Kerry Hardie was born in Singapore in 1951 and grew up in County Down. Once a journalist for the BBC, she is now known for her poetry and novels. In a review of her second collection, Cry for the Hot Belly (Gallery, 2000), Michael Longley declared, “She looks like the real thing alright, an original talent.” Over her writing career to date she has won the Hennessy Prize, the Michael Hartnett Award, the Friends Provident National Poetry Prize, the Patrick and Kathleen Kavanagh Award and the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award. Scholarships and residencies have taken her around the world to countries including Australia, France and China.
Hardie’s poetry is brave, steadily confronting both the deaths of her loved ones and her own experiences with illness as an ME sufferer. Her collections contain gentle, but insistent, works of memento mori. In ‘All Night I Coughed’ she says, “I was fish,/ intent,/ swimming my way through darkness/ towards night.”
Like many of her contemporaries, Hardie finds inspiration from nature. What makes her work exceptional is how skilfully she illustrates the connection between humanity and the cycles in the natural world. Poems and lives move through the unstoppable clockwork of seasons in her collections. An augur of a poet, she keeps an eye on birds particularly.
Hardie has a beautiful way with images, often presenting the reader with something both surreal and familiar. In ‘Signals’, “a field got up and took to the air:/ white bellied birds, their dark, splayed wings/ flopping up into the sky.” She has the crucial ability to hold a known object up for the reader, shifting it slightly to give a new perspective, and making it wholly three-dimensional for us again.
She has published two novels: Hannie Bennet’s Winter Marriage (HarperCollins, 2000) and The Bird Woman (HarperCollins, 2006). Indeed, some of her poems are narratives as well, such as ‘These Daily Dramas of Emigration’ and ‘Exiles’. These are more conversational in tone, but never sacrifice her keen language and careful focus. In ‘Exiles’ she is at her mother-in-law’s funeral. She reveals to us, “I wanted holly for its shiny darkness,/ so I could drown the florist’s flowers in it,/ so I could take her back to her beginnings . . .”
A unique aspect of Hardie’s poetry is the hope that is present in all her collections. She guides us through tragedy, reassuring us but never romanticising the true nature of life. In the ‘View from Inside the House’, she observes “The rectangle, framing the world./ The light behind the figure,/ streaming in.”
Kerry Hardie is a member of Aosdána and currently lives in County Kilkenny with her husband, Sean Hardie.
A Furious Place, Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1996
Cry For the Hot Belly, Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2000
The Sky Didn’t Fall, Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2003
The Silence Came Close, Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2006
Hannie Bennet’s Winter Marriage, HarperCollins, London, 2000
The Bird Woman, HarperCollins, London, 2006
Two poems by Hardie about Moldova for Amnesty International’s “Voice our Concern”
Information about Kerry Hardie on the Gallery Press website
Biography of Kelly Hardie on Aosdána
Interview with Hardie about her novels at fictionaddict.net