In this episode of Biographers in Conversation, Ann-Marie Priest chats with Gabriella about the choices she made while writing her award-winning biography My Tongue Is My Own, the first biography of Gwen Harwood, one of Australia’s most distinctive poets. My Tongue Is My Own follows Harwood from her childhood in 1920s Brisbane, to her final years in Hobart in the 1990s.

My Tongue Is My Own, draws on a wealth of previously unpublished material and includes revealing, previously unpublished letters. Ann-Marie Priest discloses the ethical decisions she faced when revealing the secrets in these letters and how she balanced Harwood’s professional, personal and interior lives. She reveals the literary devices she employed to craft captivating narrative and how she reconciled Harwood’s many conflicting personas and contradictions. Harwood refused to be bound by convention, yet she lived a conventional life as a wife and mother to four children. Ann-Marie explains how she balanced Harwood’s story as a wife and mother with her professional life as a female poet in the 1950s when female poets struggled to be accepted by a male dominated literary establishment.

Winner of the 2023 National Biography Award

‘Ann-Marie Priest has captured completely the sprite-like nature of one of Australia’s finest poets; a woman who used a fierce intellect and penchant for trickery to upend dusty institutions that steadfastly refused to see women as capable or talented. Through these pages, the great poet feels so alive.’

Suzanne Falkiner, Senior National Biography Award Judge

My Tongue Is My Own is the first biography of Gwen Harwood (1920–1995), one of Australia’s most significant and distinctive poets. Harwood is renowned for her brilliance, but loved for her humour, rebellion and mischief. A public figure by the end of her life, she was always deeply protective of her privacy, and even now, some twenty-six years after her death, little is known of the experiences that gave rise to her extraordinary poems. Her biography traces how a lively, sardonic and determined young woman built a career in the conservative 1950s, blasting her way into the patriarchal strongholds of Australian poetry.

Ann-Marie Priest
Ann-Marie Priest

‘To write Clark’s life was to struggle with a leviathan’.

Ann-Marie Priest is the author of the first biography of renowned Australian poet Gwen Harwood, My Tongue Is My Own (2022). She is the recipient of the 2023 National Biography Award and the 2017 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship. Her book, A Free Flame: Australian Women Writers and Vocation in the Twentieth Century, was shortlisted for the 2016 Dorothy Hewett Award. She is a senior lecturer at Central Queensland University.

Learn more:

Chance Encounter With Poet’s Work  Birthed Award-Winning Biography:

Priest, A. -M. (2023). Intimate Stranger: Gwen Harwood in Brisbane.. Fryer Folios, 13(1), 38-41. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2022). A sexual radical at 17 and 70, Gwen Harwood’s frank erotic poetry reflected an ardent life. The Conversation. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2022). Spectres and refractions: Sophie Cunningham's new novel. Australian Book Review, Sept.(no. 446), 27. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2021). The Harwood Memorial Fruitcake Award: The parodic inventiveness of Gwen Harwood. Australian Book Review, (432), 49-52. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2018). Australia's women writers in a man's world. The Sydney Papers Online, (42), 1-15. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2018). A free flame: Australian women writers and vocation in the Twentieth Century. Crawley, WA: UWA Publishing. Retrieved from

Priest, A. -M. (2017). ‘Having Fun with the Professors’: Gwen Harwood and Doctor Eisenbart.Australian Literary Studies, 32(1), 1-22. doi:10.20314/als.14734bc905

Priest, A. -M. (2017). '"The Hoax that Misfired": Gwen Harwood's Cultural Dissent'. Southerly: a review of Australian literature, 77(1), 115-135. Retrieved from;dn=134914102916089;res=IELLCC

Priest, A. -M. (2016). Sharon Olds, Gwen Harwood and Dorothy Hewett: Truth, lies, poetry.Cordite Poetry Review, 56, 1-3. Retrieved from

Priest, A. M. (2015). Baby and demon : woman and the artist in the poetry of Gwen Harwood.Hecate., 40(2), 67-83. Retrieved from

Priest, A. (2015). Between Sanctity and Liberation: the Lives and Loves of Gwen Harwood. In L. Trudeau (Ed.), Poetry Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of the Most Significant and Widely Studied Poets of World Literature, vol. 160 (Vol. 160, pp. 201-210). Boston, MA: Gale.

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