Gwen Harwood’s “In the Park” was first published in 1961 under a male pseudonym—and no wonder: its grim but unflinching view of motherhood as a source of regret and resentment was radical for its time. When the author was revealed to be a woman, many were shocked. However, the poem has been widely taught and anthologized since, and is celebrated today for its achievement in upending conventional beliefs about motherhood and keenly capturing the complex reality of women’s maternal experiences.
She sits in ... out of date.
Two children whine ...
... in the dirt
Someone she loved ...
... that casual nod.
"How nice" et ...
... grace of God…"
They stand a ...
... names and birthdays.
"It’s so sweet ...
... his departing smile.
Then, nursing ...
... at her feet.
To the wind ... eaten me alive."
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Life of Gwen Harwood — A biography of the poet.
Poems About Motherhood — A great Poetry Foundation collection of poems about motherhood.
Gwen Harwood's Pseudonyms — An essay on the poet's history of publishing poems under male pseudonyms, including "In the Park."
Motherhood in Visual Art — A collection of paintings depicting mothers and their children.
Modern Australian Poetry — An overview of Australian poetry throughout the of 20th and 21st centuries.
1She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
2Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
3A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt
4Someone she loved once passed by – too late
5to feign indifference to that casual nod.
6"How nice" et cetera. "Time holds great surprises."
7From his neat head unquestionably rises
8a small balloon…"but for the grace of God…"
9They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
10the children’s names and birthdays. "It’s so sweet
11to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,"
12she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
13the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
14To the wind she says, "They have eaten me alive."