new zealand electronic poetry centre

Michael Harlow


Statement from Today is the Piano’s Birthday

Originally published in Today is the Piano’s Birthday (Auckland: Oxford UP/Auckland UP.1981)

There is little one ought to say about a poem that a poem cannot ‘say’ about itself. ‘Close reading’ is, of course, another matter. One of the continuous impulses behind many of the poems in this book, is the fact that the act of making the poem is the act of making visible and heard the imaginative – that is to say, ‘real’ – experiences embedded and resonant in the language we use. The poem: a construct of language and space, so that one word discovers another, one perception creates another; so that the poem declares and extends the relationship between the maker and his experience, subsequently between the reader and his perceptions of that experience. In these poems I have tried to extend that activity so that the poem is an occasion for meaning to declare itself for what it is, not what it is for. Not what we understand but what we know, which is the probity of understanding; not what we think but what we feel, which is the surety of experience. To come at it from another angle:

Listen, to how one voice lies
down with another
how a song enters the room curled
in a scrap of wind
Inside the pleasures of your woman, touch
spring at the wrist
then name the names of your children, ease
the dark from their eyes
Drink wine from a blue jar, & lean
lean into, & say it:


Michael Harlow

Last updated 24 March, 2005