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Essential to any reading of Gwen Hardwoods poetry is an awareness of the intimacies and intricacies of the human experience that

by their nature engender response and intrigue our senses. Although Harwood wrote from a literary tradition confined by the patriarchal conservatism of its age, the psychological and social commentary of her work is startling in its intention and perceptively enduring in its observations of the human spirit. n the poems !"he Glass #ar$ and !Alter Ego,$ Harwood reveals a refreshingly candid perspective on the nature of change in relation to the loss of childhood innocence, a change that is revealed through the timeless rites of passage that we all must undergo. Her startling and often dramatic poetic images confront our sense of self, revealing intimate representations of psychological depth. Her context is not my context but her experiences speak to everyones experience. %nowledge of that experience reveals Harwoods rigid traditional upbringing that begins in &ueensland during the '()*s where she was sub+ected to and became fascinated with the intellectualism of psychology, religion, philosophy music and literature. ,he grew up in a largely traditional household but one where women were treated e-ually and the role of nurturer was respected and validated. Her context and values were strongly influenced by a positive matriarchal tradition that stressed self respect in both domestic and personal behaviours. n !"he Glass #ar,$ this fascination with the intellectual and the construction of matriarchal power, enables her to confront the .reudian aspect of motherhood when the /reality principle of human experience comes crashing into conflict with the egocentric /pleasure stage of infancy. "he mother is portrayed as saviour, lover and comforter in contrast to the demon disciplinarian father. "he irreverent nature of Harwoods 0hristian religious allusion in !1rapped in a scarf his monstrance stood$ suggests a 0ommunion image of righteous superiority, a talisman against fear that is subverted by the intrusion of the pagan vampire superstition the !exorcised monsters,$ it is meant to overcome. nto this, Harwood weaves the .reudian2#ungian symbols of death and discipline with the nightmarish images of !a ring of skeletons$ and their metaphoric !malignant ballet$ to delve the strongly .reudian implications of the boys oedipal +ealousies of the father. 3usic is instrumental as demonic signifier, where the folk image !fiddle and bow,$ onomatopoeically !scraped$ the shocking sensory response of the child to the presumed !gross defilement$ of the mother in the sexual act. Here is all the confusion and angst of the emerging child confronted with the betrayal of adult intimacy and power that it cannot share. !Alter ego$ also relies heavily on this motif of music. Harwood likens the alter ego to a 3o4art concerto where !he could hear a symphony complete$ +ust as our alter ego sees all aspects of our life at once, an elusive being that !knows what was, will be and all am$. "he alliteration !lights lingering tone$ connects with the musical element in the poem and the labial sounds create a soft and calm atmosphere that is in many respects as comforting as the !wrapped scarf$ image of !"he Glass #ar.$ ,imilarly the alliteration in !motion of mind$ and !sleepless and is not spent$ is reflective of Harwoods adult state of mind and mood linked inexorably to the duality of consciousness that is the state between child and adult5 innocence and knowing.

t is this knowledge or knowing that elicits a cautious change in identity but with a sense of bewilderment !nameless$ and !indifferent.$ 1hile !"he Glass #ar$ wrenches us from childhood egocentricity, !Alter Ego$ calmly educates us to the new knowing with !lights sidelong shift,$ a subtle assonance of musical beauty in its utterance. Harwood plays with the #ungian psychoanalytical perspective of the boys fears in its !shadow theory$ implications where individual dreams create characters that reveal destructive or constructive shadows of themselves. t can be said that the monsters in the young boys dreams are a reflection of his destructive shadow, the opposite of the naivety, purity and innocence of his infancy. "he destructive side often represents the side of the individual that they do not wish to acknowledge. "his is confronted overtly in Alter Ego where change is sensed as the emerging shadow of adulthood. "he trauma of the first poems images is softened to the subtle !indifferent$ shadows !changing harmonies 6 lingering tones$ or !blown flames$ of knowledge of self in the second. t is this balance that makes the poems complete in their examination of the change that highlights the rite of passage that is everyones experience. "he treatment is an encapsulation of our fears, anxieties and doubts. "here is a timeless universality in both constructions that speaks so effectively through the often ambiguous devices of the poetic medium but it is this ambivalence that makes that medium so suitable to the psychological concerns with which it deals. find Gwen Harwoods poetry ironically satisfying in what have known and dont know. t is through the use of strong emotive literary devices used to explore the intricacies and intimacies of the universal themes of rights of passage and the loss of childhood innocence, that Hardwoods poetry has been valued over time. 1hilst no individual will ever read Harwoods poems from the same personal and intimate perspective in which they were written, they can be related to on some level by every individual and it is this universal acceptance that has lead to the poems appreciation over time. Harwoods valuable insights of the human experience are ones that take comfort in reading. Her exploration of childhood and adult awakenings are those that can strongly relate to and that find aesthetically pleasing. "here is a sense of longing for childhood lost, that sets a melancholic and reflective mood in !"he Glass #ar$ and an inevitable wisdom in the reluctant acceptance of adult dilemmas in !Alter Ego$. 7oth confront our sense of self and there is a certain comfort in that exploration.