The poetry of Gwen Harwood #5
Poem: Suburban Sonnet by Australian poet Gwen Harwood
I found this poem to be most unsatisfactory at first. Technically, it is called a sonnet but it is a poorly written one when I compare it to most of Harwood’s technically beautiful poems. While it does have a regular rhyming scheme like many other sonnets (abab cdcd efg efg) it is not strictly in iambic pentameter throughout. (To be fair, even the great GM Hopkins broke this “rule” on many occasions.)
I am particularly concerned about the last line. The stressed syllables are not iambic like the rest of the poem, and this has the effect of jarring on the reader. I can’t help but wonder if this was done deliberately by the poet in order to highlight the shattered dreams of the subject.
The poem is about a young mother who practices her piano playing while two toddlers play and fight around her feet. This could well have been a reflection on the poet’s own unrealised ambitions to play professionally. Her young family have stolen her dreams and she now wallows in a suburban nightmare of crying children, pots boiling over, washing dishes and thinking only of how to make ends meet by reading articles like Tasty dishes from stale bread. The irony of the symbolic dead mouse only reflects her own musical goals which are effectively like the corpse of the mouse.
Harwood, Gwen, 2001, Selected Poems. Penguin, Camberwell.