Nan Hardwicke Turns Into A Hare is the title of Wendy Pratt’s recent chapbook, published by Prole Books. It’s a short collection of fourteen poems, at least a few of which–as suggested by the title–concern a woman by the name of Nan Hardwicke transforming into a hare. All this being known the question that remains is, simply, who is Nan Hardwicke?
Despite her strong and recurring presence throughout the collection, it is hard to say exactly who Nan Hardwicke is, or what she represents. She seems undoubtedly to be imaginary or mythical in nature, but she is also a creature with depth, imagination and emotion. Perhaps she is the alter ego of the woman who narrates some of the other poems in the collection: the story of the mysterious Nan Hardwicke is not the only one to be found in these pages. Another thread, intertwined throughout, deals with the narrator’s loss of an unborn child.
The first hints of this loss emerge in “How to Find Spaces to Lose Things in”, the very first of the fourteen poems. Here the nature of the loss remains elusive until the fifth stanza where we discover the narrator examining her maternity clothes and scan pictures. This sharp and sudden defining of the loss that has been building throughout is a shock which takes a few verses to recover from, and one that becomes more clearly defined and nuanced as we move through the collection. In “In The Bathroom” we are taken back to the very beginning, watching the narrator use a pregnancy test. Then in “Bag” we are shown how the loss the narrator feels echoes throughout her interactions with everyday things.
And all the while Nan Hardwicke runs throughout the pages, chased and hunted. She struggles with the hare’s “writhing mind” and–in human form–bears witness to the death of her familiar. It’s a puzzling combination of subject matter: one that at times flows beautifully and at times creates a jarring change of pace. The Nan Hardwicke poems feel like such a different creature from the more personal writings about child loss, to the point that I think they might have been stronger seperated. If there is a connection then it is one that eludes me.
That said the individual poems don’t lose anything for being interwoven. They are wonderfully lucid in their imagery, cold and clear and organic enough to taste. Each poem brings new material to the surface, deepening and refining the thread or story of which they form part. The end of the collection does bring a degree of reconcilliation, both for the opposing storylines and for the two narrators. It’s a neat–if not entirely satisfying–and the poems remained on my mind for a while after.
Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.