SCWC Member: Sylvia Hardy

by Penny Bell


You too are pushing steam from an open mouth

Through a horn of circular screams

Stomped on without concern

Let’s pour a bucket of water onto our thirst

To make tomorrow a day of dry eyelashes

                                          - Sylvia Hardy

Sylvia lives in Moss Vale, a long way in every sense from her country of origin, Korea. She has just exhibited her first poem accompanied by a water colour in the 2018 BDAS Members’ Exhibition. She has already received good feedback for her exhibit and hopes that this will be the first of many.

Sylvia has been writing diaries since childhood. For the last three years she has digitised her diary as a blog in order to “keep in touch with friends and family back in Korea”. One of her blog categories is poetry. “The blog expresses my everyday experience as a woman, you know emotional stuff,” she says. 

I met Sylvia by chance walking our dogs. I had been working for the South Coast Writers’ Centre for a few years, supporting writers in the Southern Highlands and was on the lookout for new writers. I invited her to tea, to read some of her poems and to tell me what they meant. I immediately realised their sensitivity and offered to help her develop English versions of her poems. We met once a week until we had English versions of eight poems. She performed 3 of those at the recent Little Mountain Readings poetry event held annually at the Sturt Gallery in Mittagong and sponsored by SCWC.

Sylvia Penny

Sylvia Hardy and Penny Bell.

Meanwhile Sylvia had also taken up watercolour painting, studying with local artist Liz Burton. In one of our meetings she showed me some of her first attempts that I thought were brilliant. Soon we came up with the idea of painting in response to her poems with the goal of holding an exhibition one day. 

We were by no means the first to put visual art and poetry together. In fact for a long time, Sylvia had been inspired by the work of Shin Saimdang, a 16th century Korean artist and poet who happened to also be a woman and one of the rare few at the time allowed to continue her work after marriage.

Sylvia came to Australia aged 29. She had been trying to get permission from her parents to travel for 6 years. However they encouraged her to stay in Korea and become a teacher, hoping she would marry and forget her desires for adventure. Despite her mother beginning to collect her trousseau from when she was 26, she managed to stave off any suitors that came too close. Eventually she stood her ground and said to her parents, “I can’t breathe here. I have to go.” Reluctantly they eventually gave her their blessing and she began studying English at Sydney University before enrolling in a nursing degree. 

Rather than live alone close to Uni, she chose to live in Strathfield at a boarding house run by a Chinese Burmese family to give herself some distance from her studies and a sense of family. Another resident at the boarding was a New Zealander. Unlike previous suitors, she must have decided not to fend off his advances because they are now married with 2 teenage daughters. Sylvia never did finish that nursing degree but she now has a chance to focus on her art. 

Sylvia is a member of a writers’ group in Moss Vale that I run on behalf of the SCWC, and continues to write and paint. When she has 30 poems and paintings she will hold her own exhibition and publish a book of the exhibits. We look forward to that and meanwhile continue to offer her support.

Written by SCWC

Posted on February 04, 2018