Oz Hardwick

Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional musician. His work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media: books, journals, record covers, programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but a residual West Country accent. He has published six poetry collections, most recently The House of Ghosts and Mirrors (Valley Press, 2017), and has edited and co-edited several more, including (with Miles Salter) The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry, which was a National Poetry Day recommendation in 2017.

Following a dissolute youth of idealism and rock & roll, subsidised by assorted factories and retail outlets, Oz decided that Higher Education was a more effective way of changing the world, and he is now Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes. On balance, however, he remains most proud of his photographs on the covers of Hawkwind albums. www.ozhardwick.co.uk

In our Autumn issue The High Window will be featuring some of Oz’s previously unpublished work. Meanwhile, you can check out some poems from his two most recent  collections which are both published by Valley Press : The Ringmaster’s Apprentice : (2014) and The house of Ghosts and Mirrors (2017), which is reviewed here by Wendy Pratt.


Oz Hardwick: Two Poems from The Ringmaster’s Apprentice


This is not Adlestrop – you’d be hard pressed
to romanticise this unscheduled stop by York
Sewage Treatment Works. The scent of grubby grass
is overpowered by a chemical stench
worse than the stink it masks.

The Class 144 Pacer fails
to add that touch of nostalgic steam –
it’s simply inconvenient at the end
of a long day. There are no announcements
as ‘customers’ fidget and hiss into mobiles.

Then, from out of the scrub by the grey fence –
a fox. Make no mistake, he is not Reynard
or Chaucer’s Daun Russell. At best
he is vulpes vulpes, but won’t answer to that either,
nor will he escape the gallows, nor even talk.

No, as a living, breathing fox, he will not consider
narrative, metaphor, or abstract symbol. Yet,
before resuming his animal business, our eyes meet
and, between a bland train and an unconcerned fox,
hangs more poetry than I will ever write.


It begins like this: a ritual opening,
thumbnail-slit cellophane, chemical tang
inhaled deep, a fuzzy static buzz
bristling arm hairs, teasing the pulse
to pump a little faster. Always
like the first time: mouth dry
at the soft unsleeving, naked lines
dizzying to catch the track of ex-
xxxxxxxxxxThe needle bites:
a soft, sharp caress that stops
time to muted white noise, dull
tom-tom heartbeats, the ice-crack
of not-quite-silence scratching awake
the kundalini serpent that swallows
180 grams, black and pure, straight
to the synapse.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxHere it comes.


Oz Hardwick: Two Poems from The Ringmaster’s Apprentice


Is it really so bad to begin with an ending?
To begin where the good guy loses but
the hero lives forever? Surely the outsider
forgets the love, forgets the pain?

But here I am, queuing for dreams
in a new world that hardens around me
like a scab on the wound of growing apart
from where I belong, what I know.

So, I ask again, is it really so bad
to be here, where walls crumble,
where your solitary, all-consuming love
is long gone and, surely, forgotten?

Because here – just half a century, but counting –
even I forget most of the time. But
that’s what hurts, you tell me,
the long forgetting that aches and gnaws,
that hangs in the air, its cold breath
damping your sleepless face as you
forget everything one heartbeat at a time
until you forget yourself. But is that really so bad?


It was a big house, grand, a lot of land,
and I couldn’t remember who’d invited me.
There were tyre tracks on the lawn and the carpet,
but the party was winding down, tangled
bodies on couches, on the landing, in the flower beds,
while a few of us, jittery with crystals and capsules,
were tensely relaxing. Then someone said:
Read us one of your poems, so I
pulled out a couple of books and flipped
through dog-eared pages. But I didn’t recognise
any of the words, and my eyes blurred
over unfamiliar phrases, and there was
an awkward, jerky silence, until
someone said: Look, are you a poet,
or what? But by then my mouth was dry
as I licked my sour, powdered finger,
leafing frantically through hazy titles
I couldn’t even focus on, with everyone
getting restless. And all I could think of,
as the room spun sideways, was your smile
as you’d left, hours earlier, your arm
resting lightly around someone else’s waist.






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