If a collection of poems can be expected, in taking shape during a certain period in the poet’s life, to have a unifying idea, then the theme of this one is decidedly autumnal. There are two pieces written in memoriam and many others that are elegiac in tone. Everywhere, the poet laments, she sees “high life collapsing into death,” whether in an eviscerated seal on the beach or a storm-wrecked boat, and utters her “cry for the hot belly gone from the bleaching bone.” Like an abstract seascape rendered in charcoal on rough paper, Hardie’s verse resolves itself into fine, masterful details, presenting images with few strokes, none of them extraneous. She is equally adept at describing the natural world and the realm of human affairs. In her showpiece, “Exiles,” ostensibly about preparations for her mother-in-law’s funeral, she links those who leave home and those who depart life. At the graveside she notices overhead a skein of geese “thinning out like stitches on leather, bunching close, like strung beads.” In a later poem, she pays tribute to the mourners, to their bravery in going on with their lives, facing the “trials that will render them more subtle and sweet, one to another.”
Melancholic work, even sorrowful, but not the least bit depressing. This is a distinction few writers bother to make, and one even fewer are capable of making. Rarer still, Hardie does so with a light and tender touch, everywhere strewing flowers along the way.