Gwen Harwood - Power of Memory.
Memory is used as a powerful conduit into the past; childhood experiences held in the subconscious illuminate an adult’s perception. Harwood uses tense shifts throughout her poetry to emphasise and indicate the interweaving and connection the past and the present hold. By allowing this examination of the childhood memories, Harwood identifies that their significance is that of an everlasting memory that will dominate over time’s continuity and the inevitability of death. Three poems written by Harwood that emphasise the idea of memory’s importance and its ability to alter and determine perceptions are ‘Father and Child’, ‘The Violets’ and ‘At Mornington’. Each of these poems reminisces on pivotal experiences that modify one’s assessment
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The olfactory imagery of the violet’s smell works to constitute a symbolic stimulus of Harwood’s memories. The smell allows Harwood, with her adult maturity, to realise that although the moment of the experience has passed, through memory, she can revisit the experience and gain a perception of it that her naive and young self could not gain as the past and present are interweaved together. “We have one day, only one” used by Harwood in ‘At Mornington’ signifies the meaning of time, the importance of time and the transience of time. Her friendship with Thomas Riddell is not subject to time, and although, as they stand by his parents’ graves, they realise that their memories together, their time together and their “one day” together is not subject to end when their lives end, their experiences and memories will remain in the continuity of time. Throughout ‘At Mornington’, Harwood explores the motif and symbol of pumpkins which she refers to as “a parable of myself”. Harwood comments on the way they defy gravity and nature and grow up a trellis which connects to her defiance of nature upon “the next wave, the next wave” when, as a naive child, she believed she could walk on water. This defiance of gravity and nature that Harwood visualises in the pumpkins symbolises that memory can defy time, it can move beyond boundaries. Harwood reasserts the present time frame while emphasising the power of the continuum of memory to link memories of the past to situations of