The poetry of Gwen Harwood #3

Poem: In Hospital by Australian poet Gwen Harwood

            This poem graphically relates the pain and distress the poet experienced at one point in her life. ‘I dare not stir/ for what may wake, for what pain may wake.’ Anyone who has endured excruciating pain knows too well that the anticipation of pain is sometimes just as bad as the real thing.

            Momentarily though, she experiences freedom from pain when her daughter brings a jar full of a child’s sea-side treasures gathered on a visit to the beach. This brings a flood of pleasant memories, and I felt, as the reader, swept along in the touch, taste and smells of the salty objects in the jar. It was like being there.

            But suddenly the pain returns: ‘Pain splinters me./ I am cracked like glass.’ That is a stunning metaphor. Throughout the poem she relates the agony of the pain, and contrasts that with the peace of that holiday when she ran on the beach with her child.

            The poem is unmetered and has a very complex rhyming scheme (abcbaddc).


Harwood, Gwen, 2001, Selected Poems. Penguin, Camberwell.



Comments are closed.