Poetry review: 16/1/21
by Oz Hardwick
"Each phrase rolls past like the seasons, resisting meaning, yet when seen as a whole making absolute, intangible, sense..."
Oz Hardwick’s Wolf Planet is presented, ostensibly, as a ‘space age folktale’. This, I confess, made my heart sink a little, and may be responsible for my failed first attempt at a reading.
Instead, I decided to read it aloud, and, within seconds, was lost to its rhythmic ebb and flow – its odd, dreamy, gravity-deficient air, its subconscious observations, its semi-remembered details. The language is inventive, exquisite and greatly benefits from being heard. Each phrase rolls past like the seasons, resisting meaning, yet when seen as a whole making absolute, intangible, sense.
At a time when so many of us have had the outside disciplines and expectations of our life removed, and are finding ourselves pickling in a brine of subconscious remembrance and habit, this dreamlike, half-understood narrative fits the mood to perfection. Its notion of drifting with glacial slowness through a soup of rapid eye movement impressions, which, in our dream state, seem perfectly rational and coherent, but whose sense seems to melt at the moment of waking, leaving us to make order from the skeleton of a memory.
I’m aware that trying to pin down and describe this extraordinary work makes it sound like purple prose or babbling. It’s neither of those things. It’s absorbing, engaging, utterly engrossing. It simply refuses to be contained. You just have to read it.
The lack of narrative itself manages to tell a story of sorts. The big bad wolf returns regularly like a refrain, until, towards the close, you begin to see who or what might really lurk beneath that mask – a barely understood childhood fear, perhaps? The unconscious? A lingering guilt? He only appears in the dark and dissolves in moonlight.
“It’s a matter of tides and needs, of life and deeds, of sky and seed” Hardwick writes, giving a sense of something we instinctively know, yet cannot articulate. “Transformation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the names aren’t hard to guess”; the work crackles with lines that compel you to linger and luxuriate over them. “Ownership is elastic, and books change hands like gloves”. Using a phrase like ‘stream of consciousness’ seems to undersell this extraordinary work, but it’s as close to capturing its soft, exciting pulse as I can find, akin to the luck one might have trying to capture a whim with a mousetrap. Really it deserves a more unconventional, novel, phrase, being so unconventional and inventive itself.
You will either surrender to the pulse of this language and exult in its mesmerising, unique colours, or you will grumble that it makes no sense and ask what on earth it’s all about.
Either way, I would urge you to try.
Review: Melissa Todd
Wolf Planet by Oz Hardwick