Gwen Harwood – Conversation with Cassandra Atherton

Gwen Harwood was one of Australia’s finest poets – she was also one of the most subversive

Published: July 18, 2022 


Author Cassandra Atherton

Harwood’s Collected Poems 1943–1995 was published posthumously in 2003. There are also three volumes of her extraordinary letters: Blessed City (1990), A Steady Storm of Correspondence (2001) and Idle Talk, Letters 1960–1964 (2015).

The Conversation article provides a review of two books about Harewood: 

  • My Tongue is My Own: A Life of Gwen Harwood – Ann-Marie Priest (La Trobe University Press)
  • Bad Art Mother – Edwina Preston (Wakefield Press)

Two recent publications explore Harwood’s experiences as a poet and demonstrate the power and durability of both her poetry and letters. The first is the highly anticipated biography, My Tongue is My Own: A Life of Gwen Harwood by Ann-Marie Priest; the second, Bad Art Mother by Edwina Preston, is a fictional account of a number of woman artists in the 1960s, centred on a poet with clear parallels to Harwood. 

These books examine the inequalities implicit in gender stereotyping of the time, some of which continue today. They highlight the inventive ways that Harwood and other women artists attempted to transcend or subvert the limitations of patriarchy.