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How To Take A Bullet: And Other Survival Poems Paperback – June 3, 2014
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
HOLLIE HARDY can teach you how to survive anything. She is an adjunct English instructor at Berkeley City College and lecturer at San Francisco State University, where she received a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. An active participant in the local Bay Area literary scene, Hardy co-hosts the popular monthly reading series, Saturday Night Special, An East Bay Open Mic. She is one of the founders of the annual Beast Crawl Literary Festival in Oakland, curator of Litquake’s of Poets, and a former Editor-in-Chief of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review. Her work has appeared in The Common, Eleven Eleven, Milvia Street, One Ded Cow, Parthenon West Review, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, sPARKLE & bLink, Transfer, and other journals. She lives in Oakland, California. www.holliehardy.com
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Top customer reviews
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If you do like poetry that makes you sit up in her seat and laugh and cringe at the same time, this is the book for you. Hardy has a gift for digging into your psyche even as she makes you laugh.
There is gold on every page in this book. If this were an old-school vinyl record, the producers would be frustrated because every poem is an A-side; there are no B-sides here.
For example, I cannot decide which page, let alone poem, to quote here, so I am going to let my random number generator select for me, knowing that whatever page comes up, something there will rock. And so, from page 39, a few lines from "How To Perform A Tracheotomy" [line spacing approximated]:
HOW TO PROCEED
1. Kneel over the victim and whisper:
Do you know what you've done to deserve this?
2. Move your finger about one inch down the neck
until you feel a bulge
3. Seize the tool of your choosing, and grasp it
with both hands high above your head
This is probably one of the lightest passages in the book, if you can imagine. I suggest looking for her on YouTube. Her performance is top-notch.
Hardy's book is divided into four delicious sections, if a book based on the life and death premise can be described as delicious, and this reader says that in Hardy's hands it can. The first section: "The Lantern Sea: Instructions for Breathing." (See what I mean, "Lantern Sea"...all of a sudden I'm in the market for a boat)
It's hard to argue that the in-and-out-take of air is anything other than par for the course when it comes to getting you all the way to the end of your particular story, so let's just say she starts with the essentials. She's out to deliver you in one piece. Put that down as thoughtful.
For instance, what if there are "handprints all over your weekends" as is the case for whoever it is that needs to know "How To Survive Adrift At Sea". It sounds good, even comforting, but these handprints are left behind, and if your past included "the curve of loneliness....brushing your bare shoulder," then my dear, "you concoct an elixir of fire." Because you are "adrift," remember. Personally there are times I wish I could forget, but this poet is not hear to console, she's here to help you make it out alive. And she does so with gracefully unencumbered language. Because with poems that teach "How to Fend off a Shark" for example, extraneous metaphors only equal more blood in the water.
The second section is: "Naming Your Camel; Strategies for Dating." (There are strategies?! Damn, I knew I came to poetry too late.)
Now that you're on dry land and breathing with some consistency, Hardy would like to help you find another breather, because there's kindness at the core of this scrappy little survivor's manual. And does it take a poet to move you into such alluring and treacherous territory? You bet it does, because to risk a date when your camel is as yet unnamed? I mean seriously, what were you thinking?!
The section begins with "How to Jump from a Building into a Dumpster." And don't lie, how many first dates have you been on when you could have used the low-down on that? Well you probably didn't move to "Penetrate impenetrable curtains of possibility/Smooth the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of/Each purple curtain." Or "Take risks with mustard." Or "Be a tattered billboard for someone else's reality." Because, and this is why you need a no-holes-barred instruction manual, "Sometimes in a flash/Wake up and reverse the direction of your fall/Start a subtle fire beneath your skin/Decide not to put on the underwear/Don't let the five dollars tempt you."
In "How To Slip Away Unnoticed" (what's the dating life without an escape hatch?) we come across "A high-heeled/Insect of night/With rogue/And monstrous tongue." Okay, I don't know about you, but l'm in. The poet has me, and just as I'm getting gauzy with somewhat scary romantic associations, I find she has not only slipped away unnoticed, but has initiated section three: "A Closet Full Of Scissors, Weapons for Change." This section reminds us quickly, and in very sober terms, that while we might in our present and madly lucky circumstance have the right guidelines, to say "detangle a bird caught in our hair" (one of my favorite poems from section two) there are others, breathing the very same air, whose survival no manual is yet good for. For instance, "How To Survive An Earthquake" closes like this: "Husband cries for wife/his voice a siren/his bare feet soaked/in blood, he squats/In the wreckage/of his life/cradles your head/waits for an angel."
The final section: "Revising The Mountain, Tricks for Traveling Alone." reminds us the way we come into this world is the way we travel though it. And while doing that, might we not need, at last, to know "How To Land A Plane"? (the title of the collection's last poem) We are reminded, even as we float far above what is generally agreed to be the ground, that "It's the small things that hold us/Handcuffs and leftover puzzle pieces/Names like fences that keep us home."
Hollie's poems allow wide berth for the tentativeness inherent in our just being here, without resorting to one more unsatisfactory answer as to where that 'here' might be. Wherever it is or is not, her pen imbues it with "Ripe peaches, sizzle of bacon/Details of sunset, sand and fast cars" and "Your necklace of loneliness/These words about love" and "Twirling for no one" and "Always in search of fuel."
In the end though dear reader, even if you are running on a bad case of empty, Hardy offers you these crystal clear words of reassurance: "Eventually you will land somewhere."