight it provided. These literary figures realised the timeless ideas her work explored relating to existence, childhood, personal development, memory, time, life and death, and imagination. Not until much later were these perspectives adopted as a dominant reading of her work. Some commentators suggest consideration of various readings is to the detriment of an appropriate academic study of the poems. This can easily become the case when an audience only focuses on a single perspective which...