Celebrations for honoured poet

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One of Central Otago’s most decorated poets will tomorrow be recognised by his own community for a prestigious national award. Pam Jones talks to Michael Harlow about his Prime Ministerial honour.

Alexandra poet Michael Harlow says his most recent literary award will buy him the gift so precious to all writers – that of time.

Harlow, who was last month named as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry, said the $60,000 prize would allow him to work on his next project, a book of essays, memoirs and poetry.

It would include an autobiographical element and some of his musical works, such as graphic scores and “libretti”, the lyrics Harlow sets to musical works in collaboration with New Zealand-Swiss composer Kit Powell and which he describes as “a considerable part of my work as a poet”.

Harlow expected the book would take about 18 months to complete.

He said he was “delighted” to have received the Prime Minister’s award.

“It’s very gratifying for one’s own work but also good for the arts and poetry.”

Harlow, who also works as a Jungian therapist, writes from his Earnscleugh book-lined cottage, having lived in Central Otago for about 20 years.

Born in the United States, and of Greek and Ukrainian heritage, he is now prominent on the international poetry stage, regularly representing New Zealand at international poetry festivals.

He is a former Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow and Robert Burns Fellow, and has published 10 volumes of poetry.

He is also a previous editor of the Caxton Press Poetry series, and previous associate and poetry editor of Landfall

Central Stories general manager Maurice Watson said he had organised tomorrow’s Alexandra celebration of Harlow to honour his “extraordinary” contribution to literature.

“It’s about acknowledging that we have in our midst a very important poet and editor right here in Central. . we need to acknowledge him as one of our heroes and a significant person.” ‘

Two other writers also received the Prime Minister’s award for literature this year; author and playwright Renee and critic and curator Wystan Curnow.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the “triple header” Central Stories event at which Harlow’s award will be celebrated.

The event will also feature the opening of the “Wednesday Group” art exhibition, and the opening of Alexandra artist Lynley Brownridge’s latest exhibition of iris and peony paintings. The event begins at Central Stories at 5.30pm tomorrow.