The Poetry of Gwen Harwood
- Year 12 Advanced English
Reading Assessment Task.
"A Fire-talented Tongue"
(R. F. Brissenden).
Making specific reference to the lecture in its entirety, explain the significance of the first phrase of Brissenden's title - "A Fire-talented Tongue".
Like any successful title, Brissenden's "A Fire-talented Tongue" immediately intrigues readers, who are subsequently compelled to read on, in the hope of discovering the significance of such a tantalising phrase. One soon learns that it is, in fact, a line "borrowed" from one of Harwood's own works. Brissenden's fascination with this phrase is due to its origination from an otherwise comparatively bland composition of Harwood's, the poem "In Hospital". The complete phrase is "A fire-talented tongue will choose/ its truth". The appearance of such an inspired statement in the midst of a "quotidian" rendering evidently affirms his confidence in her "capacity to surprise and delight". He describes Harwood's as "indeed a fire-talented tongue".
"Fire" connotes passion, rage, formidability, strength, intensity and ferociousness, qualities Harwood certainly possessed. She was a confident, controversial and rebellious figure in the public eye, a constant bane to chauvinist editors and publishers. Her "talented tongue" utilises her "fiery" characteristics in the search for "truth", a preoccupation of Harwood's, which she passionately believes is accessed by poetry, art and music. The recognition of an ability to "choose (one's) truth" communicates her knowledge of the many different truths in life, demonstrating her experience as a "life-traveller". Her "fire-talented tongue" has, indeed, "chosen" its own "truth" in her "confident belief that all art is the expression and embodiment of a love that is at least human and is possibly divine". Her poetry is a celebration of human experience, and she craftily manipulates language and explores the human condition, exhibiting her passionate and intimate personality. "Hers...