With any luck there will be a good crop of April Fool stories in today's press. Whether they are of the calibre of the BBC's famous spaghetti harvest documentary or the Guardian's San Serriffe spoof remains to be seen.
Although not an April Fool Day joke Ern Malley was a superb literary hoax. Malley was a fictitious poet created by two Australians, James McAuley and Harold Stewart. They created a spoof biography and wrote a series of modernist poems in a single day then submitted them to an avant garde Australian publication called Angry Penguins. Editor Max Harris was taken in and published a whole edition devoted to Malley's work in June 1945. Here are two examples of Malley's "output":
Culture as Exhibit
“Swamps, marshes, borrow-pits and other
Areas of stagnant water serve
As breeding-grounds ...” Now
Have I found you, my Anopheles!
(There is a meaning for the circumspect)
Come, we will dance sedate quadrilles,
A pallid polka or a yelping shimmy
Over these sunken sodden breeding-grounds!
We will be wraiths and wreaths of tissue-paper
To clog the Town Council in their plans.
Culture forsooth! Albert, get my gun.
I have been noted in the reading-rooms
As a borer of calf-bound volumes
Full of scandals at the Court. (Milord
Had his hand upon that snowy globe
Milady Lucy’s sinister breast . . .) Attendants
Have peered me over while I chewed
Back-numbers of Florentine gazettes
(Knowst not, my Lucia, that he
Who has caparisoned a nun dies
With his twankydillo at the ready? . . .)
But in all of this I got no culture till
I read a little pamphlet on my thighs
Entitled: “Friction as a Social Process.”
Look, my Anopheles,
See how the floor of Heav’n is thick
Inlaid with patines of etcetera . . .
Sting them, sting them, my Anopheles.
PalinodeThere are ribald interventions
Like spurious seals upon
A Chinese landscape-roll
Or tangents to the rainbow.
We have known these declensions,
Have winked when Hyperion
Was transmuted to a troll.
We dubbed it a sideshow.
Now we find, too late
That these distractions were clues
To a transposed version
Of our too rigid state.
It is an ancient forgotten ruse
And a natural diversion.
Wiser now, but dissident,
I snap off your wrist
Like a stalk that entangles
And make my adieu.
Remember, in any event,
I was a haphazard amorist
Caught on the unlikely angles
Of an awkward arrangement. Weren’t you?
Harris later made the best of his humiliation by publishing a literary journal called Ern Malley's Journal.
Click here to visit a website devoted to the Ern Malley affair