Nothing for it but to Sing by Michael Harlow (Otago University Press, 2016), 64 pp., $25; Back with the Human Condition by Nick Ascroft (Victoria University Press, 2016), 100 pp., $25
A Gaston Bachelard quote at the start of Michael Harlow’s latest book of poetry has been stern with me for months. ‘One doesn’t read poetry while thinking of other things’, it says.
Towards the end of Harlow’s book, Nothing for it but to Sing, a man pauses while digging a trench in a poem called ‘Last Post’:
‘This war will soon be ended,’ he said.
And he spit into the narrow trench
they were trying to make come true.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘until the next one arrives;
the children will pour from our houses,
their fists in their eyes.’
In an old interview I heard with Harlow once, he was remembering aloud his twenties, shaped by his involvement in the anti-Vietnam war movement. ‘We’d better talk about the poetry, Michael!’ the interviewer said. [Read more…]