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English comment on Ern Malley

FACT’S London News Bureau

[Dated in ink 9.7.44 (9 July 1944) ]

Given prominence in the London “News Chronicle” last week was Fact’s revelation of Ern Malley poems hoax.

Writers of the New Apocalypse school of modern poetry, at which Australian poets McAuley and Stewart directed their “experiment” as well as at the local Angry Penguins, would not talk.

Other modern-poetry groups, though they had little time for the New Apocalyptics, also shook their heads. They seemed to feel the matter too big for mere knocking of rivals, had the impression that it was an attack on modern poetry in general.

Not until Angry Penguins editor Max Harris’ defence*: “A myth is sometimes greater than its creator,” was published in the News Chronicle and the hoax achieved the dignity of a despatch from the Melbourne correspondent of The Times, did a few feel emboldened to speak:

Londoner R. Hamilton said: “The Ern Malley poems must be classed with the work of other surrealist poets and judged as we should Judge any work from that school.

“These poets have done no more than continue early Pastiche experiments of Andre [sic] Breton and others, who made poems from newspaper cuttings, &c.

From Surrey, Mrs. A. Massie sent another tribute: “Sorry, but I like this Ern Malley stuff. It is just as much fun stringing chunks of different-shaped and different-colored words together as it playing with toy bricks and making trains and buildings from them — far more fun than crossword puzzles.

“I am glad to learn it was done as a hoax or game.”

But Teresa Hooley, down in lovely Somerset’s Taunton, confessed that the account of the hoax filled her with “unholy glee”.

Said she: “My only regret is it did not take place in England.”

A cartoonette by artist Vicki in the News-Chronicle showed two long-haired poets reading of the hoax, and one saying: “What’s all this fuss about? I wrote my last poem from an income tax form.”

* Harris said in his reply: “If million monkeys with fifty million writers tapped for fifty million years, one of them would produce a Shakespeare sonnet. It is to be hoped that McAuley and Stewart have not produced such a phenomenon. Not their claims of exposure, but time tells the story, and will explain. the myth is sometimes greater than its creators.”


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