Australia. 1944. (see link at end)…The fact that Malley really didn’t exist has only increased his fascination in the Post-Modern era. It’s some time since Roland Barthes announced the death of the author, insisting that all texts should be seen merely as a ‘multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash’. No texts could illustrate this idea of literature more neatly than those of Ern Malley, whose complete works were concocted in a single afternoon and evening by two young Australian poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, as part of a plot to expose the obscurantism and meaninglessness of what passed for poetry under the aegis of Modernism. Read More:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n17/mark-ford/marvellous-boys
…For by then Ern Malley was firmly implanted in the Australian consciousness. In art, he was mourned on a monumental scale in a series of large paintings by his earlier admirer Sidney Nolan. In music, he was memorialized in a jazz suite composed by Dave Dallwitz, one of the original Angry Penguins. And his poetic cycle, The Darkening Ecliptic, was a national classic.
How this struck the two poets, Stewart and McAuley, who invented Ern Malley and composed his works in 1944 is anybody’s guess. Both men won some recognition as poets. Stewart was called by Douglass Stuart, “the only real classical poet Australia has produced”; his predilection for form drew him to Japan, where he made a name for himself as one of the world’s foremost translators of haiku. As for McAuley, who published books of poetry, he is rated- with A.D. Hope, his senior by ten years- one of the two giants of Australian poetry. McAuley was a professor of English at the University of Tasmania.
McAuley and Stewart could both take satisfaction in the knowledge that their victory over the alien menaces of meaninglessness and pretentiousness has proved a remarkably durable one, for Australian poetry remained far more conservative far longer than the poetry of any other English speaking country. Still, it couldn’t have been much fun for the hoaxers to read opinions such as those of critic Brian Elliott that “neither of them seems ever again to have succeeded in writing with quite the same spectacular abandon which marked the ‘Malley’ verses,” or that “what they had written in the Malley poems was decidedly superior …to anything they had written independently.” There must surely have been moments when they wish they hadn’t brought Ern Malley into being that afternoon in Victoria Barracks.
Well, the myth in the end proved greater than the creators. Lacking authentic heroes in the mold of say, Washington or Lincoln, Australians have long filled the gap with folk heroes, Crocodile Dundee composites who loom larger than life against the strange outcrops, the weird flora and fauna, and the vast emptiness of their land.
One of the best known songs, Waltzing Matilda, celebrates the itinerant workman who falls into a stagnant pool and drowns, while their best known folk hero, Ned Kelly, is a badman of the outback, who, after his violent death, was swiftly apotheosized into a figure of myth. Given all this- and the Australian sense of humor- it is not difficult to picture, joining other folk heroes in the national pantheon beneath the Southern Cross, the forlorn and relentlessly urban figure of Ern Malley, who died in his youth, and then attained not just immortalitt, better still, the last laugh.
Night-piece (Alternate Version)
The intemperate torch grazed
With fire the umbel of the dark.
The pond-lilies could not stifle
The green descant of frogs.
We had not heeded the warning
That the iron birds creaked.
As we swung the park-gates
Their beaks glinted with dew.
A splash — the silver nymph
Was a foam flake in the night.
But though the careful winds
Visited our trembling flesh
They carried no echo.
When the hysterical vision strikes
The façade of an era it manifests
Its insidious relations.
The windowed eyes gleam with terror
The twin balconies are breasts
And at the efflux of a period’s error
Is a carved malicious portico.
His motives in these anthropoid erections.
Momentarily we awake —
Even as lately through wide eyes I saw
The promise of a new architecture
Of more sensitive pride, and I cursed
For the first time my own obliteration.
What Inigo had built I perceived
In a dream of recognition,
And for nights afterwards struggled
Helpless against the choking
Sands of time in my throat.
(see link at end)… “ERN MALLEY”
The two cheerful and healthy-minded young graduates of the Sydney University who perpetrated the much-discussed “Ern Malley” hoax, and who thus blew to smithereens the irritating pretensions and incomprehensible philosophy of a school of so-called ”modern poetry,” are deserving, perhaps, of some higher distinction than the bogus doctorate conferred upon them by “the Sydney University Oxometrical Society.” But the authors of the “Ern Malley” documents, who labored so hard to make his pretended ”poems” the most arrant gibberish, and whose highest expectations must have been exceeded when a laboriously bad skit on bad verse was hailed as the work of ”a giant of contemporary Australian poetry,” will not wear the trappings, if any, of ”doctors of oxometry,” with an ill grace. The one thing that remains to be thought of, is the invention of a fitting academic award for the poetasters and other literary quidnuncs [a self-important newsmonger and gossip] who took the fictitious “Ern Malley” to their bosoms, swearing that he was a genius after their own hearts, and implying, in the usual way, that all who ventured to pronounce him childish and incomprehensible, would but betray their own pathetic lack of aesthetic taste and spiritual perception. A wooden spoon or a leather medal, might conceivably meet the case. Read More:http://lynnwalsh.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/the-great-australian-poetry-hoax/
You might also like to check this website for fresh takes on Malley: