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Book Review: The Only Light Coming In | Joseph Hardy

Poetry suggests something different than any other kind of writing. It asks of us to imagine a world in which the reader has to slow down and sit with themselves. It is not so much comprehension as it is an emotional connection with writing. Elizabeth Alexander writes, “Poetry is always implicitly enacting “I don’t want to forget this” which in the end works the same as the grander “This must be remembered”(Amistad, 465). Joseph Hardy’s The Only Light Coming In enacts Alexander’s sediment beautifully. His poems move between past and present lives embracing a sadness that is incomprehensible. He expresses a realness that leaves the reader’s consciousness wondering about his grief. His grief not only situates itself in a melancholic tone that is felt by the reader but a tone in which the reader will not forget. Hardy “doesn’t want to forget this” as Alexander states and his remembering brings his readers into an imaginative space. One poem, of Hardy’s named Silent Treatment, specifically does this:

An unease tries to clamber/up stainless-steel sides/will not drain/with the dishwater. What’s in the kitchen/won’t behave/won’t lie down like carrots to be chopped. For all my paring of fingers/the wooden spoon won’t grasp, the serving dish/breaks in the sink.

This imaginative space embraces the reader in a silence that they are unaware of while simultaneously enacting a certain type of violence. Sound and silence, themselves, lament what’s happening in a relationship. Furthermore, Hardy brings the reader into what can’t be repaired. What “won’t behave” is not only the utensils but the sound of everything as it symbolizes decay and a reversing of love. Hardy’s poems sadden the reader with an authenticity that’s seems surreal but reflects Hardy’s journey. As one reads Joseph Hardy they will lament, cry, and ponder his words. Hardy’s exquisite language and storytelling situate themselves in pain but carries the reader with grace and intentionality. Hauntingly, he journeys with the reader towards brokenness and lifts them up with grace in his writing. Reading Hardy will have you thinking about what relationships mean and who we are as human.

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