Michael Harlow’s Winning New Poetry Collection

By Otago University Press | Posted: Thursday August 11, 2016

The poems in Michael Harlow’s new collection, Nothing for it but to Sing, are small detonations that release deeply complex stories of psychological separations and attractions, of memory and desire.

Frequently they slip into the alluring spaces just at the edges of language, dream and gesture, as they carefully lower, like measuring gauges, into the ineffable: intimations of mortality, the slippery nature of identity, longing, fear …

Nothing for it but to Sing is Harlow’s tenth collection – the manuscript of this book won the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award in 2015. Notable for sonic playfulness and insight this selection of lyrical poems, asks the reader to ‘keep an eye and an ear on the language’.

Harlow is a poet with such a command of music, the dart and turn of movement in

language, that he can get away with words that make us squirm in apprentice workshops or bad pop songs – heart, soul – and make them seem newly shone and psychically right.

The work is sequined by sound, rather than running its meaning along the rigid rails of metre and end rhyme. The sway and surge of various meanings in the phrasing, and the way sense trails and winds over line breaks: this movement itself often evokes the alternating dark and electric energy of feelings like love, loss and the pain of absence.

This is a beautifully honed new collection.

... now/that spring has arrived, the first flowering/almond, makes you want to risk delight – /for its own sake and no other. – ‘Short talk on spring with fantails’.


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