hedprosecution

Max Harris had been prepared to take the hoax "in good part". He believed passionately in the literary merit of the poems and was always ready to defend them against conservative criticism. Suddenly he was called upon to defend them in a court of law - accused of publishing obscene material.

The press went to town on the story and suddenly Harris was a figure of high notoriety and ridicule. People jeered in the streets as he attended the courtoom. Some spat at him and even at his young wife-to-be, Yvonne.

The court was packed solid as the young avant-garde poet was interrogated about every nuance and metaphorical reference in the surrealist poetry. Part farce and part intense literary debate, there has never been a trial like it.

Detective Vogelesang, for the prosecution, insisted that Night Piece was obscene because:
"Apparently someone is shining a torch in the dark, visiting through the park gates. To my mind they were going there for some disapproved motive ... I have found that people who go into parks at night go there for immoral purposes".

He also found the word "incestuous" indecent in Perspective Lovesong, admitting "I don't know what 'incestuous' means."

Harris was subjected to extensive cross-examination by the Crown, called upon to explain the poetry, line by agonising line, sometimes one word at a time. Harris was asked to explain Ern Malley's references to Shakespeare and the contexts whence they were derived. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, reigned high in the Adelaide Police Court.

But, however hard the young Harris argued the case for literature and for Malley, the Magistrate would have none of it. Harris was told that he had "far too great a fondness for sexual references" and he was fined 5 pounds in lieu of six weeks in prison.

The hoaxers were silent.