Chalking with Mr Harlow and all

posted by Michele

It was chalking day on campus last week as this year’s Poetry off the Page cohort fanned out with poems to put into public space. With them was Michael Harlow, 2009 Burns Fellow and holder of the inaugural Caselberg Residency, in Auckland for the launch of his new book, The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap (AUP). Student chalkers became Harlow ‘translators’ and were encouraged by Michael to co-sign the poem that went down outside the university library during the busiest part of the day. Elsewhere other chalking gangs were taking Harlow words up steps, across a road and around a parked bus. It was, said Michael, the best pre-launch a book of poems could hope for; and he finished the morning by taking requests from the class who by then had very close knowledge of some of his texts. Later we went to look at the range of poems that had made it to the pavements and were already wearing off under the tramp of feet.

The weather gods were kind to us this year and nobody had to watch their chalk poems vanish into gutters. Down by Old Government House digi-poet Helen Sword chalked graphics for her Stoneflower Path. And at the bottom of the OGH drive, hot and dishevelled but perfectly happy, I finished chalking a poem that traces the journey made by 24 year old William Leggott to Aotearoa in 1865.

Photo credits: Tim Page and POTP

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