In The Irish Times George Szirtes recognized the ‘unusual warmth’ in Kerry Hardie’s poems and their ‘great density and power of experience.’ Only This Room is her fifth collection. From the ‘headstrong ways’ of herring gulls that ‘threaten and swagger and strut’ and records of experiences in Paris and Spain to sequences attentive to the monastic life on Skellig Michael and in Kells Priory in County Kilkenny this book questions, celebrates and challenges.
Ultimately it is concerned with the quiet realization that ‘there is nothing to do in the world except live in it.’
The red dog shudders and rises and listens.
Uncertain light shines the grasses.
Wealth sits in inner rooms, staring.
These are our days . . .
‘Sparse, open, trusting to plainness, deceptively clear and direct, Hardie’s collection can conjure a scene in very few words. Take the haunting sequence “The Red Window”, which measures gradually changing skies viewed from a single room – “that morning you wake / to find the red window / is full up with weather.” The book is full of descriptions of birds and birdsong, opening with “the herring gulls on the rail” and ending with “a racket of birdsong, vibrating the air”. In between, the poetry spills over with choughs, swallows, herons, magpies and even humans transformed to birds. She’s also adept at conjuring city scenes, whether memories of Paris or darker, mysterious portraits of Clydeside (“when a ship’s pulling out / to the wailing of horns / all the tenements glide slowly seawards”), and there are vivid glimpses of the townscapes of County Kilkenny where Hardie lives. But it’s in her quiet fascination with the sky in all its everyday shape-shifting glory that the work is most at home: “Rain falls all day and it is dark for August. / The sky has wandered off to somewhere else.”’ — Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian
‘In this, her fifth collection, community is renounced for the solitude of the mystic. Hardie’s heaven is pure serenity; in her opening poem, she admires the cold eyes of seagulls that ‘call out to something inside me / that is empty and fearless and fierce.’ Always mindful of the pastoral calendar, Only This Room moves from harvest to mid-winter and the gathering of the dead . . . at home in her favoured haunts such as Ballinskelligs Bay, the ‘luminous ground for this drifting, this talking’ catches flame once again.’ — Selina Guinness, The Irish Times