An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Poetry Monthly Press
39 Cavendish Road,
Long Eaton
NG10 4HY
ISBN 978 1 905126 98 9

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This page last updated: 14th December 2007.

Curiously this book makes me think of Christmas. Perhaps it's the poem about the local chemist. More about him later.

Quite a few of the poems have been previously published in various poetry magazines and journals ranging from Poetry Salzburg Review to Poetry Monthly to Krax.

At first I was disturbed by the typeface used in this publication. I thought it rather dark and cramped. But the more I read the more I saw how it fitted to the poetry of Alan Hardy.

The poems, and there are about 45 of them, mostly one to a page, have a quality that catches you off balance on first reading. There's an undercurrent of sinister humour that works to good effect.

My favourite poem is NIGHT-PORTER and I'm surprised that this wasn't chosen to head-up the collection. I feel it's very good in a disturbing way very skilfully done. The first two lines set the benchmark:

	Spare a thought for the night-porter,
	his jacket and trousers rumpled from snatched couch
There's good use of innuendo there. Especially when moving on several lines later we find:
	the top-hatted white-scarfed raffish gent
	smartly dropping a coin in his sweaty palm
The poem returns to pick up the thread again and again:
	...that seedy look and smell
	...the fidgety night-porter's crumpled shame
leading to the inevitable the lopsided ending that leaves everything almost, but not quite, neat and tidy. That's something I like about Hardy's poems. There's always room for manoeuvre.

In NAMELY the authorities call on our friend Mr. Hardy. Not before time you might think. But wait. It's another gem:

	they called for me, and me bruvver last night,
	in case we was 'arbouring 'im,
	the bin-bag murders the newspaper-men said
This leads on in fine tongue-in-cheek Jack the Ripper style to where it's:
	ladies plying their trade wot got done in
	in swirling mist and crumbling doss-houses
But why Hardy and his bruvver? Surely it can't be true. The clues appear to come thick and fast. And the clincher, for the boys in blue, it seems is this:
	...poems wot 'e wrote
But you know by now that that is not the end of the matter. I'll leave it there.

Finally I'd like to mention one more poem that appealed to my dark sense of fun. It's THANKFULLY UNWELL and concerns a local pharmacist. Early lines are ominous:

	He will enquire respectfully about your family,
	in particular your ageing parents ... 
waiting patiently for:
	...the approach of Christmas
	with its dampening and darkening,
	its jingle of wheezes and phlegms,
	its icy roads old women can slip on
as they do.

And so for me, it only remains to recommend this tidy volume, with its 4 blank pages at the rear, useful for shopping lists, and its unaccredited haunting cover portrait as a possible gift to oneself for those who want something worth reading by the fireside along with their the festive toddy when the rest of the family, as Hardy puts it in WINTER ISOLATION:

	stand and stare at winter and its land
Christmas? It'll be here before we know it.

reviewer: Gwilym Williams.