It is spare, subtle and profound.
These words that really do sum up Hiram Larew’s superb poem ‘Hardly’ and are an illustration of why it has been voted as the Pick of the Month for March 2022. Voters read his poem again and again to gauge the meaning behind his subtle wordplay. It allowed their imaginations ‘to take flight’. They also praised poem’s ‘clarity’, loved the ‘metaphoric’ rhythm of the work and its sweetness, a sweetness that did not obscure the need to confront the world as it is: ‘It’s timely and relevant in today’s society that we’re getting these processed bits of information from so-called experts and that noise is drowning out processed thought.’
We had hundreds of votes this time and all our shortlist did well. We must, though, give a particular shoutout to Chika Jones. There were only about 10 votes in it between his ‘Beautiful Nubia sings’ and Larew’s ‘Hardly’ and the former grabbed voters with its beauty, tenderness and ‘raw and gripping authenticity.’
Congratulations to both then but particularly to Hiram Larew for ‘Hardly’.
Hiram Larew’s poems have appeared most recently in Honest Ulsterman, Amsterdam Quarterly, Contemporary American Voices and Iowa Review. His most recent collection, Mud Ajar, was published by Atmosphere Press in 2021. He lives in Maryland, USA. www.HiramLarewPoetry.com
Hiram has asked that his £20 ‘prize’ be donated to Foodshare in Maidenhead.
This little what
that think they are rules
The drips that imagine themselves
These less than nothing headlines
or empty spotlights
This barely hardly
that struts so special
Are what I call
a pile of sawed-off logs
stacked below that tree
Other voters comments on ‘Hardly’ included:
This poem causes me to stop and ponder. And in that pondering, my imagination takes flight. Thank you Mr. Larew
Short sweet and mystical
Hardly makes strong statement about the little things that puff themselves up. Hiram brings the poem into a mandalic conclusion.
There is succinct beauty in Hiram Larew’s, “Hardly” that pays homage to mediocrity embellishing itself as distinguished. From his very first line, “This little what called big” to the end, Hiram clearly yet cleverly lets his reader know what the entire poem is about. Each line is a descriptive symbolic metaphor that reinforces and strengthens the theme of his poem. I appreciate his economical use of words to display mastery of meaning in superb poetic form.
The simplicity has a depth to it that causes me to personally reflect as well as wonder and want more.
So hard to choose but this has a sweetness and clarity, a kind of practical correction to our daily lives, that stands out.
Hiram’s work- and Hardly is minute example- reflects a unique voice and a flexible imagination that challenges the reader’s relationship with language. Feels fresh and innovative and worthy of exposure
For the delight of reading this poem, and absorbing its message that life is full of what’s of life, which may seem tiny and inconsequential, but are not, and took just as much work as stacking the woodpile out back.
I love his craft so evident in the subtle wordplay and the “more” which lies beneath it and isn’t play, or merely subliminal antics but hints at larger more serious concerns.
A poem that innovates, that takes risks with language.
Hiram Larew has unique style and voice in poetry. His work is powerful and the meanings sprinkled throughout his poetry has so much depth. There is so much that we contemplate from his writing, actually grow from it. There is a story from each line and the brilliance of his writing is to be celebrated.
It draws me in, curious to know more. And like William Carlos Williams, so much depends on so few words, so beautifully stated.
Hiram’s playful concrete language captures profound ideas. “Hardly” startles the reader awake. Yes. aha! that’s it.
Political but slant which works really well.
Because Larew used a sparse amount of words to describe–or rather, decry–those drab, ordinary things everyone else considers “special” or “a big deal”.
Hiram Larew’s poem gets my vote because when I first read it the intriguing first stanzas made me wonder what the poem was about and the wonder was allayed by the sudden reference to sawed logs piled by the tree. The reference brought the reader back to reality and eliminated the intrigue.
Philosophical and simple, deep and accessible — I love the words said and words unsaid!
Mr. Larew’s poem, Hardly, lives in the question. He has his specific intent but does not present the reader with a “right” question or a “right” answer; he gives the reader an opportunity to actually think.
It speaks to the frustrations I experience and my rebellion against them.
It’s timely and relevant in today’s society that we’re getting these processed bits of information from so-called experts and that noise is drowning out processed thought. In other words, I could so relate!
The link between language & emotion
I love the shadowing of what could be and what is.
A tale of our sad State of affairs succinctly put.
Hiram’s imagery reminds me of E.E. Cummings. I usually read his poems a couple of times to grasp the depth.
Because it makes me think. I love the way the words float without explanation, so that my mind might decide for itself the intention.
This poem really speaks to me. I love the way Hiram sews words together
I love way he ‘nouns’ the interrogative and adjectival.
THE REST OF THE MARCH 2022 SHORTLIST
Beautiful Nubia sings by Chika Jones
And I remember my father dancing,
A 2 step shuffle,
Palms face down,
Elbow to waist,
And I remember my mother smirking,
Face slightly raised,
Back resting lightly against couch,
and over lands,
And I remember my laughter,
My brothers’ echo,
One eye on the dance,
One eye on my mother,
Mocking my father.
In my journey through the world,
Children crying on the streets,
And I remember when my father stopped dancing,
As things got harder,
So I go into the world,
Into the wild,
And I remember what makes a man stop dancing,
How mocking laughter cuts deeper than silence,
How what is unforgivable is what you decide is unforgivable,
So I call my father.
Beautiful Nubia sings,
and I call my father for the first time since he stopped dancing.
Chika Jones is a performance poet who was recently endorsed by the Arts Council of England in 2021 and received the Global Talent Visa. He relocated to the UK and performed in London for the British Billingual Poetry Collective in 2022. He is currently working on a Poetry translation to a British Sign Language project.
Melyn by Bethan Manley
I still thank you
for making the daffodils grow
outside my mother’s house
every spring scared she’ll forget
you without reminders painted yellow
spilling onto the block paved driveway
the yellow trails into the house
sits in a vase on the kitchen windowsill
my mother tends to them
watching over the garden
she thinks of you
of the house
she grew up in
the kettle boils
with the steam
I cut down every daffodil
I could find when you died
couldn’t stand to see my mother cry
yellow bloomed in my nightmares
they still blossomed
the next spring
Bethan Manley is 23 and studying a master’s degree in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Gloucestershire after graduating with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing. Previously published in The Mountains You Cannot See,’Postcards from Malthusia,’Ink Sweat & Tears and Snakeskin’.
Woman 2.0 by Nina Parmenter
Woman 1.0 had bagged half the market
but further growth eluded us.
Aesthetic upgrades! barked the CEO.
We hired a consultant.
The fur trim lacks thought,
he hissed at the kick-off meeting.
It needs moving HERE.
THIS area screams for beading.
And just look at these lines,
he spluttered malevolently.
Smooth this, angle that!
Wincing, we fired him.
In the end, we went with utility pockets,
which went down a storm with the focus groups.
We also added several zips,
which I thought were marvellous.
Nina Parmenter’s collection Split, Twist, Apocalypse will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2022. Her poetry has appeared in journals including Atrium Poetry, Snakeskin, Allegro Poetry and Green Ink. She can be found online at www.ninaparmenter.com or on Twitter @ninaparmenter.
Valentine’s Day, 2016 by Nikki Robson
The red-eye was delayed three times. On the third I told them
my father had died and I had to get home. I was given yesterday’s paper.
My mobile rang: a woman wanted to change her contract. I told her
my father had died. She knew exactly how I felt, had been there herself,
wanted to make the change. I told her my father died this morning.
She would drop me an email to read when I was feeling better, maybe tomorrow.
At Belfast Airport, I leant against a Tayto machine and waited for my brother.
My head resonated and the air was cold. I remembered everything and nothing,
alternate shafts of sunlight.
Nikki Robson is originally from Northern Ireland and currently lives in Scotland. She has had poems in journals and anthologies in print and online including Poetry Scotland, Acumen, Northwords Now, Under the Radar, the Lake and Scotia Extremis.
Once upon a time by Greta Stoddart
there was a word
that was sick of its meaning
the way it was said and said
like a wet cloth carelessly slapping a table.
What a tearjerker of a word it was.
It barely knew what it meant anymore
like it had collapsed from over-usage.
Poor old thing
who more than any other word
felt it had to be what it was
really only supposed to be about.
Why carry on
when they said it who didn’t mean it
when they meant it who didn’t say it.
It all made the word feel pretty existential about itself.
Maybe if it could stop meaning
the feeling would be set free!
But in the end it knew
that whatever it was
was made in the moment
by those who found themselves there
who found the word wanting
only to prove itself
in the silent moving air.