WORK IN PROGRESS
It’s the time of year when hands wake up each morning with an itch and a clipboard full of lists: things to make, things to do, and Big Questions to ponder in the slant light. The first is easy, with war and peace available online in self-assembly flatpacks, and love in a pack of sachets half hidden behind the bins. Then I set myself attainable goals, set camera traps to capture foxes, and set cats among pigeons in a purely metaphorical sense, before starting a further list of clichéd phrases to be avoided like the plague. It’s a work in progress. Next, I settle in the low sun to consider who first may have turned from a straining table, glut-happy and dazed with perfection, and set down their satisfaction in rhyme or shaded line, siphoning their immortal sleep into dust. Are shadows, I wonder, caged or free; and if I burn my books, will I even know I’m alive? I add Mistakes to the “Make” list and Incineration to the “Do” list and – when my hands wake up tomorrow shaped into birds and rabbits, just like my mother showed me when I was small – I’ll wonder whose writing this is and whether or not I should trust them. ORPHÉE IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR Safe in our cars, we pass headless women, straight as classical statues, their shopping clutched like babies to their marble breasts. There are ambulances and police cars, circling helicopters and packs of sniffing dogs, but there are no crimes or accidents, just an uncanny jolt and the inability to look away. Press loiter, picking at stories that resist headlines and the constraints of news, growing instead into wild flowers that squeeze between paving slabs. There are no heads to talk, and sound engineers wrestle with booms and dials, desperate for mouths, while passers-by lift their phones for fleeting snaps but vanish without speaking. Out of an alley, a s mall boy runs, loose trainers slapping like a circus seal. Cocteau! he cries, observing the sea for the first time, gulping in the flower-wreathed women and the whole dazed carnival. His voice is the shifting of gears, tyres on gravel: his face is monochrome in departing rear view mirrors.
FIVE YEAR PLAN
Before the invention of rainbows, we hoisted whatever we had to hand; anything from white flags to red rags. It was less about the end of rain than the altering of perspectives and all the concomitant aesthetic shifts. Realism slips in and out of fashion, while the lines of human forms mutate between smooth arcs and angles. Naturalistic colour is optional. Likewise, harmony is sometimes sound’s raison d’être, sometimes mere ornamentation, and sometimes left for the listener to add if they consider it appropriate. It’s change itself that’s important, and if we don’t innovate, we’re no different to Damien Hirst’s shark or a fluffed chord in Cage’s ASLSP. Rain, on the other hand, comes and goes, comes and goes and – however many words we invent, and however reliable our narrators appear – sea levels will rise or fall and, sooner or later, rainbows will be consigned to memories and museums. Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published nine full collections and chapbooks, including Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication, the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2017) with Miles Salter, which was a UK National Poetry Day recommendation, and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes. Oz will be a guest poet at our spoken word Flight of the dragonfly on 14 September - details here