“Lips of My Love”: Katharine’s not-so-lost poem of passion from 1914

1915-12-03 Petersburg Times SA p1

Today I thought I’d discovered a lost poem of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s, a sensual, slightly shocking poem which could be one of the great scoops of my biography. It’s called “Lips of My Love,” and it was mentioned in a 1914 Australian newspaper as having being published in English Review. This is the year before she won the Hodder and Stoughton Novel Competition and met her future husband, Hugo. It’s a sensual and frank poem about sexual enthrallment from a time Katharine was, by the vague account in her autobiography, still involved with the “Preux Chevalier,” a much-older journalist with three daughters who’d romanced her in Paris in 1908 and became increasingly possessive, threatening to kill himself if she ever married.

The thing is, it wasn’t a lost poem at all – I was just ignorant of it. A quick check of Austlit a few hours after I found it showed it appeared in her second collection of poetry, Earth Lover and Other Verses (1932) and in the 1965 selection of her writing, On Strenuous Wings. I felt a little chastened, but still excited by the vividness of the poem. It’s a surprising poem, surely not the sort of thing an unmarried woman was meant to write in 1915, and even more surprising considering Katharine always showed a degree of reticence in writing about sex, even though she did it well at times. It’s such a contrast to her rather prim and anecdotal account of these years in her autobiography.

It’s out of copyright and difficult to obtain, so I shall reproduce it here.

Lips of My Love

Adventurous lips
That o’er me rove,
So swelling soft
And smelling like the rose
Lips of my love! My love!

Lips of the bee
That cling
And fall from clinging,Yearning,
Drunk with bliss!

Dear lips
That to me prove My body
But a chalice, white,
For thy delight,
My love, my love

Oh, I am faint
When thy lips hang on mine
And there is ecstasy
In their mute questing,
Easting, westing.

So,
They are gentle
As the brooding dove,Fierce as twin birds of prey,
Lips of my love! My love!

*

As a poem, it’s simple, but also very true to itself, looking anew in each verse at her lover’s lips. Katharine noted once that in her early poetry she was yet to outgrow the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ that she then felt poetry required. But archaisms aside, it has a freshness and directness. “Easting, westing” is my favourite line.

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About Nathan Hobby

At work on a biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard for a PhD at the University of Western Australia. Also a novelist and librarian. View all posts by Nathan Hobby

2 responses to ““Lips of My Love”: Katharine’s not-so-lost poem of passion from 1914

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