Monday, October 02, 2006

Praise for an Ern

This is for Danny Heep, who asks, "in all humidity," who Ern Malley is. Well, Danny, m'boy, many Aussies regard him as the greatest modern Australian poet -- on the strength of a mere dozen poems. Not only that, they were all written on one Saturday afternoon in 1943 by a pair of jokers serving in the Australian army. The authors set out to ridicule modern poetry. They thought the poems were bad and they bet the literati wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Ern Malley was invented as the author of the poems, a modern urban esthete dying young like a latter-day Keats. The story was convincing enough to take in the editor of Australia's leading avant-garde literary journal, who published the poems, trumpeting their greatness. <<>> I'm paraphrasing an article on Ern Malley I read in "Jacket," John Tranter's magazine. I understand that an edition of the letters of Ethel Malley, Ern's older sister, is under weigh.


Anonymous Professor Eucalyptus said...

I agree about Ern Malley. And the irony is that the "Angry Penguins" gang was right in their estimation of Ern. Though they were suckered, they stuck to their guns, and they were proved right in the long run. The poems are fantastic, gems of ambiguity and mystery. And the circumstances in which they were written -- collaboratively, in a parodic spirit, with quotations used haphazardly and rhymes lifted arbitrarily from a rhyming dictionary -- sounds like a primer on the methods of modern and postmodern poetry. Thanks for your post, Molly.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a modern age of collaborations


true genius
from meanness

let diction
syntax friction
poetic form

What is best
from all the rest.

10:02 AM  

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