Pale brown cover with a Japanese style painting of a bird singing on a branch. Black lettering at foot over thisA Lucky Woman, Kerry Hardie

Templar Poetry, 2021     £7.50

On the edge

In the short prose poem ‘And I’m wondering how it has come to this’, Kerry Hardie captures a fragile farewell. She writes of a man whose ‘eyes are very tired and very innocent, a man who is simply worn / out’. And she describes how the ‘we’ in the poem:

                    sit for a while resting briefly inside his great frailty then
reverse ourselves out of what’s left of his life

What an arresting image. Two narrative poems capture, for me, something similar but different. Momentous moments: tipping points where life irreversibly alters. ‘Those ‘Homes’’ refers, a footnote tells us, to ‘the Mother and Baby Homes’ where unmarried pregnant girls and women were historically sent in Ireland. It captures memorably the brink on which a girl’s life tips — into unplanned pregnancy.

While ‘Just Another Bomb, Belfast 1974’ chronicles a hair-breadth escape:

I did not call out       but walked up behind you.
You turned to me saying you’d gone in to find her
but there was no sign,
so you’d come out and waited

Kerry Hardie’s poems in A Lucky Woman seem to me, often, to touch that edge between being and not, capturing especially our heightened sense of this as we age.

Sometimes there’s conflict. ‘Impasse’ beautifully captures an arm’s length distancing, then ends:

Lonely, lonely, lonely.
He, at the lough’s edge. She, in the garden.

And that idea of ‘garden’ recurs as a setting — and comfort, I think. All we can learn from nature. The second poem in the collection, ‘Fable’, ends with the thought ‘there’s always a garden, always a rose’ — this couched as a question. Again, I think we’re on a kind of edge: hard-won, between release and suffering.

‘Waiting’ has ‘spring’ likened to ‘a neighbour / who comes to the door’, and then lingers:

You’re getting cold, holding the door.
The neighour’s still uncertain.
One foot across the step

And the pamphlet closes, quietly, with another passing — ‘The Countryman’s Departure’ — and, again, that ultimate brink, touched on tenderly. Noticed:

The same, always the same.
We are. Then we are not.

Charlotte Gann