Saturday, 28 February 2015

Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare: Wendy Pratt (published by Prole Books)

Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare is an unsettling yet powerful set of poems that embrace nature, fertility, femininity, the mundane, the bags of lives; what carries us, heals us and makes us wake up and run away or look within. It's all the coping mechanisms rolled into fourteen poems of loss. How to Find Spaces to Lose Things in starts the collection and hints at how we can deal with these things with magic and nature,

"Breathe in the sky and you notice you are not broken".

For me it feels generational and completely female. Who is Nan Hardwicke? The only clear identity in these poems is 'M', the baby that dances with a suggestion of 'remember me', the heartbreaking line in In the Bathroom, "She was always too tiny and too slow".

The collection of poems feels like the womb, the embodiment of safety, of sexuality, of looking to the wise for help...and to feeling hunted down and punished. For me, Nan is the crone, the poet is the mother and the maiden is the lost daughter, all embodied in words to immortalise them all.

The title poem is my favourite, the shape-shifting into a hare, running away to breathe and cope before you shift back to daily life and carry on as normal;

"I tensed her legs with my arms, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping stones of the spine..."

Find your backbone to strength in this poem, it may feel tight, claustrophobic; you will want to run "and fly across the heath, the heather".

Wendy Pratt's words embrace everything from the mundane of a bag, losing things in sought out places to overwhelming heart wrenching human loss, her skill being in weaving all these things together;

"...but bag I love you.
Don't spurn me now for a few weightless seconds"

These lines resonate with an emptiness, a feeling that a full belly left your arms empty. "Don't leave me now, for the imaginings of flight". Almost as if there's an internal battle of fight and flight that embodies the imaginings of transformation in Nan Hardwicke.

 Behind the Velvet Rope is the reminder of the circle of life and death starts with sex;

"...holding back the lips of an ancient tapestry,
displaying the soft pink majesty of a brocade
which concealed a discreet indecency"

It ends with the line "I'd fallen in love with someone dead by 1752".  It captures longing and a need to embrace memories, museums of our minds and longing in times of emotional hardship and the other saviour, a sense of humour.

There are recurring themes in these poems, "the bones of trees", "the stepping stones of spine" everything that holds us together and makes us magnificent,  the nature, the escape and history to a pagan past of Scrying, the grounding of Funeral and the pain of a lost item or a drive away from A Week On Friday. Funeral in particular reminded me of Seamus Heaney's 'Mid-Term Break. 

This is a collection that I read hurried, eager to link the poems, and have gone back to again and again to retrieve more wisdom at keeping going, carrying on. Hanging on tightly to my own carpet bag of tricks.

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