October 9, 2008

Review by Casey Thayer

by Myronn Hardy

New Issues Poetry & Prose
The College of Arts and Sciences
Western Michigan University
ISBN 978-1-930974-76-0
85 pp., $14.00

In his second collection, The Headless Saints, Myronn Hardy, winner of the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, continues to develop and expand upon the aesthetic established in his first collection, Approaching the Center (New Issues 2001). His distinctive aesthetic is comprised of clarity and concreteness in image, attention to the harmony and dissonance of sound and wordplay, a focus on social issues, and the impressionistic hesitancy to directly interpret the content or subject of the poem.

Swimming against an American poetic history that praises the long, bloated, self-righteous manifesto (think “Song of Myself” or “Howl”), Hardy crafts lyric, minimalistic poems that recall Dickinson in their clear-eyed, concrete natural imagism. But instead of adhering to Dickinson’s strict rhyme scheme and meter, he prefers a more muted lyricism, a rhythm only loosely based on iambs and a Kay Ryan-esque ear for echoes of sound and slant rhyme or, as Junot Diaz has noted, an ear for language similar to early Cornelius Eady. Consider the web of assonance in the second and final stanza of the collection’s opening poem, “Dive”:

Jump into the sea swim until it
gets deep. Dive for chests of silver the lost
luck of pirates bankrupt empires.
What you find may feed this town forever.

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