This book has been about how poetry of the past lives on in readers of the present. But there is a further way in which poetry lives: through poets of the present who continue the creative task of finding forms to enact their experience of living. The societies and environments within which we find ourselves change; the processes of art remain. For each of us, the moment of experience and the moment of writing are The Present Tense, as Gwen Harwood called her final volume, published in 1995. That was also the year in which she died, her present tense becoming a past. But the volume and her works as a whole — one of the most distinguished oeuvres in twentieth-century Australian poetry, as her compatriot and fellow poet Peter Porter has asserted — live on in the present. The history of poetry is continual movement, travelling on. At the same time, new poems recurrently acknowledge their predecessors. In Harwood’s case, these range from the ‘Burning Sappho’ who stands behind her poem of that title, an ancient Greek feminist shadow for a poem of tense, barely suppressed anger and frustration about the domestic trammels of the modern female poet, to the twentieth-century Englishman whom she elegizes in the fittingly restrained ‘I M Philip Larkin’. Poetry feeds upon its past in order to sustain its present.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Writing and Reading Poems in the Present
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number