We are in Australia, one day in 1969. Political cartoonist Michael Leunig stops drawing a cartoon of the Vietnam war and draws, instead, ‘a picture of a man with a teapot on his head who climbs on a duck and rides into the sunset’ 50 to find the linguistically surreal landscape of ‘Curly Flat’. The surrealist strain in Australian literary culture, wrapped in humour, resurfaces, after coming up for air in the 40s, when, disguised as Ern Malley, James McCauley and Harold Stewart pull a surrealist literary hoax on the editor of Angry Penguins, Max Harris.
‘Malley’s poems were co-written in an afternoon, from a random collation of words and phrases lifted, and misquoted, from the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a Collected Shakespeare and a Dictionary of Quotations, with no coherent theme and no verse technique, other than to imitate, and in their eyes, send up, the surrealist literary tradition.’ 51 Though the ‘hoax’ is revealed, the poetry, published as The Darkening Ecliptic , earns praise from British surrealist poet Sir Herbert Read. Read points out that to parody, one must draw on the same creative processes which produce that which is parodied. The result, uninhibited by self-criticism, may be work of ‘genuine merit’, which he attributes to Malley’s poems. 58