Selected Poems

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Kerry Hardie’s five collections, published by The Gallery Press, have garnered praise and prizes and have attracted a growing band of devoted readers. Her work is celebrated for its particular way of seeing, a rhapsodic recording of landscape and weather in cherished places — the valleys around her Kilkenny home, ancient monastic settlements and isolated islands.

Selected Poems distils almost twenty years’ work, charts adventures in Australia, China, Paris and the Pyrenees and encompasses grief and loss while honouring thirty years of marriage. Above all, her work maps emotional states, ‘the way things are’ . . . ‘all as it is’ . . . ‘Lives. Theirs, ours. Human times are mostly hard.’ A long sequence explores the trials of exile. Yet for all such hardships her parables of experience find and offer consolation.

In Poetry Ireland Review Jaki McCarrick recently commended the poems’ ‘deep slow burn . . . Long after they have been read their profound and simple power persists.’

Kerry Hardie’s first collection, A Furious Place, was one of the most striking debuts of the 1990s, and it is a pleasure now to reread the astonishing ‘At St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Loughlin’, whose final stanza gives the book its title:

And I think what a furious place
is the heart:so raw and so pure and so shameless.
We both drink the water. I drink with defiance
and you drink without it. No one is watching, but God,
and He doesn’t care, except for the heart’s intention.

That poem’s big organ music, its clear tones and phrasing are present throughout Hardie’s new book, Selected Poems (Gallery Press, 96pp, €20/€12.50). The poems speak to us from gardens as well as graveyards, from private homes as much as churches, and, most often, from the borders and boundaries that the poems speak so often and beautifully of breaching or attempting to breach.

Hardie’s poems admit disappointment alongside achievement (“After the urgent work, I have sat with this piece / trying to understand; failing,” she writes in the long sequence Exiles ), and sickness alongside health (“sometimes even sickness is generous,” she writes in She Replies to Carmel’s Letter, “and takes you by the hand and sits you / beside things you would otherwise have passed over”). Our trust reposes in such clear, open writing, what she describes herself as the “strange thin moment that’s see-through to somewhere else”.

Hardie’s later poems are barer, more strongly narrative, and sometimes read like parables and portraits at once. She has two recent poems about phone calls. One is called ‘Communication’ and begins, wonderfully, “My father wouldn’t talk on the phone”, and later admits, “Alone in the house, I let the phone ring for days.” The second poem is called ‘Solitude’, which describes its speaker, having “hardly seen anyone for days”, spending a day out of the house. It ends:

When I got home the phone was ringing,
I had the key in the door but it wouldn’t turn.
I heard the phone cease in the empty house.
And the dogs milled about.
And the pumpkin stared out at the moon.

— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times

Year Published: 2011
Details: 112pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 510 4
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 511 1

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