The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap
Poetry, Michael Harlow writes, is when words sing. In The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap, 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 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’.
More about Michael Harlow
With not a cabbage tree in sight, the European modernist in Harlow has made great poetry in New Zealand and we are lucky to have him. – Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Landfall
In his poems, you can smell the poetry before it comes around the corner and bumps into you. – Arthur Fairly, Northern Advocate
Harlow is that rare poet who packages big stories into his stanzas, an artful master at whittling universal narratives into the tight and vivid heart of a poem. He is a magic poet. - Jessica Le Bas.