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[Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 1944]

FEATHERS FLY!


“Angry Penguins” Autumn Number. — Reed and Harris, Adelaide. “Meanjin Papers”, Autumn. — Meanjin Press, Brisbane.

An enlarged number of “Angry Penguins” commemorates “the Australian Poet Ern Malley.” who, according to the literary editor, Max Harris, is one of “the two giants of Australian contemporary poetry’’ — the other giant being the late Donald Bevis Kerr. Malley himself is said to have died last year at the age of 25. His works, hitherto unknown, amounting to sixteen poems, with the general title of “The Darkening Ecliptic,” are here printed, and Mr. Harris supplies not only a memoir but also an “elegiac” and an appreciation.

We now know that Malley never existed. But yet it was necessary to invent him. Poets who can seriously emit such lines as “the long golden dirndl swept with the rhythms of sin about the purple sex of the penultimate mountain range” deserve parody, and by means of their stuffed man, Ern Malley, two of our more independent younger writers have guyed them — Harris himself, from whose “elegiac” the above is taken, Harris’s school, the surrealists, the apocalyptics, and the looser modernists generally. “Malley’s” verses are so good in their kinds, however, that anyone sympathetically disposed might well be taken in by them. All the same, whole poems, with phrases and turns in others, really could not be taken seriously.

While Mr. Harris is fast in his trap, he is being laughed to death by A. D. Hope in “Meanjin Papers.” Recently he published a “novel,” called “The Vegetative Eye,” suggested by Blake. This work, too, shows his weaknesses, and Mr. Hope cleverly pierces them. At the same time, a little more might perhaps have been conceded to Blake, if not to Harris. Mr. Hope appears to regard them as equally unimportant, and thus, in his view. unimportance built on unimportance is hardly worth examination. Anyone to whom Blake’s vision has a meaning will perhaps find some significance in Mr. Harris’s.

A good proportion of. the space in both periodicals is given to visiting

poets. “Meanjin” also offers hospitality to poets overseas. “Angry Penguins” and “Meanjin” are, however, clearly distinguished from each other by the predominance of art criticism and discussion in the former, of social and literary disquisition in the latter.

The “Angry Penguins” cover is a composite illustration of lines from “Ern Malley’s” verse, while “Meanjin” has now sacrificed its black footprints for a couple of frivolous-looking beings playing a sort of hopscotch—a genuine aboriginal design. — R.G.H.

[R.G.H. is presumably R.G.Howarth — J.T.]


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