Gwen Harwood Personal

The study of Gwen Harwood’s poetry has personally offered me an enriching experience in a multitude of forms, predominantly through her exploration of certain concepts and realities.   These realities encompass her address of life simply being a journey of understanding and maturation, and the acceptance of the inevitability of death.   Her set of poems, Father and Child, incorporate, address and develop these concepts, with the first poem Barn Owl depicting the conception of the child’s journey of growth and self-discovery, and the second poem, Nightfall, almost concluding the journey with acceptance of the lessons she has been taught over her life.   Both poems constantly capture themes of life and death as well as her relationship with her father being a solidarity between the two, and for me, Harwood’s exploration of these themes have offered me an enriching experience as she’s provided insight into the harsh realities of them and I appreciate the way she characterised development through the main persona.

Barn Owl, the first poem in the set, is the emergence of the persona’s journey of self-discovery, through her loss of innocence as a result of harsh realities.   Harwood expresses the beginning of said journey through a child’s defiance of her father, ‘a horny fiend, I crept out with my fathers gun. Let him dream of a child, obedient, angel mild’,   the religious (a theme constantly explored throughout Harwood’s poetry) contrast of ‘horny fiend’ and ‘angel mild’ refers to the betrayal of her father by sneaking out and imposing another defiant side of the daughter, which ultimately leads to her loss of innocence.  

Another contrast appears soon after, between the young girl’s self-description as a ‘wisp-haired judge’ and the father as the ‘old No-Sayer, robbed of power by sleep’, which refers to what the daughter sees as a sizeable age gap between the two, and her developing some sense of maturity as she believes herself to be more powerful than her father,...