Our featured publication for October is The House of Ghosts and Mirrors by Oz Hardwick, published by Valley Press.
The book “Begins with an ending and keeps on subtly subverting our expectations on every page – glass houses, mermaids, a bloodshot moon, vampires on the staircase, the ‘indescribable’ breath of leaves. These are unsettling, memorable, subterranean poems that walk the line between dreams and waking, finding a language that nestles ‘somewhere / between science and sleight of hand’.” Helen Mort
“These rigorously considered, sturdily constructed, lyrically written poems contain sharp personal and social insights. They display a romantic maturity which resonates long after the book has been set aside.” Michael Moorcock
“These are poems that deal with the magical and mystical while firmly rooted in the detail of memory and history. Here are acutely drawn pictures of the ways we all manage, or fail to manage, our losses. Sad in the best way, tender and hopeful, these are poems in which we can all find ourselves.” Antony Dunn
In that summer I discovered leaves,
explored their textures, drew in
their citrus, amber, indescribable
breath, like a lover sleeping close.
I clothed myself in leaves, weaving
too many shades to learn the names
of parent plants, dressed myself
in rippling green finer than light.
And I slept deep in leaves, nested
like a mouse, bird, snake,
the phoenix rising from burning leaves,
fire blazing behind summer eyes.
It was a big house, a lot of land,
and I couldn’t remember who’d invited me.
There were tyre tracks on the lawn and the carpet,
but the party was winding down, tangled
bodies on couches, on the landing,
in the flower beds, leaving just
a few of us, jittery with crystals and capsules.
Someone said Read us one of your poems
so I pulled out a couple of books and flipped
through dog-eared pages. But I didn’t recognise
any of the words, and my eyes blurred
over unfamiliar phrases, and there was
an awkward, jerky silence, until
someone said Look, are you a poet
or what? But by then my mouth was dry
as I licked my sour, powdered finger,
leafing frantically through hazy titles
I couldn’t focus on, everyone getting restless.
And all I could think of as the room spun sideways
was your smile as you’d left, hours earlier, your arm
resting lightly around someone else’s waist.
The Miracle of Flight
– for Harold Walker
As a child I always wanted to fly.
Air displays thrilled me,
promised a future of wings and winds
above the arc of the earth,
freedom from petty gravity.
In my grandparents’ room I studied
scrapbooks – you as a young man,
clear-eyed, looking to the sky
and to a future you never saw.
Too young to understand, I held your wings,
envied you the clouds, your easy confidence
in shaky crates, flying over a foreign landscape
I had yet to see, but would come to love.
I still have your photograph, your scorched diploma,
a letter from the palace. I think of you on this short hop
to Brussels that I almost take for granted – see
an open cockpit, a young man falling from the sky
like a comet to lie, unmarked, in Belgian soil.
Then I imagine you here, sitting beside me.
You tell how it felt to challenge the sky; the noise,
the adrenaline and cold air stealing
your breath, the broad grin
of knowing yourself alive.
We toast each other with complimentary beers,
share stories about your sister – my grandmother –
and then fall silent, both in the aerial moment
we dreamed of as boys, looking down
on the peaceful fields spread out below.
It’s something as simple as a January night,
hands deep in pockets, and wool
tight against your chin, echoes
of your steps marking years,
as your unthinking feet remember
shortcut lanes to old homes.
Then it’s over the bridge, barely a stride
across the beck, past the bland pub –
now boarded up – that you only visited
once, in that darkest of all winters,
with friends who gathered for the final time;
and you woke next day, surprised
by the perfect clarity of the morning and your mind.
And the ice winter air tastes
of a drunken New Year’s kiss
that never ended, and remains, still,
the most honest thing you ever did.
Previous publication credits for the poems are Visual Verse, Black Light Engine Room, The Book of Plans, Hopes and Dreams (Beautiful Dragons Press) and Reach Poetry, respectively.
Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional
musician, whose work has been published and performed internationally in all manner of media. He is also Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the
Creative Writing programmes.
The House of Ghosts and Mirrors (Valley Press, 2017), may be purchased from: http://www.valleypressuk.com/book/91/the_house_of_ghosts_and_mirrors