MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories

Ern Malley is a famous Australian poet. Here's one of his poems.

 Dürer: Innsbruck, 1495

 I had often, cowled in the slumberous heavy air,
 Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
 As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
 And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,
 All reversed in the quiet reflecting waters —
 Not knowing then that Dürer perceived it too.
 Now I find that once more I have shrunk
 To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
 I had read in books that art is not easy
 But no one warned that the mind repeats
 In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still
 the black swan of trespass on alien waters.

Ern Malley never existed. He was created by two anti-modernist Australian poets in the 1940s, to hoax a poetry magazine ("Angry Penguins"). The poets wrote everything in an afternoon: a collection of poems (complete with convincing signs of wear and tear on the manuscript), and a covering letter from his fictional sister "Ethel". The editor, Max Harris, was totally fooled, and dedicated an entire issue to Ern's poetry. The whole affair became a cause celebre.

But why was Max Harris so totally fooled?

The hoaxers would say it was because Max Harris lacked discrimination. He wanted to believe in something like Ern Malley too badly; Australia was short of figures who could be a standard bearer for modern poetry.

But Max Harris was fooled for other reasons too, reasons that could apply to all of us.

For a start, there was no reason why he shouldn't believe (AssumeGoodFaith). Also, the poets used a few well-known tropes (undiscovered genius dies poor and young, from a long illness) to help ease Ern into people's minds.

But the hoaxers, as is often the way, also added some sly clues as to what was really going on, which other people than Max Harris tumbled to. For instance, Ethel said Ern died of "Grave's disease", which is not a fatal syndrome.

CategoryRealNames CategoryIdentity


MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories
Edit text of this page | View other revisions