The Secret Life of Francis Geyer
The Francis Geyer hypothetical was held at the Hobart Criminal Court & Penitentiary Chapel on Wednesday 14th August at 7pm. It was presented by the Plimsoll Gallery, Centre for the Arts, University of Tasmania, in association with the exhibition How Say You and in memory of Gwen Harwood.
Gwen Harwood was a distinguished Tasmanian poet who passed away in December 1995. During the early 1960s, in the early years of her poetic career, Harwood employed many pseudonyms, one of which was Francis Geyer. This invented poet himself developed a reputation of his own until the real author was unmasked. In the course of time, the brilliant Geyer poems have lost their originary designation and been absorbed into the Harwood opus.
But has poetic justice been done? Recently, a literary critic raised an unexpected issue:
It's an interesting problem for the reception of
Harwood that all the editions of her Selected Poems make
no mention of these different pen-names. What role do those shadowy,
suppressed signatures play in our reading of the poems, and the
ways we might hear their speaking voice? Once the pen-names were
dropped in the late sixties, critical studies of particular poems
tended to ignore the implications of these signatures, though
recent studies of Gwen Harwood's career are more interested in
reconciling them with her own poetic signature.
In the absence of a court where invented persons can have their causes heard, this hypothetical scenario was written to explore ways this fault line in literary authority might be exploited for a range of ends, from self-interest to political change. The record of this event is a version of the script to which the participants responded on the night.
Stephanie Trigg (Gwen Harwood Oxford Uni Press,1994,
Many thanks for the following people who helped make the event possible:
the organiser, Simon Cuthbert, the moderator, Alan Blow; the reader, Brianne Cuthbert; the scriptwriter, Dede Pol; the participants, Lindsay Broughton, Rodney Croome, David Hansen, Margaret Scott, Leigh
Sealy and Annie Warburton ; Plimsoll staff, Pat Brassington and Paul Zika; National Trust assistance, Brian Rieusset; literary advice, Stephanie Trigg; Peter Hill and Antoinetta Ivanova.
The expected proviso:
Any resemblance between the
characters and incidents represented in this event and those characters
who have really existed or events which have really happened is
Cast of characters (in order of appearance):
Rodney Croome, editor of Archipelago magazine
Margaret Scott, chair of Archipelago magazine
Leigh Sealy, barrister and chair of Gekko Contemporary Arts
David Hansen, director of Gekko Contemporary Arts Space
Lindsay Broughton, inaugural artist at Gekko Contemporary Arts
Annie Warburton, ABC journalist