An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Bluechrome Publishing
PO Box 109
BS20 7ZJ
ISBN 1 904781 55 1

Bluechrome Publishing
ISBN 1 904781 82 9

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THE KIND GHOSTS is an unusual blend of personal reminiscence and exploration into myth. Several of Hardwick's poems dwell on the apparent lack of control we have over our lives, be it because we are in the hands of a drunken driver, awaiting a tornado or have inexplicably become jetsam on some distant beach. He dwells on our misconceptions of life too,

	what I foolishly call mine,
	this beauty, this fear, this earth I call home.
Paradoxically, in spite of this, he still dares himself "embrace air". This jumping off leads to poems which are splendidly incantatory — THE EXILE'S SONG, in particular, and the title poem of the collection are good examples of this technique:
	Hush leaves, and let the Kind Ghosts speak.
	They have been waiting
	In this garden, grown strange through time,
	In the forgotten artist's barely-noticed line, 
	In the dead author's yellowed word,
	In the silent song, for years unheard.
Hardwick excels at this kind of repetition and slowly built-up climax. He also has a strong sense of humour, when he wonders for instance at the meaning of a road sign "Food left at roundabout" or takes a wry look at "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" He revisits myths for modern times, by imagining us as virtual Icaruses, forever falling, forever falling, or wanting to turn round and relive our lives, only to find signs warning us "No U turns" or "Road narrows."

Hardwick has a real sense of place too, of countryside in particular, and is sensitive to the permanence of eternal archetypes in our surroundings. If he is in the country, he is aware of Spenser or Claude or Vaughan Williams; when observing a pub brawl, he's back with Dante and Bosch. The ancient Gods are never far.

As far as the actual crafting is concerned, there is an evident love of sound and linguistic fun in the multiple alliterations and internal rhymes and echoes as in FEBRUARY TAPESTRY:

	I cannot claim to understand nature's knotwork,
	but feel the intricate weave, and perforce believe
	these skeletal leaves and shoots fulfil the promise of our roots.
Hardwick seems equally at home in free, blank and rhyming verse, in sonnets and experimentation. THE TRAIL OF THE FOX, a narrative in rhyming couplets has a good thumpety beat that could have bounced straight off the cobbles somewhere between Aachen and Ghent —particularly apt for a review of the Roman de Renart. Bravo!

reviewer: Jacueline Karp.

The poetry wizard Oz Hardwick, working in York, is fittingly only a short broomstick ride from Old Mother Shipton's Cave where old things are hung on lines to gather magic dust.

Here, Oz pulls the magic ribbon from the cylinder hat with an elegiac assurance, a kind of Poe-etic abracadabra. Observe this from HAUNTED:

	No cats walk on empty walls.
	All my dreams, no more my own,
	Walk in file down empty halls,
	Leave no trace upon dark stone.

	All my dreams, no more my own:
	He is here — here he stands.
	Leave no trace upon dark stone,
	He is here with tired hands.
When scrutinising the magician's performance one shouldn't try to know the secrets of all the tricks but there's no harm in spotting one or two. The sleight of the hand in many of the works is cleverly concealed and so, at the final curtain, the act deserves not only an enthusiastic round of applause but a standing ovation.

Oz's sharp performance is divided into three equal parts. THE END OF SHARP DISTINCTIONS, the first, in which the poetry is blurred, has an illusory quality.

In the middle section, THIS IS SLOW LIGHTNING, is found the title poem CARRYING FIRE which speaks of:

	A familiar stranger with the moon in his eyes
Finally in the third section LOVE AND COINCIDENCE there's an enchanting sprig of LAVENDER:
	There is no madness here, no unease,
	no word misplaced to trip unwary
	wanderers in this cool, quiet land,
	no threat to the peace of the dark unknown.
CARRYING FIRE is a read-aloud-to-your-girl (or pet raven) compilation and comes from the quill of an outstanding and eccentric talent with an eye for the mysterious.

With its haunting candlelit cover this good-looking Bluechrome book would make a wonderful Christmas stocking filler.

reviewer: Gwilym Williams.