Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín

MICHAEL HARLOW (New Zealand, 1937)

All About the World

Last week
my friend’s daughter Cassandra
asked me in a small voice
of wonder, if I wouldn’t mind
could I tell her all about the world?

Today she
telephoned and said I’m going to tell you
about poetry, since they had been hearing
poetry at school

Un huh, I said
because I couldn’t think of anything else
to say, and besides it had been hard work
not telling her all about the world

She said then
lowering her voice, letting me in
on a big one, Poetry is when words sing
I could hear, I think I could hear that already
she knew enough of ‘all about the world’
to keep her singing from time to time

And then she added,
since she was in that kind of a hurry,
About 100 years from now, trees
will be called very important people.

Michael Harlow was born in The United States in 1937. Poet, narrator, publisher, scriptwriter and Jungian psicotherapist. Born from a Greek father and a Ucranian mother he traveled extensively through Europe until he arrived in Australia where he naturalized as citizen of New Zealand in 1968. Some of his works are: Poems, 1965; Events, 1974; The Book of Quiet, 1974; Nothing But Switzerland and Lemonade, 1980 (first prose-poetry book published in New Zealand); Today is the Piano’s Birthday, 1981; Vlaminick’s Tie, 1985 and Giotto’s Elephant, 1991, finalist in The National Book Awards, 1991. During 10 years, he published the literary magazine Landfall. He has also published short prose, essys and critical reviews and different publications and anthologies. He obtained The Katherine Mansfield Fellow. He has written a script for documentaries, Heavy traffic in the Dark in collaboration with the filmmaker Stephanien Donald. More recently, working with the Swiss-New Zealander composer Kit Powell, he wrote the script for the performance The Tower of Babel that has been presented in The International Arts Festival of Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1995. In 2004 he was writer in residence Frendell Cottage and in 2005 The University of Auckland published his more recent poetry collection: Cassandra´s Daughter. According to Elizabeth Smither in his lyric and prose poem texts the “persistent imaginal” goes in search of a language to articulate something of the curious and surreal strangeness of the everyday. Poems that through the micro-worlds of the art, the circus, theatre, and dreams look around corners and behind the mirror to explore how it is we are so mysterious to others and ourselves; whose clarity is in the nature and manner of the questions asked, rather than in the easy answer given. Characteristic of the curve of Harlow’s imagination, it is a poetry “where the world becomes writing and language becomes the double of the world”. “Poems packed with image and thought that stride boldly between the world as we know it and the world with its so-called civilized top layer scraped off: Love poems that are profound on several levels, and prose-poems as always splendid and authoritative.
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