Photo courtesy of the Otago Daily Times

Cold Hub Press ~ Michael Harlow

Sweeping the courtyard

the selected poems of

Michael Harlow


ISBN 978-0-473-27420-7


Softcover with flaps 186pp, 250 x 180mm


RRP NZ$39.95


"What does it mean, in the face of the absurd and shadowy things thrown up by life, to risk delight? What is it that ‘love dares the self to do and be’?" ––Michael Harlow


"Michael Harlow's work has long proclaimed its difference from that of many mainstream writers through its sheer, joyful celebration of life, the sense that the poet enjoys the world. Harlow is a distinguished and serious writer, dealing with big issues: life, death, sorrow, the inner consciousness, yet there is a bubble of gaiety, a vitality, never far from the surface. His words have the power to transform the dullest objects into something beautiful, to give meaning to everyday lives."  ––Fiona Kidman


"No New Zealand poet uses symbol and image more magically and tenderly than Michael Harlow. In poems that range from lyrics to his superlative prose poems there is always the underpinning knowledge of how words begin their attraction for one another. And how we owe our salvation to them."  ––Elizabeth Smither


"When I first read Michael Harlow several decades ago, his impact had much to do with the distance between what anyone else here was interested in doing, and his going about his own poetry in a way that seemed both singular and confident. It was at a time when New Zealand poets often seemed to believe that by ventriloquizing American voices they were closer to where ‘poetry was at’. What struck me was that here indeed was a genuine American inflection, one tutored not only by the shimmering stature of Wallace Stevens, but by lesser though no less authentic poets like Robert Lax and Thomas Merton, with their commitment to European and philosophical traditions a long way removed from what we here attended to.

From then until now, Harlow has given us a poetry of formal grace and engagement with ideas. It is a poetry steeped in myth and common memory, in politics and shared events, as much as offering ‘the privilege of ordinary astonishments’. It is a habit of writing that constantly addresses new forms, taking the risks that come with pushing boundaries, while maintaining a tone so distinctively his own. What, to my reading of it, so marks a Harlow poem, is its reach for the intelligence of feeling, for emotion as idea, and for metaphor’s ease with both.

This is a big book, generous in scope, expansive in what it brings shape to. The word ‘achievement’ properly carries with it what Harlow has declared his credo – ‘the rich delight’ as he calls it, of a poet’s ‘looking-out and listening-in for a language to say something about how mysterious we are to ourselves and to the world.’ "  –Vincent O’Sullivan


Cover illustration: Jeffrey Harris

Sweeping the courtyard


When asked how he did it writing so many poems, one for every day of the year in happy weather or sad, he replied I don’t know.  I am always thinking about words wanting to be music all the time, except when I’m not.  And then he said I begin by sweeping the courtyard every day of the year, except when I don’t, every day of the year. And then he added, from this I am thinking who would want to silence any song.


© Michael Harlow 2014


Michael Harlow was born in the United States and arrived in New Zealand in 1968. He has published seven poetry collections: Edges (1974), Nothing but Switzerland and Lemonade (1980), Today is the Piano’s Birthday (1981), Vlaminck’s Tie (1985), Giotto’s Elephant (1991), Cassandra’s Daughter (2005, 2006), and The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap (2009, Finalist National Book Awards 2010). He has been poetry editor of Landfall and Robert Burns fellow at the University of Otago. In March 2014 he received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand.


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price NZ$39.95

photo courtesy of the Otago Daily Times