This week we begin our poetry news with a look at the poet who didn’t exist and the founding of the Audre Lorde Scholars Program.
The Poet Who Wasn’t
In 1944, Max Harris, a poet based in Adelaide, featured poetry by Ern Malley in Angry Penguins, the modernist art and literary journal that he was co-editor of. He believed that the poet had died the previous year aged just 25. However, this was one of the biggest Australian literary hoaxes that ever took place. It was an event that made the name Ern Malley a household name all over Australia, but for all the wrong reasons.
Harris had established the journal in 1940 with a friend from University. He was a big fan of modernist poets including T.S Eliot and Dylan Thomas. The idea was not only to feature his own work in the journal but also the work of others and it wasn’t long before they had come to the attention of the literary establishment in the country.
The journal was approached by a lady claiming to be the sister of Ern Malley. Stating she had found the poems in her late brothers belonging and had been told they were good, she said she was told she should look into having them published. Harris agreed and so in 1944 Angry Penguins published them all.
Harris wrote an introduction to the poetry, talking about the untimely death and short life of Malley but a few weeks later everything changed when they discovered that neither the “poet” nor his sister in fact had ever existed.
A lecturer at Adelaide University publicly declared that he thought Harris had written the poems himself. The Adelaide press suggested that Malley was a local crime writer and bookmakers started offering odds on the identity of the poet/ An investigation showed that the address given by Malley’s sister was that of a poet from Sydney, Harold Stewart.
Steward and James McAuley, a fellow poet confirmed they were behind the hoax, which they had carried out believing modernist poetry to be terrible. They created all the poems in one afternoon using a dictionary.
Unfortunately due to the nature of some of the poems, Harris was arrested for “indecent publication” and charged his fine was £5 and he was asked to cover £21 in legal costs.
The events that took place may have been fictitious but over the years they have provided inspiration to others. They have offered the inspiration for an art exhibition, a novel and more recently the character in a novel.
Audre Lorde Scholars Program Launched
The Saint Louise University has announced its plans to launch a new scholars program for 2021 – 2022. The Audre Lorde Scholars Program, which is named after the writer and poet who was a staunch activist against racism, sexism and homophobia is aimed at female students of colour.
The program will promote excellence in academia, and mentorship amongst any student who identifies as a woman of colour and studies at the university. There is already a program running for male students, the AAMS (African American Male Scholars Initiative)