In a world fraught with naysayers and onlookers, with political exaggeration and too-clever sequels, thank goodness we have poets and men “who define themselves/ by what they have/ a tenderness toward.” Jeff Hardin’s Small Revolution may indeed start one, this man who loves bird flashings and stillness, who, with every breath, “leans a little closer to this earth.” No world, however dewy or overcast, is ever commonplace in his vision and embrace. These poems, reminiscent of those inked by ancient Chinese contemplatives, tap at our windows to say please pay attention. More like postmodern beatitudes for our polarized times, each is a preposterousblessed be Hardin slips in when the forgetful world isn’t looking.
Linda Parsons Marion, author of This Shaky Earth
In Small Revolution Jeff Hardin is a day-to-day wizard, a shaman of moments. He praises those who converse with dragon flies, willows and people no longer here; those who are off “studying moss,/finger-nudging an ant,/shrugging at evidence,/believing/otherwise.” Hardin’s poems honor solitude, missing “what’s most essential: wind and rain against a window;/who [he’s] been; some time alone;/a ripple on a pond gone back to still…” He reminds us that “there are movies you can’t get anywhere else/except by standing in a field, remembering how,/once,/you were a spirit in moonlight,/mended by wind through sage grass.” And even though Hardin ends “To Fellow Poets” with “I guess I’m asking could we be naïve enough/to be naïve again,” he is anything but naïve. He personally understands sorrow and loss in our world and, even so, invites us to stand with him, spirit-filled and “mended.” These lyrical, witty, sensory-rich poems understand the iffyness of existence and how personal syllables form a silence—a language of hope—in a nebulous world. Readers who approach these poems again and again will discover Hardin’s revolution anything but small.
Bill Brown, author of The News Inside and Elemental
Jeff Hardin's poems are shaped like sonnets (even though most, but not all, eschew rhyme), and for someone as besotted with poetry (poems and poets are frequently mentioned) and language (the resonances of words and the weirdness of the way they evoke the world are a recurrent preoccupation) as he reveals himself to be, his circling around but never quite embracing a traditional form seems wholly appropriate. The prevailing tone, even when he is dealing with the recalcitrant subject matter implicit in a hardscrabble childhood, is one of incipient mysticism, the feeling of being on the edge of a revelation of meaning that never quite declares itself (lines can sound like Traherne at times, or even Blake). The poems have a simultaneous tact and openness to the world that is persuasive and beguiling; though the surface tone shifts from poem to poem almost all of them glow with a kind of inner honesty that is both their strength and their beauty, "refracting silvered flashes out of reach" as the poet says.
Dick Davis, Donald Justice Poetry Prize judge
Jeff Hardin is extremely sophisticated, mature, and knows exactly what he is doing.
An "advocate of letting things lean as they must," Jeff Hardin does not shy from the realities of a changing world, each poem "the gist of the gist," that precise and graceful a rendering. Of course there is sorrow in Hardin's awareness of the present slipping into the past, into "a field gone dark with itself." And there is beauty, too--as Hardin shows us--in the inevitability of "a compass pointing here/and nowhere else." Notes for a Praise Book is the welcome new work of a wise and generous poet.
Many of the poems in Jeff Hardin’s Notes for a Praise Book have [an] intimate quality, with Hardin’s strong, individual voice using imagery—usually drawn from rural life and the natural world—to convey philosophical and spiritual insights...More in the Wordsworthian vein, Hardin looks to nature for comfort and revelation. He has a habit of leaping from image to insight, but these leaps are always sure; the connection between immediate experience and abstract thought makes intuitive sense.
Maria Browning, Chapter 16 review
Hardin’s language is a language of expansion, where sprawling lines trawl ever outward, tracing a never-ending “meanwhile.” Most engaging...is Hardin’s willingness to let the self go. His epiphanies are moments empty of thought...Hardin’s poems aren’t afraid of “letting it all slip and be gone.” And maybe this is why we should pay such close attention to them.
Matt McBride, Mid-American Review
Hardin’s world is primarily the rural South, and his people primarily rural people with their deep and rooted knowledge…Out of his world and its speech he makes lyric poetry of praise for the earth…In the end it is simply a pleasure to listen to Hardin think in his poems…A believer’s lyrics, his are the songs of one who has accepted the world for what it is, mostly—a gift.
Mark Jarman, 2004 Nicholas Roerich Prize judge
Virtually every poem in the book establishes the natural world as ultimate value—abode of the divine and moral teacher...His stance is one of humility, almost total self-effacement before the natural world.
Robert Collins, Birmingham Poetry Review
Hardin’s voice is consistently gentle, and often self-deprecating—perhaps too often for some readers, but these poems don’t settle for easy epiphanies; there are plenty of surprising turns. Hardin writes under the watchful eye of the greats.
Mark Dawson, Alabama Writers' Forum
Jeff Hardin manages to combine the conscience and sensibility of the 17th-century English poet-divines with the pagan wonder of Walter Pater. Perhaps Blake is his bridge. In any case, these ecstatic, visionary poems convince by reason of their many tributes to silence, naming themselves “little blasphemes.” To call Hardin a master of hyphenations (“yard-dizzy,” “slush-heat,” “slither-clangs,” “mercy-flushed,” “sidle-sling”—only Heaney’s can compare) is say that he fuses disparate elements in a new synthesis indistinguishable from the prayer he utters as one “light-stunned” by his presence on Earth. Simultaneously rhetorical and modest, this student of the natural world is a 21st-century pilgrim, and Fall Sanctuary is an invitation to accompany him. Drop what you are doing and go.
Philip Dacey, author of Night Shift at the Crucifix Factory
Hardin's is a poetry against despair. Not only is nature's endless beauty reason to rejoice, but language itself can transcend… Despite our best efforts to thwart it, [he says], goodness is around us, is in us, and given the chance will reveal itself in even the direst circumstances.
The Nashville Scene