Author(s): Michael Harlow
Poetry, Michael Harlow writes, is when words sing. In The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap, his remarkable new collection, words do sing; they also shout and whisper, riddle and recur, express and evade. Though these poems are often allegorical and philosophical, the real underlies the imagined (while the imagination invents the real), so we meet a stranger in the Oyster Bar at the Grand Central', we travel to Athens and Mexico and Troy, we hear from Sappho, Marco Polo, Cavafy and Emily Dickinson. And at the centre of the collection is a tram conductor, 'inside a story that dreams / him'. As a habit of imagination, these poems circle and cultivate patience, anticipation, memory, opportunity, delight and regret. Fans of Harlow's previous, accomplished collection, Cassandra's Daughter, will be thrilled to find this poet in assured voice: building up 'one word one word and then / another, waiting for the light to come / stealing in'. First published February 2009, Auckland
Michael Harlow was born in the United States in 1937 to a Greek father and American-Ukrainian mother. He travelled extensively in Europe and lived in several other countries before arriving in New Zealand in 1968. He first published his poems in book form in New York , Greece and in England and he continues to publish poems in magazines in the United States, Australia, Greece and Britain as well as New Zealand. Collections he subsequently published in New Zealand reveal his cosmopolitan outlook and his familiarity with modern poetry and poetics of both America and Europe. His book Nothing But Switzerland and Lemonade (1980) was the first book of prose poems published in New Zealand. Other titles include Today Is the Piano's Birthday (1981), Vlaminck's Tie (1985) and Giotto's Elephant (1991), which was shortlisted in the 1992 national Book Awards. His most recent book, Cassandra's Daughter, was published by AUP in 2005 and reprinted in 2006. Although known primarily for his poetry, he has also been an influential literary editor and has achieved success as a librettist and a screenplay writer. He was an editor of the Caxton Press poetry series in the 1980s and was for 10 years the poetry editor of literary magazine Landfall. He wrote the script for a short film Heavy Traffic in the Dark (1991) and has collaborated as a librettist with composer Kit Powell. Harlow held the Australia-New Zealand Literary Exchange Fellowship in 1991, has been awarded Literary Fund Bursaries in 1977 and 1990, the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship in Menton in 1986 and was the 2004 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence, where he finished this collection. He won the Takahe poetry prize in 1998 and his poem 'Cremation Blues' was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2002. Harlow lives in Alexandra and is a practising Jungian psychotherapist, another manifestation of his 'persistent engagement with the workings of the unconscious' that has been such an enduring theme of his poetry.
Contents include: A Shout -- In a field of Snow -- Lovers' quarrel -- All about the world -- Canticle -- Beat the pot and sing -- Look, a round -- In the picture -- In the book of quiet -- Our undertaker as fallen angel -- Heavy traffic in the dark -- Icing on the cake, with God and Darwin -- The waywardness of words -- Waiting -- Anecdotal aesthetics in Athens -- Los hombres verdes -- Minoan Sonnet -- Translating Narcissus -- The return -- Bride with beautiful feet -- Graffitti riff, buzz me Miss Blue -- Billet doux -- Design -- Heart absolutely I can -- Kite -- Talking millions -- The light is dark enough -- On the fault line -- The Parson's Sermon -- The longest day of the year -- The world also is a place -- Nightmare -- With paper hats on -- Death Duties -- The tram conductor's blue cap -- On looking: in the lost and found -- Taking a line for a walk -- The invisible reader -- Notes and acknowledgements.