Wednesday, March 30, 2011

5 of Harlow's poems that made me want to dog-ear the pages of a library book (although I resisted)

List by Tosca

"Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
- W.B. Yeats

I'm an inveterate dog-ear folder of pages. Not because I'm intentionally destructive (although some ardent bibliophiles may argue otherwise). Maybe more because when I connect with a book emotionally I feel as if I have to create some obvious landmark that says, 'Epiphany here!' Once I've finished reading the book in its entirety I tend to go back and re-read the marked pages and try to figure out why I had such a lightbulb moment. Sometimes the reasons aren't always so clear why some lines strike a chord and others don't. I had lots of those moments when reading Michael Harlow's The tram conductor's blue cap. So much so that narrowing down my selection to 5 wasn't so easy. So many passages, if not the entire poem, came to life for me. This is a whimsical post and I make no apologies for my flights of fancy. Here I do little more than share the titles of 5 of Harlow's poems that struck a chord with me although I couldn't begin to tell you why.

Earlier this month I wrote the post Top 5 reads for my NZ Book Month challenge and my #1 choice was a collection of poems by Harlow. Ordinarily, I'm conflicted about poetry. It's often so personal that it makes me cringe for feeling like a voyeur or, and this is quite often the case, it's incomprehensible to me. My favourite poem ever is On the Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan which tells you really awful things about my sense of humour. My exposure to New Zealand poetry is limited to Hone Tuwhare (I love his writing so much), Sam Hunt and, many moons ago, James K. Baxter. As much as I adore Tuwhare's work, though, it is Hunt who made such a huge impression on me. Not for his writing but for his distinctive way of reading - no matter my age I hear most poetry as if Hunt were personally reading it to me in his Kiwi-accented iambic pentameter. Weirdly, I did not hear Hunt when reading Tim Jones or Michael Harlow.

The longest day of the year (p35)
' many of my words have lost their happiness...'

The return (21)
' will be most alive when you die.'

Canticle (p6)
'...they tell their dreams. They do no less than risk delight...'

In the picture (p9)
'You are who you want to be...'

The light is dark enough (p31)
'And she is listening in the dark for the world outside to climb through her eyes...'

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