(see link at end)…In a single rollicking afternoon McAuley and Stewart cooked up the collected works of Ernest Lalor Malley. Imitating the modern poets they most despised (‘not Max Harris in particular, but the whole literary fashion as we knew it from the works of Dylan Thomas, Henry Treece, and others’), they rapidly wrote the sixteen poems that constitute Ern Malley’s ‘tragic lifework.’ They lifted lines at random from the books and papers on their desks (Shakespeare, a dictionary of quotations, an American report on the breeding grounds of mosquitoes, etc.). They mixed in false allusions and misquotations, dropped ‘confused and inconsistent hints at a meaning’ in place of a coherent theme, and deliberately produced what they thought was bad verse. They called their creation Malley because mal in French means bad. He was Ernest because they were not.
Later, the hoaxers added a high-sounding ‘preface and statement,’ outfitted Malley with a tearjerking biography, and created his suburban sister Ethel. The invention of Ethel was a masterstroke. It was she who sent Malley’s posthumous opus, ‘The Darkening Ecliptic’, to Max Harris along with a cover letter tinged with her disapproval of her brother’s bohemian ways and proclaiming her own ignorance of poetry. Read More:http://jacketmagazine.com/17/ern-dl.html
…or in such telling similes as:
One moment of daylight let me have
Like a white arm thrust
Out of the dark and self-denying wave
And in the one moment I
Shall irremediably attest
How (though with sobs, and torn cries bleeding)
My white swan of quietness lies
Sanctified on my black swan’s breast.
or in this enigmatic assertion, which no one thought to read as a warning:
It is necessary to understand
That a poet may not exist, that his writings
Are the incomplete circle and straight drop
Of a question mark
And yet I know I shall be raised up
On the vertical banners of praise….
Convinced that they were witnessing that rare event, the emergence from obscurity of a truly first-rate talent, the editors warmly endorsed Harris’s proposal to print The Darkening Ecliptic in its entirety. Harris wrote a forward in which he hailed Malley as “a poet of tremendous power working through a disciplined and restrained kind of statement into the deepest wells of significance,” and when the autumn number of Angry Penguins appeared, the first thirty-five pages, about half its contents, were devoted to Ern Malley.
Most of the magazine’s nine hundred copies were distributed in Austarlia, but a few were sent, as usual to “little magazines” abroad. Ern Malley began to make his name. Harry Roskolenko, an American poet serving in the United States forces in Australia, liked the poems so much that he persuaded a publisher in New York to print several in an anthology. And overseas, word began to filter out from a handful of editorial ivory towers that Australia had at long last spawned a major, if unfortunately dead poet.
Soon, however, Malley’s posthumous career was nipped in the bud. At 3AM in early June, Max Harris was awakened by the ringing of the telephone and informed by a journalist from the Sydney Sun that Malley’s poems had, in fact, been
tten by two young poets in the Australian army, Lieutenant McAuley and Corporal Harold Stewart. Had Harris any comment? Casting about for an answer, Harris muttered, “The myth is sometimes greater than its creators,” and hung up. On June 5, the tabloid Fact exposed the hoax in print, with a statement by its perpetrators. ….( to be continued)